National Weather Service forecasters are usually reluctant to start talking about possible snowstorms more than a week in advance. But this morning's discussion from Sterling includes some very early speculation about an overdue outbreak of cold arctic air late next week, coupled with another coastal storm. That's often the formula for a Chesapeake snowstorm. And in this snow-starved and weirdly balmy La Nina winter - heck, even Baghdad got snow this week - it's worth writing about.
More on that in a minute. First, we have this weekend to watch. This morning's NWS forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of rain or snow Sunday and Sunday night. The snow part looks like a stretch. The lows Saturday and Sunday night barely dip below freezing, and they're expecting Sunday's high to reach well into the 40s.
That sounds more like rain to me. But in the Hazardous Weather Outlook posted this morning, (after dealing with today's cold front passage and the showers and thunderstorms that could bring us today), forecasters seem to take seriously the threat of something frozen on Sunday.
Specifically, they say, today's frontal passage will put some colder air in place in our region. Then a coastal low develops off the Carolinas. As precipitation associated with the storm develops on Sunday, forecasters are saying we could first see snow and sleet mixing with rain, changing to all rain in the afternoon, especially southeast of the I-95 corridor. Then, on Sunday night, the whole mess could switch back to snow, with "minor" accumulation possible, "especially north of Baltimore toward the Pennsylvania state line."
Over at AccuWeather.com, extreme weather blogger Madman Margusity has posted a snow map that gives us 3 to 6 inches of snow. I don't buy it. I'm not sure he does either. Even his own company shows us getting a mix, at best.
So that's Sunday. But what about next week?
On that, the Hazardous Weather Outlook, unexpectedly, again has something to say:
"Several long-range computer models indicate a possible coastal winter storm during late week ... followed by some of the coldest temperatures of this winter. Interested parties should monitor later forecasts for updates."
As if that weren't surprising enough, this morning's unsigned forecast discussion also ventures into long-range speculation: (edited by me for clarity)
"WHILE I DO NOT USUALLY GET TOO CONCERNED ABOUT DAY 7 (more than a week into the future) ...A FEW THINGS
STRUCK ME OVERNIGHT. BOTH THE 12Z EUROPEAN AND 00Z GFS (computer models) INDICATE A
SYSTEM DEVELOPS IN THE WESTERN GULF OF MEXICO...AND TRACKS UP THE
EAST COAST THURSDAY (Jan. 17). NORTH POLE HASN`T BEEN TAPPED FOR A
WHILE...WITH SURFACE TEMPERATURES ACROSS NORTHERN CANADA NEAR -40F
WHICH COULD POTENTIALLY INCREASE BAROCLINICITY (clash of cold and warm air systems) IF THE COLD AIR MOVES
INTO THE MIDWEST MID WEEK. FOR NOW HAVE INTRODUCED 40 POPS (percent probability of precipitation) AND
PAINTED WEATHER GRIDS TYPICAL OF COASTAL SYSTEMS (RAIN LOWER
SOUTHERN MARYLAND...MIX NEAR I-95...SNOW TO THE WEST). IF THIS
SCENARIO PLAYS OUT...WOULD NOT BE SURPRISED IF COLD OUTBREAK OCCURS
BEYOND DAY 7. INTERESTINGLY...CPC/CDC GUIDANCE HAS HIGH PROBABILITY
OF COLDER THAN NORMAL TEMPERATURES DAYS 8-14 ACROSS GULF COAST.
SOMETHING WORTH WATCHING..."
All of which is probably delighting Jim Hughes, an amateur forecaster working out of West Virginia who specializes in long-range storm forecasting. He bases his predictions on large-scale climatic forces and solar activity. As faithful readers of this blog know, he's been calling for a winter storm for the period from Jan. 20-22. Are the forces of Nature converging to prove him correct? Stay tuned.
On the other hand, my editor, Mike Himowitz, may have stumbled upon the reason we have had so little snow this winter. Forget La Nina. He reminds me that I wrote a story for him last month about the physiology of snow shoveling, and why it's bad for your heart.
Before I left for vacation at Christmas, we agreed that he would hold the story until we got a significant, shovelable snowfall. Well, the story is still holding. It hasn't snowed since I wrote it, once again proving the meteorological theorem that when I write about a weather issue - deepening drought, a snowy winter, or approaching hurricane landfall - the threat goes away. Drought yields to gentle rain. Snow turns to sunshine. Hurricanes veer out to sea.
Once again, the Roylance Corollary is proven true. And we didn't even have to publish the article.
Then again, now that I have written here about this snow-starved winter, maybe the snow will start to fly. Sorry.