Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Locked in a dry, quiet pattern

Attack of the Light Drizzle! Speaking of storms - do TV meteorologists over-hype the weather, day-to-day? Are we consistently crying wolf, so by the time a real storm (whatever that is) arrives people don't take it seriously? "Coming up, news of a storm in time for rush hour. Will it be a half inch or an inch? A carnival of nightmare and death, tonight at 10." Was I guilty of this? Yes, probably, at times. Mea culpa. We were told to go out and "sell it", to generate more interest - to pull in viewers. Between the 'net, texts, tweets and cable news it's harder than ever to get people to stay up 'till 10 pm to get the latest weather report. People pretty much know most of what there is to know by evening - they've been grazing online for hours. Now all of us are "news directors." In truth a lousy inch CAN be a big deal if it arrives at precisely the wrong time, like an hour before rush hour, especially when it's colder than 15 F.

Check out "Attack of the Light Drizzle", focusing on a perceived weather marketing problem in the Boston market. The article is here.

Welcome to the weather equivalent of all or nothing, feast or famine. Mini snow-drought or snow-by-the-foot. We're coming on up two consecutive weeks with little more than a few feeble snowflakes racing past the window, resembling winter in Tucson. Since mid February central Texas (TEXAS) has seen far more snow than most of Minnesota. Baltimore residents are sick and tired of the color white - they've picked up 80" of snow, roughly 4 times what they should have seen as of late February, and another 4-8" is likely later today and tonight. Portions of New Jersey and Pennsylvania may pick up 8-16" of snow, with some 1 to 2 foot amounts over interior New England. What's going on? The most likely culprit: El Nino. This abnormally mild stain of ocean water in the equatorial Pacific has a tendency to nudge storms in a certain direction, favoring an unusually strong, energetic and tropical southern branch to the jet stream, the main superhighway for storms. During El Nino winters the storm track often runs from California into the deep south, then recurves up the east coast. Not every single storm or strange weather oddity can be ultimately chalked up to El Nino. But it's the loaded-dice principal. A warm Pacific increases the potential for rolling pairs of sevens, or in this case increases the prospect of more frequent, more intense storms tracking across the Dixie and the east coast. El Nino winters tend to be cooler, wetter/stormier for the south and east, but drier/milder for many of the northern tier states of the USA, and that seems to be playing out so far this winter. Canada: third or fourth warmest winter on record, to date, and most climatologists are pointing a finger at El Nino.

Just be glad your name isn't "Al Nino." During the severe El Nino of 1983, the event that really put this phenomenon on the map, Al Nino, a hapless resident of Los Angeles, received repeated, threatening phone calls from locals irritated about L.A.'s unusually cool, stormy and foul weather. No - I'm not making this up.

An Watery Monkey-Wrench. For the latest on El Nino click here to click over to NOAA's El Nino page. The reality: every El Nino is different. Roughly 2 out of 3 correlate with milder, drier winters for Minnesota. Snowfall so far this winter (41") is pretty close to average, to date, but temperatures are running 1-3 degrees milder across the Upper Midwest so far.

The big (snowy) Apple? The latest NAM model is hinting at 12-18" of heavy, wet snow for New York City, accompanied by high winds with a potential for near blizzard conditions from Thursday night into Saturday, moisture streaming inland from the Atlantic as a storm temporarily "cuts-off" and stalls offshore. The result may be near white-out conditions across much of New England with severe impacts to travel by air and land.

The Perfect Storm? Check out the latest storm track and chronology. The intense, moisture-laden nor'easter is forecast to stall out near New York City Friday and Saturday. That extra 48 hours of snowfall may result in some 12-18" amounts just inland, but the greater New York City area may receive a crippling snowfall from the early weekend storm. The very latest storm track/timing is here.

Anatomy of a Blizzard? Check out the "cut-off low" centered over Virginia. A counterclockwise wind flow circulating around this intense storm will pump a steady stream of moisture from the Atlantic, reaching Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City and much of New England. Although heavy rain/ice is possible near the coast a northerly wind in the lowest few thousand feet of the atmosphere may spark heavy snow bands inland.

The Big (snowy/icy/windswept) Apple. The NAM model is hinting at 3-4" for the eastern tip of Long Island, but closer to 14-18" from Manhattan and the Bronx westward to Newark and Princeton. Expect a massive weather-mess in the New York City area and much of New England through at least Saturday as the storm temporarily stalls out, pumping a firehose of Atlantic moisture inland. I expect a number of airports across the northeast (including New York City) to postpone or cancel hundreds, possibly thousands of flights from tomorrow into Saturday.

A Reasonable March? A very lamb-like start to March is predicted for next Monday, at least across Minnesota. The CPC is predicting a warmer March for the Pacific Northwest and the Upper Midwest, including the northeastern third of Minnesota, the main storm track forecast to stay well south/east of the state for the next few weeks, a continuation of the current pattern. Thank - or blame - El Nino for this weather rut, this atmospheric holding pattern.

Paul's Conservation MN Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota

Today: Cold start, blue sky, milder than yesterday with less wind. Winds: E/SE 3-8. High: 24

Thursday night: Partly cloudy, not as cold. Low: 11

Friday: Partly sunny, closer to "average". High: 27

Saturday: Mostly cloudy - still unusually quiet for late February. Low: 13. High: 29

Sunday: Peeks of sun, a few passing flurries. Low: 14. High: near 30

Monday: A mix of clouds and sun. High: 29

Tuesday: More clouds than sun, dripping icicles return. High: 31

Wednesday: Feels like March. Mostly gray, but relatively mild. High: 33

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