Many of you have heard rumors of snow. Let’s talk about that. We’re over 3 weeks away from the start of meteorological winter, yet next week’s setup is very impressive for this time of year. In my opinion, the real story will be the cold. Most regions along and east of the Rockies will experience temperatures that would be expected during the winter.
Our first frontal passage is moving across the country now. If you check out current U.S. temperatures, you can see the cold front quite nicely. All of the snow talk is about the second cold front moving through early next week. That’s going to bring the real cold.
Basically, a strong mid-to-upper level trough is going to become oriented from southwest to northeast, extending as far south as Texas and Mexico. A strong cold front will be associated with the trough, and a surface low will likely develop to the east of the trough axis. It’s very possible that this surface low will track along the Gulf Coast states, exit off the Southeast coast and skirt parts of the East Coast.
There should be the development of precipitation along and ahead of the cold front. Due to the potency of the air mass moving in behind the cold front, most model guidance shows a transition from a cold rain to snow and sleet on the backside of the precipitation shield. As shown by the European model, you will notice accumulations occurring unusually far to the south. Other models have shown this as well.
When I’m looking for decent snow accumulations to occur farther south, I like to see a well-developed surface low pressure system. When a trough is oriented from southwest to northeast, the surface low generally remains weak. Thus, any frozen precipitation basically has to occur along a frontal boundary without any well-defined low. It does happen, but a setup like this doesn’t usually produce a big winter storm. Remember when Firsthand Weather busted horribly on a winter storm forecast last year? We expected accumulating snowfall to occur along a strong cold front without a well-developed surface low. We blew the forecast.
I’m a bit more concerned about temperatures dropping rapidly while roads are still wet. Oftentimes, roads are able to dry before temperatures reach freezing, but again, the air mass behind next week’s front is potent. Remember, temperatures will be at levels that we’d typically experience during winter. Some of the model guidance strengthens the surface low off the Southeast coast; thus, I’m not willing to discount accumulations being depicted across parts of North Carolina, Virginia, and northward along the coast just yet.
My hope is that many of you will get to experience a little snow. I suspect that accumulations won’t occur anywhere south of a line that runs from Oklahoma, central Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Again, any concerns south of that line would likely be due to black ice, which can be quite dangerous.
I’ll post a more in-depth forecast on the site, if needed. I believe we need to watch everything a couple more days before we put out any detailed forecasts.
Matthew Holliday (Curriculum Vitae - Resume) 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 completed his master's degree in meteorology and climatology at Mississippi State University and is currently pursing a Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.