Quick Overview on Hurricane Michael


Hello all! Hurricane Michael is bearing down on the Florida panhandle with sustained winds of 120 mph (as of 8 PM Eastern). He is expected to slightly strengthen before making landfall on the Florida panhandle. Hurricane force winds will impact much of the panhandle, bringing destructive winds and storm surge along the coast:

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Michael continues to move northward at a steady clip. His eye structure remains well formed and there is ample convection around the center of circulation, shown in the satillite loop below:

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Most global and hurricane models are in agreement with Michael’s track. After making landfall, the storm will get picked up by the active jet stream and move northeast. Major flooding is likely to occur in the Carolinas into Virginia. The Delaware Valley could see 1-2 inches of rain from Michael, with much of the rain falling Thursday into Friday.

Total Precip mid atlantic.png

The amount of precipitation will depend on how quickly Michael gets picked up by the jet. If the interaction is later, Michael will track further north, bringing flooding rains to our area. If the interaction occurs earlier, then we will avoid the worst of the rains. A southern track looks more likely, sparing our area from additional rain and flooding.

Regardless of Michael’s impacts on the Philadelphia area, he will be an extremely destructive storm along the Florida panhandle. Stay safe!

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Hurricane Florence: An Overview


Hello all! I am back to discuss Hurricane Florence and its possible impacts on the Eastern Seaboard.

Initially a tropical wave off of the Cape Verde coast of Africa, Florence formed as Tropical Depression #6 on August 31st. After entering favorable conditions in the Atlantic, she rapidly strengthened into a major category 4 storm (reaching sustained winds of 130 mph) and continued to move northwest.  As she moved north, Florence was slowly ripped apart by vertical wind shear, weakening into a tropical storm. Over the past 24 hours, Florence has begun to reorganize and has regained hurricane strength. She will continue to intensify over the next 48 hours, fueled by a combination of warm ocean waters and low vertical wind shear.

Below is a current satellite loop of Florence. Convection remains strong on her northeast side as she moves NW:

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Ocean water temperatures stay above average in the Northwestern Atlantic. This will allow the storm to strengthen into at least category 3 strength:

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Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies – North Atlantic
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Hurricane Model Strength Projections

While most forecasters and models agree over Florence’s strength over the coming days, there is disagreement on where she will end up. A significant factor in determining the track of Florence is a broad ridge of high pressure to the north of the storm (shown as orange/red in the maps below). If the ridge remains strong, it will steer Florence further south and prevent her from re-curving out to sea. The European model projects this below:

9-km ECMWF Global Pressure East Coast USA 500 hPa Height Anom.gif

This scenario would be catastrophic for the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic as the storm makes landfall Thursday night. From a meteorological standpoint, the European model checks out. As Florence digs into the ridge, it will begin to curve northward and eventually northeastward as the ridge shifts to the west. Other hurricane-focused models are showing this solution as well:

06L_tracks_latest.png

What some of the models are perplexed with, however, is when exactly this shift occurs. The GFS is having difficulty pegging where Florence will go once the ridge shifts. It stalls the storm off the NC coast until other atmospheric features interact (including a tropical system) and push it out to sea:

GFS Pressure Lev East Coast USA 500 hPa Height Anom.gif

The UK model is having the same issues collapsing the ridge but keeping Florence largely stationary:

UKMET 17 km East Coast USA 500 hPa Height.gif

While I am leaning toward the European solution over the GFS and UK, there are a couple factors that need to be ironed out. First and foremost, the models will have to reach consensus on Florence’s interaction with the ridge. Without agreement, it will be challenging to predict her track. Second, we need to determine what the impacts will be on the coast and prepare accordingly. The European solution brings hurricane force winds into NC/SC and significant rains into the Southeast:

9-km ECMWF USA Cities Southeast US 10-m Wind 114.png

While the Delaware Valley doesn’t appear to be in the direct path of the storm, please keep a watchful eye on this system. Regardless of Florence’s potential track, the NJ/DE/MD coastline should begin to prepare for rough surf and high winds late in the week.

I will continue to post updates as we gain greater clarity on the situation. Thanks and stay dry!

 

Another One – March Nor’easter #4


What a month this has been. We continue to experience a very active weather pattern that favors storm development off the Atlantic coast. Our fourth March nor’easter is a complicated setup that will arrive in two parts, beginning tomorrow and ending early Thursday morning. This post will separately review both stages of the storm and their impacts on our region.

March Nor’easter #4 Round One

The first piece of the storm will arrive midday tomorrow with mixed precipitation in the form of snow, sleet, and rain. There will be minor accumulations on grassy surfaces, but the roads should remain mainly wet.

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By Tuesday night, some models have indicated a prolonged period of freezing rain, which could make road conditions slippery by Wednesday morning. Regardless of precipitation type, impacts from round one will be manageable. Even with a period of freezing rain, roads will be mainly wet.

nam_ptype_slp_east_12 (1).png

Round One Timing

10 AM-12 PM: Precipitation starting as a snow/sleet mix from south to north

12 PM – 7 PM: Mixed precipitation continues, heavy at times. Minor accumulations expected on grassy surfaces

7 PM – 3 AM: Mixed sleet/rain/snow possibly changing over to freezing rain. Precipitation will slow down by 2-4 AM before transitioning to light snow.

March Nor’easter #4 Round Two

As the first system moves east, it will phase with a secondary low off the coast and begin to strengthen. The storm will begin to display the hallmark features of a nor’easter as it begins to move northeast. A resulting area of widespread snow will overtake the I-95 corridor from DC to Boston.

nam_ptype_slp_east_17.png

While a prolonged period of snowfall is expected, accumulations will be diminished because of the storm’s timing during the daytime hours. Since it’s late March, the angle of the sun is relatively high (equivalent to early October), which means any snow that falls will have issues sticking on paved surfaces. Even with these opposing factors, roads will still be very slick by Wednesday afternoon, and I would recommend against unnecessary travel after 12 PM.

Round Two Timing

7 AM – 11 AM: Light sleet/freezing rain changing to snow during the morning hours

11 AM – 5 PM: Moderate to heavy snow, plowable accumulations expected. Roads will be slush covered and slick. Widespread power outages from fallen trees and power lines.

5 PM -12 AM Thursday: Snow moving out south to north. Watch for re-freeze overnight.

Round Two Totals and Impacts

Forecasting March snow totals are particularly challenging because of the previously mentioned high sun angle and warmer surface temperatures. Based on model guidance and knowledge of the surface conditions, a general 6-10 inches of wet, heavy snow is likely throughout the Delaware Valley. Widespread power outages are possible from trees and power lines weighed down by the dense snow. Travel will be arduous Wednesday afternoon; please take precautions if you need to drive.

hires_snow_nj_61.png

This will be a very entertaining event with all types of precipitation and significant accumulating snowfall. I will provide any updates at the top of this post. Enjoy and stay safe!

 

March Nor’easter: Round 3??


Sunday Update:

Following days of model uncertainty, a consensus solution as finally been reached. At this point, it appears that the system will phase off the NC coast and strengthen 200 miles off the coast. With this solution, New England, including Boston, could receive over a foot of snow in areas. Philadelphia will likely only see a brief period of light snow on Monday before clearing Monday night. Little to no accumulation is expected.

Original Post

A third March nor’easter could impact our area Monday or Tuesday. However, the forecasting for this storm has been impossibly hard to nail down. The models have done a poor job handling this system, and it’s leaving meteorologists struggling to find an answer to this crucial question: will there be another March snowstorm in the Northeastern US?

First off, this post will NOT be a final forecast for this storm. There is too much uncertainty at this point and delivering a premature prediction is both reckless and shortsighted. Instead, I will focus on the meteorological factors at play and what’s necessary for this storm to become a significant nor’easter.

The Track

Later today, a small disturbance will form along the jet stream in northern Texas. As this low-pressure system moves east, it will interact with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, strengthening and bringing severe thunderstorms to the southeastern states. Simultaneously, another disturbance in the Dakotas will flow down through the Midwest, bringing snow and rain to Iowa and Missouri:

nam_ptype_slp_east_5.png

As these systems move closer together, they will begin to interact, or phase:

nam_ptype_slp_east_11.png

This is where things get complicated. The models are having trouble predicting where and when this phase will occur. The NAM and GFS models have shown an earlier phase and amplifying the storm off the Atlantic coast. The first map below shows the NAM’s solution, which is a full phase off of the North Carolina coast. Once the storm heads over the Atlantic, it will move northeast and strengthen, bringing light snows to the coastal mid-Atlantic and heavier snowfall in New England.

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The second map shows the GFS’ solution, which is also a full phase off of the NC coastline. The GFS, however, is having issues figuring out where to place the low once it’s in open water:

gfs_ptype_thick_east2_10.png

The map below shows the GFS feedback issue:

gfs_ptype_thick_east2_11 (1).png

While the GFS and NAM models show a phase into a nor’easter, the European model has consistently been showing a very late and southern phase, forcing the storm out to sea. This solution is very probable, with other models such as the UK and the Canadian consenting with the Euro’s track and timing.

ecmwf_pr6_slp_T_conus2_14.png

The Situation

What I just outlined is the situation for this storm. There are three possible outcomes this storm could take:

  1. The Outlier Scenario: The northern and southern streams phase early, the storm strengthens and feeds cold air into the western side of the storm. This situation would create a significant nor’easter for the eastern seaboard with substantial snow totals from DC to Boston.
  2. GFS and NAM Scenario: The northern and southern streams phase later, but still close to the coast. The storm strengthens, but only enough to bring significant snows to New England and Atlantic Canada.
  3. The Foreign Scenario: The phase occurs very late, and the storm goes out to sea. Impacts from this scenario will be negligible apart from some high surf along the coast.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, the most likely scenario right now is #2. But, as we’ve seen before, weather is unpredictable, and things can change on a dime. That being said, please stay tuned to your local forecasts this weekend as a major nor’easter is still possible Monday or Tuesday. I will report any forecast updates at the top of this post later today or tomorrow.

Thanks, everyone!

High Impact Nor’easter: Round Two


This has been quite a pattern. Last Friday’s nor’easter had distinctive characteristics of a hurricane (see image below) with wind gusts of 60-70 mph across the Northeast. Millions of households lost power, and many remain in the dark. It could take weeks for crews to fully clear damage from fallen trees and power lines.28424504_1824455037855522_7931296027992448302_o.jpgSnow totals were significant in upstate NY, with some areas receiving over 30 inches of snow! In the Delaware Valley, totals were very isolated: Bryn Mawr received 9.5 inches of snow, but Wynnewood (4 miles away) reported only 4 inches and Philadelphia 3 inches. Boston experienced historic storm surge, and hurricane force winds were reported in Washington DC. After a historic storm like this, most people do not expect additional threats for at least a few weeks. Unfortunately, mother nature is relentless and an active pattern will provide at least two more nor’easter threats over the next week. Strap in, because it’ll be a wild ride into mid-March.

Nor’easter: Round Two

Only five days following the historic nor’easter last Friday, another coastal system will impact the Northeast with heavy snow and winds. While the meteorological setup is fairly similar to last week’s storm, there are a few differences. This system will move faster than the last one and will not produce the magnitude of wind we saw last week. There will also be more cold air in place as the nor’easter begins to strengthen. As a result, snow will be the primary precipitation type for our region (except for areas on the NJ coast). This combination of cold air and a strengthening coastal low-pressure system is a classic recipe for a major northeast US snowstorm.

Track and Timing

As with most nor’easters, the most prominent challenge for forecasters is determining the track. Currently, models are in decent agreement, with most showing a transfer of energy from a system moving east across the Ohio River Valley to a coastal disturbance off the Virginia coast. From there, the storm will begin to intensify and move northward, coming 50-100 miles from the NJ coastline:

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The storm will continue to strengthen as it moves northeast, moving out toward Maine reasonably quickly:

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From start to finish, this will be close to an 18-hour event, with the most intense precipitation falling from 7 AM Wednesday to 4 PM Wednesday. Snowfall rates will reach 1-2 inches per hour during this period, and winds will gust to 40-45 mph. The overall timing will look like this:

  • 10 PM Tuesday – 12 AM Wednesday: Light snow begins from South to North, mixing south of the Delaware River.
  • 12 AM Wednesday – 7 AM Wednesday: Light to moderate snow continues, accumulating 1-3 inches by daybreak on Wednesday.
  • 7 AM Wednesday – 4 PM Wednesday: Heavy snow moves in as storm intensifies, winds could reach 40-45 mph with visibilities near 0 at times.
  • 4 PM Wednesday – 8 PM Wednesday: Snow moves out south to north. Precipitation will end everywhere by 10 PM on Wednesday.

Final Snow Totals

This storm will bring significant snowfall accumulations to the I-95 corridor. While mixing concerns remain for areas south and east of the city, snow totals could be crippling in regions that stay all snow.

From a liquid equivalent perspective, forecast models have been showing 1.25-1.50 inches of “rainfall equivalent” falling from this storm:

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Taking into account a 10:1 snow to rain ratio, this would calculate to a 12-15 inch snowfall in areas north of the city:

hires_snow_nj_55

With this particular storm, however, the snow will be heavy, wet, and therefore, less fluffy. This will bring down snow-to-rain ratios to around 7-8:1, calculating to maximum 10-13 inch accumulations. Note that maximum is bolded; banding tends to occur during storms like these, creating isolated areas of maximum snowfall with most people reverting to the mean. Taking this into account, below is my official snowfall forecast:

North and Western Suburbs (Bucks, Montco, Chester County, Central NJ): 8-12 inches with isolated totals of 14+ inches. 

Philadelphia and immediate suburbs (Delco, Mercer Co., South Jersey): 4-8 inches, with pockets of 12+

Coastal Areas: 2-4 inches (mixing will suppress totals in areas close to the coast) 

Final Thoughts

With heavy snow and strong winds, travel will be nearly impossible on Wednesday. Only drive if you absolutely have to; it’s not worth risking being stranded or hurt in a storm like this. Stay safe and enjoy the snow!

In a few days, I will likely be posting about Nor’easter Round Three, which looks like it will occur Sunday into Monday of next week.

 

 

 

Significant Nor’easter Bringing Heavy Wind, Rain, Snow, and Storm Surge to the Northeast


This one is a doozy.

A low-pressure system originating in the Southwest is moving across the country tonight and will travel east before combining with a northern stream of energy and amplifying off of the Atlantic coast tomorrow evening. The pattern has been set with strong blocking high pressures in Quebec and Ontario, literally “blocking” the storm and allowing it to intensify quickly while remaining almost stationary. The following two maps show the phase of upper atmospheric vorticities beginning early Friday morning and completing by Friday afternoon:

nam_z500_uv_vort_east_11

 

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The meteorological effects of this setup are extreme: high winds, significant storm surge, and heavy precipitation for an extended period. To provide complete coverage of this upcoming nor’easter, the post will be split into sections beginning with track and timing, then discussing the wind, storm surge, and precipitation impacts.

Track

As I alluded to in the intro, the current atmospheric setup is prime for a massive, slow-moving coastal storm. As it moves off the coast, the storm will intensify and slowly travel northeast. The system will then slow down as it’s blocked by strong Canadian areas of high pressure to the north. This is where the forecast becomes difficult. Models are having a tough time tracking the storm and where the heaviest precipitation will fall. Precipitation type forecasting has been challenging as well, with warm surface temperatures during the onset of the storm, but dynamic cooling occurring as the storm strengthens. The maps below show the blocking, track, and strength of the nor’easter as it moves slowly eastward:

nam_pr3_slp_t850_conus2_11.png

By Friday night, we have a full-fledged nor’easter on our hands:

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Precipitation Type and Timing

Precipitation will start Thursday night initially as rain. Temperatures will be in the 50s, but will rapidly fall overnight Thursday into Friday morning. We will experience a short lull on Friday morning as the storm begins to gather strength. Round 2 will start by the afternoon as rain, then changing to snow reasonably quickly from north to south. By Friday evening, most of our region will experience accumulating snow accompanied by 50-60 mph wind gusts.

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Precipitation should end early Saturday morning as the storm moves further off the coast. Based on forecast models and data, 2-4 inches of heavy snow could be on the ground by Saturday morning, with higher totals north of I-95, and lower ones closer to the coast. It is important to note that elevation could also play a key role in final snow totals, as surface temperatures could remain above freezing in areas near sea level.

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The map below shows final snow predictions from the NAM model (note that these are overstated because of a 10:1 snow/rain ratio assumption; a 6:1 ratio is more likely with this storm):

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Wind

The sheer strength of this storm will create powerful wind and wind gusts on Friday. Sustained winds will reach 30-35 mph with gusts of up to 60 mph in some places. Winds will be even higher along the Jersey shore. Damage will be significant, especially with wet soil and trees weighed down by heavy snow. Expect widespread power outages by Friday night, especially in rural areas.

nam_mslp_uv10m_ne_16.png

Storm Surge

A combination of high tide and a coastal storm is never a good combination for coastal regions. Major storm surge will occur, especially in New England, with waters rising over 4 feet from normal high tide levels in Massachusetts. The NJ coastline will likely experience a storm surge of 2-3 feet, which will cause some coastal flooding during the height of the storm.

Concluding Thoughts

Regardless of the final forecast, we are looking at possibly a historically complex and prolonged event. Impacts from the storm will affect most of the Northeast, and damage from wind and storm surge will be significant. Areas in NY could receive 2-3 feet of snow, while Boston might experience a hurricane and blizzard on the same day! Philadelphia won’t be the hardest hit, but conditions will still be dangerous most of the day on Friday into Saturday. Enjoy the weather and stay safe out there, it’s going to be wild.

 

 

 

Tracking a President’s Day Weekend Snowstorm


The warm temperatures we experienced today will have a brief reprieve this weekend as a low-pressure system to our south impacts our region. A disturbance forming in the Midwest will amplify off of the mid-Atlantic coast on Saturday before moving northeast. Plenty of cold air aloft from a cold front combined with a coastal storm could bring widespread snowfall accumulation from Philadelphia to Boston.

While temperatures aloft will be cold enough to support snow, they will remain close to the freezing mark. As a result, the snow will be wet and heavy, sticking to both tree branches and power lines. Heavy precipitation will begin on Saturday night and end early Sunday morning. This is a quick mover, so a majority of the precipitation will fall within a 12-hour timeframe.

A major factor associated with this storm is the track. The further south the track, the higher chance that precipitation will fall as snow in the Delaware Valley. However, the models have been inconsistent. Shorter range models are showing colder solutions and the longer-range models are showing warmer ones. The map below is from short-range North American Model (the NAM):

nam_ptype_slp_east_18

If the NAM is correct, 4-6 inches of wet snow could accumulate along the I-95 corridor. As evidenced by the map, the rain/snow line is only 50-100 miles south of Philadelphia. Any slight shift northward of the track could have a significant impact on snow totals, especially south and east of the city.

The GFS model’s solution shows the possibility of mixing in Philadelphia and areas south:

gfs_ptype_thick_east2_11

With this solution, 1-2 inches of snow will fall with higher totals north and west of I-95.

Regardless of the precipitation type, expect a nasty Saturday night and Sunday morning, with frigid temperatures and heavy rain/snow (depending on the track of the storm).

In the longer term, a ridge in the jet stream will set up behind this system, bringing temperatures 25-30 degrees above average! A follow-up post reviewing this warmth and long-range forecast will be published this weekend.