Rare Winter Storm Heading For The Deep South

Well, the Deep South is finally about to get the end of the month winter storm that I have been predicting for a few weeks now, but let me just say that this is turning into a forecasting headache. Don’t get me wrong, this is the kind of weather that makes my life worth living, but things get extremely complicated when trying to determine who is going to get what and how much. Before I get into specifics, please understand that this kind of system is very rare for the Deep South. Yes, parts of the South typically get some snow, but this system is going to give wintry precipitation to areas that hardly ever see anything.

Winter storm watches have been issued from Louisiana all the way up to southeastern Virginia, and winter storm warnings have been issued for areas along the coast in South Carolina/North Carolina and for a small area in southeastern Georgia. Model guidance supports that there will be plenty of precipitation along these coastal regions, and given the cold air that will be in place, it was a good call by the NWS to go ahead and issue winter storm watches and warnings early on for those regions. I think that the forecast models are being a little too aggressive on some of the snowfall totals for certain areas along the coast because they are not taking into account that some sleet and freezing rain will be mixing in, which will cut down some on snowfall accumulations. Even if that’s the case, this is still a very impressive storm, and some areas could get close to a foot of snow. For the areas that get mostly snow, the snow will pile up really fast!

Things get even more complicated as you move north into areas like northern Georgia, Upstate South Carolina, and into North Carolina (away from the coast). Typically when these areas are impacted by a winter storm, precipitation-type becomes an issue because in a lot of cases, temperatures are simply not cold enough in the atmosphere to support an all-snow event. This is one of those very rare situations where there is no question in my mind that this will be an all-snow event for those areas, but the issue could be whether or not there will be ample moisture available that far north to dump a decent snow for those areas. Snowfall will probably not reach the ground initially because the atmosphere is going to be so dry, but once the atmosphere becomes saturated, it won’t take a lot of moisture to produce potentially heavy snowfall.

I do think that the NWS needs to at least extend the winter storm watches into parts of northern and northeast Georgia, parts of Upstate SC, and into areas of North Carolina. The snow gradient could be so tight that, for example, northern Upstate SC could only get a dusting of snow, while southern Upstate SC could get 3 to 6 inches of snow. These are the regions that need to be watched closely, because these areas could be in for a big surprise if we get just enough moisture far enough north. But with all of that said, if there is not enough available moisture, those areas further north could miss out. I’ve got a feeling that most areas won’t though, but keep in mind that the further south you go, the better your chances of getting snow will be.

The timeline of this event will be from Tuesday going into Wednesday. To sum all of this up, it is going to be a mess along the coastal regions, where this will likely turn into a snowy and icy mess. Areas further northward, you could get a decent snowstorm out of this if adequate moisture moves over the region. With how everything is coming together, this could be the biggest winter storm that this area has seen in years!

If you haven’t already, please like our Facebook page, which I will be updating quite often throughout this event! With a system like this, things will change, which is why you need to keep coming back here for more updates!


Blizzard From Washington, DC to Boston on Tuesday and Wednesday Becomes More Likely!

This is an extremely complex forecast! The point of this is to give everyone that lives from the Carolinas and north a heads up on the possibility of a blizzard on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week! A very large area of bitter cold air up in the western part of Canada will be moving very fast along an Arctic cold front into the Southeast U.S. and all the way down to the Gulf Coast! Today we expect high temperatures in the Upstate of SC and northeast Ga to be around 60 degrees F while the high temps in the same locations tomorrow will drop into the mid 30s. That is a 30 degree temperature drop in 24 hours! So, you can see how cold the air behind this Arctic Front is going to be!

As this front moves into the Southeast, a deep low pressure system is expected to form somewhere along the coastal waters and move northeast just off the U.S. Atlantic Coast and move northeast all the way up into eastern Canada over the next 3 days or so putting down snow from NC all the way up to Boston and beyond! This very well could become a blizzard with 8 to 12 inches of snow from DC to Boston and all locations in between. As we better understand this system as it comes together, we will have a better idea about snow totals later tonight. We just wanted to be sure that everyone realized the possibility of a blizzard exists!

Our last run from the GFS shows a much deeper surface low that it did not show before. As we have trended more to heavy snow, it seems prudent to go with the trend. If the next computer runs confirms our current thinking about this storm, we are in trouble! Then it would seem likely for a blizzard to occur in the big cities to the north which would effect millions of people with only a very short notice to get ready for this thing!

We also are looking at the possibility of a major blizzard in the last week of Jan. 2014 as the polar vortex moves south once again to a position over the Great Lakes, which will pull down the coldest air so far this winter with many zero and below temperature readings all the way into the deep South! Come back to Firsthand Weather or listen to your NOAA Weather Radio for the latest on this possible blizzard on Tuesday and Wednesday! Be sure to also follow us on Facebook!

Latest NAM for tomorrow at 3 pm ET.

Latest NAM for tomorrow at 3 pm ET.

Bitter Cold Likely and Big Winter Storm Possible Later In The Month

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.

CPC's 6 to 10 Day Probability Map

CPC’s 6 to 10 Day Temperature Probability Map

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.

12z GFS on January 24th

12z GFS on January 24th

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!

Brutal Cold Is On The Way For The United States!

We are about to enter a very interesting period, and while I know that many of you like the cold, this next Arctic outbreak could be dangerous and even historic. I put out an article about a week ago and then one before that that basically restated that I thought that mid to late January going into February could end up being dangerously cold for the central and eastern U.S. While I have really been putting myself out on the line over these last few weeks, I am now getting a lot of forecast model support to back up what I saw coming several weeks ago. Like I said on the Facebook page, the GFS model did not handle the last Arctic outbreak that well in predicting this in the long-range, so I absolutely had no reason to believe that anything would be different this time. Yet again, many fell into the trap of using the GFS as their model of choice for their long-range forecast, and they got burned. See, weather and climate works in cycles, and you have to be able to see those cycles. If you miss that, then you’re left depending on a model that dictates your forecasts, and those forecasts can change A LOT! You’re at the mercy of the forecast models, and I try to never put myself in that situation.

Now that I’m getting the support of the forecast models and we’re much closer to the event, I want to show you what the models are predicting. In fact, if what the forecast models are predicting for the last week of January going into February comes to fruition, then we have a historic Arctic outbreak on our way that would give us brutal cold. The Canadian model also supports a big East Coast storm later in January, which I really think could happen. From the way things are starting to look, this cold pattern could lock in, which would continue into February, and we could also move into a very stormy pattern. Many of you have commented on the Facebook page (yes, I take the time to read almost all of your comments and messages) that you were disappointed that you didn’t get any snow with this last Arctic outbreak. I’m really thinking things will be different this time. No, I’m not saying that Miami, FL will get snow, but I do think many areas in the Southeast and up the East Coast will.

The pattern that is setting up is classic for extreme cold and storminess in the East and well-above average temperatures and dry conditions in the West. When you get this kind of ridging in the western U.S. and over Alaska and blocking over Greenland, the cold in the East is going to be brutal. A piece of the polar vortex is going to split and move south again (possibly further south than the last time) and be responsible for yet another brutal Arctic outbreak of cold air. I’m thinking that this cold air could end up even being more potent further south than the last time, so places even into Florida will end up with brutal cold. The biggest difference this time is that the cold will likely stay around for a long time, and ridging is going to prevent the polar vortex from re-establishing itself over the North Pole. In other words, this cold may not go anywhere for days, even weeks, and we could be setting up a pattern that has not been seen in decades.

Of course, there are some uncertainties, but I am highly confident that this cold blast is going to occur. I think the worst of the cold could be focused east of the Mississippi, but that will not be the only areas that are cold. I’m also watching what is currently occurring over the Bering Sea, and there are strong indications that this cold won’t go anywhere in February. While there will be some fluctuations, I really don’t see the eastern U.S. fluctuating back into a warmer pattern. You’re going to have your cold spells, and then you’re going to have your REALLY cold spells! Again, the East Coast needs to keep their eye on the potential for a big winter storm later in the month, and I will detail that more in another article.

Since the GFS has its act together for now as far as predicting the cold, I want to show you it’s ensemble. Most of its members have really cold air establishing itself over the eastern U.S., which is remarkable that we’re getting that kind of agreement. If it were just the operational model showing this, then I wouldn’t even bother showing it. The European and Canadian models are also in agreement with predicting very cold temperatures later in the month.

On January 22th, the GFS ensemble really establishes the cold over the eastern third of the nation.

Jan 22

Fast-forward to January 25th, and you still have really cold air over the eastern U.S.

jan 25

Then we move into January 28th, and things just look brutal!

Jan 28

Now, take a look at the European ensemble average temperature anomaly for January 26th through January 30th. This shows extreme cold! These are the expected temperature departures from average, and given that we’re in the heart of winter, this kind of cold would be very dangerous!!


Of course, I’ll continue to keep you updated! If I don’t have time to post on the site in the next couple of days, I’ll definitely be posting on the Facebook page. Please give it a like if you haven’t already.

Let The Fun and Games Begin

Trying to understand what the weather will be like for the rest of the month is like putting pieces of a puzzle together. Most of the pieces are sitting out there on the table with a few missing, and I’m the one left putting the pieces together. That’s where I’m at right now, and as I fit these pieces together, I will continue to get a clearer picture of what is going to take place over the coming days. Let me share with you what I foresee taking place.

The forecast period from now going into February will be very active and is actually going to get somewhat complicated. It was pretty straightforward to me back 2 or 3 weeks ago that a part of the polar vortex was going to split off and give us the recent bitter cold that we recently experienced across the United States. First off, we have two systems that we are going to have to keep an eye on for next week, but I do not think either of these systems will be huge. Some areas will get snow from this, and at some point, I’ll specify those areas in a later article or on the Facebook page. I don’t see this being anything that would give the southern U.S. any snow, and neither of these will be the big storm that I think is going to occur later in the month.

Fast-forwarding to mid-week, we’re going to have a pretty strong trough building in the eastern U.S. while ridging will be building back in the West. While I see temperatures being below-normal, this will not compare to the Arctic event that occurred a few days back. Now before you start thinking it, I’m not backing off my very cold forecast for later in the month. I just don’t want you to get next week’s cool down in the East confused with what I still think will occur later in the month.

If you go back and study previous winters, typically you don’t just have one cold Arctic blast, and then winter just wraps itself up and goes away. Once something occurs, many times it will happen again later down the road. Now I may be totally wrong on this (which I don’t think I am, otherwise I wouldn’t be telling you about it), but the last week of January could end up very cold in the eastern U.S. with a monster snowstorm developing and moving up the East Coast. I don’t think this would be one of those situations where snow/ice would be limited to just the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic, but the Southeastern U.S. would get in on this also. Going back to what I said about things happening in cycles, a winter storm occurring along the East Coast the last week of January is actually supported by Lezak’s Recurring Cycle (LRC). To put it simply, the LRC allows us to make predictions well into the future based on previous events.

Determining how expansive the cold air later in January will be is becoming quite difficult. Next week, models have the ridge building pretty far to the east and actually have areas like the Southern Plains on up to the Northern Plains and areas westward with above average temps. I actually agree with that for next week, but whether or not that ridge continues to be placed that far to the east going into the last week of January is the question. Regardless, the eastern third of the U.S. looks brutally cold to me all the way to the end of the month, particularly the last week of January.

I have a lot more to talk about, but I’m going to end it here for tonight since it is getting kind of late. I will be posting some stuff on the Facebook page so go give it a like if you haven’t already.

The GFS has a trough building in the East, while a ridge builds to the West.

By mid next week, the GFS has a trough building in the East, while a ridge builds to the West.

Extreme Cold Likely To Return By Mid-January

If you’ve been following this site for any time now, you have probably seen me rant about how forecast models should only be used as a tool and not as an actual forecast. With how the internet and social media has evolved over the years, you get a lot of sites, Facebook pages, etc. that will post these models, get everyone all hyped up, and have to totally flip on their “forecast” by the next model run. See, I have no problem with posting forecast models on Firsthand Weather and will continue to do so. So am I being a hypocrite by criticizing other sites and pages for doing the exact same thing? Not at all. The problem is posting models and not trying to understand the WHY behind what that forecast model is trying to tell us. I could teach about anyone how to interpret a forecast model, but the real skill is knowing if that particular model run makes sense or not. So I’m giving away my secret to all of you forecasters that read this blog. Understand the WHY, and you will continuously learn new things for decades to come. Taking that simple advice would make forecast accuracy go through the roof!

Okay, I’m going to finally start talking about what you came here to read. We just had one of the coldest Arctic outbreaks in decades, and I’m pretty sure people thought we were a little crazy back when we started predicting this. We’re going to get a little warmup, which will really begin this weekend and will go into next week. Parts of the West may cool off, but in general, everyone is going to warm up.

After this warmup, it’s going to get very cold again by mid-January, and we could actually lock into a cold pattern in the central and eastern U.S., which could last well into February. We’ve actually been thinking this could happen for quite some time now, and there is absolutely no reason for us to back down on that forecast. In fact, we could be dealing with a sequel to what just happened, except this time, we may not get the warmup to follow. Another big difference is that there could be a couple of systems that ride up the East Coast in the mid to late January timeframe. This would give even the Deep South a snowstorm, and the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast could absolutely get hammered.

For areas especially in the Eastern U.S., this next round could be worse. But this time, many would get snow that hasn’t seen a lot so far. We’re seeing things happen right now that haven’t happened in decades, and it doesn’t look like it’s about to stop. In other words, this last cold blast was not just a one-time thing. In my next couple of articles to be released over the next few days, I’m going to get deeper into why this will likely happen and start setting up a detailed timeline of when all of this will take place.

Until then, be sure to like our Facebook page, and follow our updates! In case you missed it, here’s our 2013-14 winter forecast for the rest of the winter! It looks like it’s going to be a fun ride!

Firsthand Weather's Official 2013-14 Winter Forecast - Click To Enlarge

Firsthand Weather’s Official 2013-14 Winter Forecast – Click To Enlarge

Dangerous Arctic Air Still On For Next Week

Well the cold is finally about to get here! We’ve been pretty much talking about this coming Arctic outbreak non-stop for the last week now, and not a lot has changed since then. I do want to stress again how dangerous this cold air will be, and if at all possible, please stay indoors. All Minnesota public schools have already been closed for Monday, and I’m sure that other states will do the same thing. Wind chill warnings have been issued for many states in the Northern Plains, and hard freeze warnings have already been issued in central Alabama. I expect those hard freeze warnings to be expanded and issued for many additional areas in the next day or so.

This will end up being a notable and memorable outbreak that could rival several of the well-known cold blasts from the past. I still think that many areas will experience the coldest temperatures in decades, but as I stated in my earlier updates, this is not cold air that is going to stick around for good. I do think we’re going to lock into a cold pattern later in the month that could keep the central and eastern United States very cold going into February. That won’t happen until temperatures moderate for about a week or so beginning next weekend. By this time in a week, I’m sure we’ll be hearing about how this winter is over and how the cold is gone for good, but don’t believe it. We’ll just be getting a nice little break before it gets cold and stormy again by mid to late January.

Let me briefly give you the timeline of the cold for next week. If you look at a current temperature map, you’ll see that it’s already very cold in the Northern Plains, and as that cold continues to push south today going into tomorrow, those temperatures will not do anything but go down. As the polar vortex center moves over the Great Lakes region, the cold air will push south and east on Monday, and by Monday night going into Tuesday morning, temperatures will be brutally cold for the Plains, Ohio River Valley, Deep South, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. Temperatures will remain extremely cold into the day on Tuesday and will remain well below average for many areas on Wednesday and Thursday. There is a solid snowpack across the northern U.S., which will cause temperatures to be even colder.

GFS Temperatures for Monday Morning

GFS Temperatures for Monday Morning

GFS Temperatures for Tuesday Morning

GFS Temperatures for Tuesday Morning

The Green Bay Packers play San Francisco tomorrow at Lambeau Field beginning at 3:40 pm CT. Could temperatures rival the extreme cold back in 1967 during the infamous Ice Bowl? It’s very possible, and even if it doesn’t get down to minus 13 like it did back in 1967 during that game, it will be very close! Regardless, wind chills will be down to minus 30 by the end of the fourth quarter so if you’re at that game, you’d better bundle up!

Be sure to like our page on Facebook if you haven’t already. I’ll be putting a lot of updates on there in the coming days. That’s all I have for now. Have a great day!

2013-14 Winter Forecast – January through February

Let me just go ahead and get this out there for anyone who may be wondering. We are about to set up for what looks like to be one of the coldest winters in decades for the central and eastern United States. We have been studying this upcoming winter since this summer and are highly confident that parts of the United States will experience temperatures well below average and potentially record breaking in many areas. Not only will many have to battle the bitter cold, but there will be many regions that will get copious amounts of snow causing hazardous road conditions, loss of electricity, and flight delays.

January has already started out very cold for many in the United States, and once we get into the first full week of January, we are going to be dealing with what could end up being a potentially record-breaking Arctic outbreak. This will feature about 3 to 5 days of bitter cold from the Plains to the Ohio River Valley to the Northeast and extend into areas of the Deep South. Although the United States has already had several Arctic outbreaks so far this season, this will be the strongest and most newsworthy outbreak yet. Many areas will get temperatures that they have not had in decades, and some areas will get record low temperatures. This will end up being a dangerous Arctic outbreak that should not be taken lightly. This cold air will push particularly far to the south and will likely kill crops in many areas that typically do not experience this kind of cold, even in the winter months.

Despite how severe this Arctic outbreak may end up being, it is not going to “set in” for the longterm. Temperatures will “moderate” across the central and eastern United States after this push of severe cold moves through, and we will likely be dealing with normal and maybe even above normal temperatures across the central and eastern U.S. During this time, the western U.S. may experience below average temperatures. However, all of this will be short-lived, and as we move into middle January, the central and eastern United States could lock into a cold pattern that would bring long-term cold, lasting well into February.

Don’t be tempted into thinking that the worst of winter is going to be over once we get past the first full of week of January because in reality, it will just be getting started. As I’ve mentioned several times, this Arctic outbreak next week could potentially be historic, so any warming that occurs afterwards will seem like a huge warmup relative to the cold that we will have just experienced. If you haven’t picked up on this already, our weather from now till the middle of January could be characterized by a lot of ups and downs, but beyond that point, I’m thinking that we will lock into a very cold pattern for the central and eastern United States. How many times have I said that already? A lot, so it’s very important to note!

From middle to late January going into February, bitter cold air and snow will be a common theme from the Plains down to the Deep South on up to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Areas that rarely get snow and ice will likely get it in this time frame. The Western U.S. will likely be experiencing above average temperatures and drier weather during this same time. Damage to crops will be common in the Deep South, so this will definitely not be a good winter for the farmers in Florida. Ridging will likely be building over Alaska during this time with blocking over Greenland. The NAO/AO will be negative and the polar vortex will be weak, which will likely result in the splitting of the vortex. This will cause the cold, Arctic air to funnel down into the central and eastern United States, and because of the MJO phase that we’ll likely be in at that time, ridging will be occurring over the West. If we do indeed get a pattern like this to set up, which is currently strongly being indicated, this pattern will lock in and will give us a winter that we haven’t experienced in decades.

I have also accounted for the lower sunspot activity and the above average autumn snow cover over Siberia, which all indicate a colder winter for the central and eastern U.S. Snowfall will be above average particularly for the eastern U.S., and as I stated earlier, many areas could get snow that typically do not get it. If you like cold and snow, I’ve got a feeling that many of you are going to finally get the winter that you’ve been waiting for.

Please continue checking back with our site for further updates and definitely like our page on Facebook if you haven’t already. We keep that page updated on a daily basis. If you have any questions for a specific region, please ask us in the comments, and we’ll do our absolute best to respond in a timely manner.

Firsthand Weather's 2013-14 Winter Forecast

Firsthand Weather’s 2013-14 Winter Forecast – Click Image To Enlarge

Antarctica Ship Remains Stranded in Deep Sea Ice

Passengers aboard the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy remain stranded in Antarctica as stormy weather has halted all rescue attempts. For those of you who are unaware of this situation, this ship has 74 passengers aboard including researchers, tourists, and crew and has been stranded since Christmas. Horrible weather conditions and deep sea ice has made it impossible for this ship to go anywhere, and after analyzing the forecast models, I don’t see the conditions improving for several days at least.

Current Location of Stranded Ship

Current Location of Stranded Ship

The goal of this trip to Antarctica was to study how much climate change has impacted the landscape over the last 100 years. Ironically, this was intended to show the world how much man has influenced the climate, but the ship is currently stuck in a region that has had record high sea-ice coverage this year. This is the second year in a row, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, that the Southern Hemisphere has had record-setting sea-ice coverage.

A helicopter rescue attempt was planned for today, but due to the strong winds and hazardous weather, it has been postponed until at least tomorrow. This helicopter would have to make several trips to the ship to rescue the passengers, which is just too risky right now. Plans are currently being made to possibly send an American ice breaker if the air rescue attempts are not successful in the near future, but it would take about ten days for this ice breaker to get to where the ship is stranded.

We’ll definitely keep you updated on this current situation at Firsthand Weather and on our Facebook page! We wish all rescue crews and those currently stranded the best of luck!