Earlier in the month, I stated in a couple of my articles and on the Facebook page that I thought that there could be a big winter storm later this month that could potentially dump snow pretty far south and eventually along the East Coast. While model guidance is now trying to get a grip on this possibility, it is still having a hard time picking up on this system. I mentioned about a week ago that this would likely be the case, and the GFS model, in particular, often has a difficult time handling these southern track systems. I know that you’re probably hearing this for the first time here, but I do strongly believe that the upper level dynamics will be in place to support a potentially sizable winter storm sometime around late next week going into the weekend, which is about a week out.
I’m going to go ahead and address why the upper level pattern will likely end up being favorable for a southern-tracking winter storm despite the fact that the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) index is forecasted to go positive in the upcoming days. Typically, you’d want the NAO/AO to be negative, which is ideal for troughing in the eastern United States. We have a little bit of a different situation on our hands where there is going to be strong ridging over the north Pacific and also strong ridging over the north Atlantic Ocean. If you have been watching the European model guidance over the last few days, you can clearly see that these ridges are going to meet across Canada, while a piece of the polar vortex is going to move south over Ontario and possibly as far south as the Great Lakes. This kind of setup will be perfect for extreme cold in the eastern United States, and any storm that develops will track much further to the south, something we haven’t really seen so far this winter.
Now, I’ve seen a lot of skepticism from many people regarding the coming cold and the possibility of this winter storm. There’s really no question in my mind that the eastern U.S. is going to get more brutally cold air very similar to what occurred earlier in the month. The western U.S. is going to remain warm and dry, and there will be a fine line between the regions getting above average temps and below average temps. Actually, it could end up being split right down the middle of the nation. Take a look at the Climate Prediction Center’s 6 to 10 day temperature probability map. I actually agree with this, and as you can see, temps will likely be warm out West and bitterly cold out East.
Now, I am well aware that I will likely get criticized for introducing the idea of a winter storm occurring later in the month, but I don’t think that most meteorologists or the forecast model guidance is seeing how potentially big this storm could end up being across the Gulf Coast states for the reasons that I mentioned above. The GFS model has actually started to pick up on a system developing in the Southern Plains for late next week, which gives areas like Oklahoma/Texas snow and ice, and once it tracks the system further east, it fizzles it out. If you look back at climatology, it probably won’t fizzle out the storm, and it would likely strengthen as it tracked across the Gulf Coast states and then eventually move off or up the East Coast. I know that this may seem far-fetched, but I think places like northern Louisiana into Arkansas, middle and northern Mississippi, middle and northern Alabama, middle and northern Georgia, Upstate South Carolina, parts of Tennessee, parts of North Carolina, and on up to Virginia could be in for a big winter storm. I know that I have been introducing this possibility for a couple of weeks now, and we’ll see if I start getting more model guidance support.
The cold air that is on the way for the eastern United States could end up being dangerously cold, particularly east of the Mississippi. Like I said in my last article, even Florida will experience very cold air, and this kind of cold air is something that shouldn’t be ignored.
There is A LOT to watch over the next couple of weeks! When I’m not posting on the site, I’m updating our Facebook page, so please give it a like if you haven’t already!
Matthew Holliday is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, where he completed a B.S. in Meteorology and a B.S. in Geographic Information Science. He is currently pursing his master's degree in meteorology and climatology at Mississippi State University. Matthew founded Firsthand Weather in 2010 as a senior in high school and maintained the site through his undergraduate career. Research that was conducted by Matthew while at OU involved determining the synoptic environment in which various types of wave clouds (including vertically propagating waves and trapped waves) develop in Boulder, Colorado and Norman, OK. Matthew also did research on spatial changes in tornado activity across the United States . The goal of this study was to determine if spatial changes in tornado activity had occurred and if those changes could be linked to changes in average surface dew point temperature. Matthew has completed coursework in dynamics, thermodynamics, cloud physics, calculus and differential equations, statistics, remote sensing, GIS, synoptic meteorology, and mesoscale meteorology. His goal is to provide his audience with a deeper understanding of what drives our weather and climate, while making it easy and enjoyable to learn.