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:




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.


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:


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


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.


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.


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):



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.


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):


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:


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.

An Active (and Warm) Pattern Ahead

Warmer Temperatures

February is opening to an active weather pattern for our region. Over the next 7 days, we will likely be impacted by three different storm systems. During this period, temperatures will be slightly above average as shown by the European anomaly map below:

Euro 7 Day Anomaly
Euro 7 Day Anomaly

As the anomaly shows, we are currently in a transition from a negative to positive PNA. What this means is that our reprieve from the cold is likely temporary.  Additionally, the Arctic Oscillation is forecast to go negative around the 10-day timeframe. This usually indicates a colder airmass entering the continental US:

AO Forecast
AO Forecast

7-Day Pattern

Until then, we have four storms to worry about! The first is arriving tonight into tomorrow. This is a system associated with a cold front moving across the Northeast. Temperatures were in the 40s today, but will rapidly drop tonight into tomorrow morning. I expect the rain to eventually change briefly over to snow overnight before moving off the NJ coast. The map below shows the high-resolution model forecast at 3 AM Friday:

NAM high-res 3 AM Friday
NAM high-res 3 AM Friday

Tomorrow morning’s commute could be slick as wet roads freeze over once the front pulls through. Temperatures will drop during the day on Friday before plunging into the teens with wind chills into the single digits:

Temperatures Early Saturday Morning

Storm #2 will quickly follow the first, forming rapidly during the day on Sunday. This system has characteristics of a coastal, phasing with a northern piece of energy over the great lakes. Models are currently projecting a quick phase, which would push the storm further west and keep our temperatures above freezing. Super Bowl Sunday will likely be a drencher as this storm barrels through the region Sunday evening. Any celebrations following the game (knock on wood!) will be cold and wet, with temperatures around 40 degrees.

Rainstorm Super Bowl Sunday
Rainstorm Super Bowl Sunday

Storm #3 is looking like a classic “Appalachian runner.” The storm will form over Missouri next Tuesday before moving Northeast along the Appalachian mountain range. This atmospheric setup will steer the storm to the west and warm up our region. Temperatures could reach the 50s on Wednesday as the storm pulls through.

Storm #3

Our pattern continues to be active following this storm, with another system impacting the region next Saturday.

Stay dry over the coming week! Go Eagles!

Quick Post on Tues/Wed Clipper Storm

Following a very short January thaw, winter is returning this week with both ample cold air and a storm.

Clipper/Coastal Forecast

An Alberta clipper is moving down through the great lakes region and will phase with a piece of energy off of the Atlantic coast late Tuesday night. As the clipper moves eastward, it will bring a period of snow tomorrow evening into Wednesday morning for much of the region. Depending on the timing of the coastal phase, areas north and west of Philadelphia could receive substantial snowfall from this system. The map below shows the radar tomorrow at 7 PM. According to this model (the NAM hi-res), as the clipper begins to phase with the coastal low, a broad swath of snow enhances over Central and Eastern Pennsylvania:

Clipper Phasing with Coastal
Clipper Phasing with Coastal

By early Wednesday morning, the phase is complete, with a full coastal storm strengthening off of New England. At this point, a wide area of heavy snow will form over New England and will extend down to Virginia:

Clipper Phased with Coastal
Clipper Phased with Coastal

As with many atmospheric phases, forecasting storms like this can be difficult. A slightly earlier or later phase would significantly alter the forecast for the I-95 corridor. Based on what I’ve observed from the forecast models, 5-8 inches will likely accumulate from the Poconos into New England. Most of the major cities, Philadelphia included, should receive 2-4 inches of light, fluffy snow.

Snow will likely begin after the evening rush on Tuesday in the Delaware Valley. In areas north or west of Allentown, I would advise preparing for a significant snowstorm tomorrow into Wednesday. Wednesday morning’s commute will likely be slick as the storm begins to move out.


Update on the Upcoming Nor’easter

Wednesday Afternoon Update

The storm appears to be taking a more western path, which means the heaviest of snow will push into the I-95 corridor late tonight into tomorrow afternoon. Storm totals will range from 4 inches NW of 95, 8 inches from Philly to NYC, and possibly over a foot near the coast. As with most nor’easters, there will be areas with locally higher snow amounts. The map below illustrates forecasted snow totals. Note that ratios will be higher than 10:1 in this storm, so a 10:1 snowfall map showing 5 inches will more likely be 6-7 inches with this storm:

NAM Snow Prediction
NAM Snow Prediction

Another concern with this storm is the wind. Wind speeds will approach 30 mph tomorrow morning as the storm bombs off the coast. There is a potential for scattered power outages from fallen tree branches.

Stay safe everyone and enjoy the snow!

Original Post

Happy New Year everyone! Hope your holidays were both relaxing and fulfilling.

In the weather…

We are currently in the middle of what will likely be the coldest late December/early January period in recent memory. The map below shows the temperature anomalies from last week. Apart from the west, the nation was at least 6 degrees below normal with northern areas exceeding 10 degrees below normal.

US surface temperature anomalies Dec 25-31

The cold isn’t going away anytime soon. After the nor’easter moves through on Thursday, a high-pressure system will settle to the northwest this weekend, bringing even colder temperatures. Based on forecasted anomalies, we could see low temperatures well below 0 in New England and close to 0 from Philadelphia to NYC.

Temperature anomaly Jan 7th
Temperature anomalies late Saturday night

Following the arctic blast this weekend, temperatures will likely return to normal or slightly above normal. However, more cold blasts are ahead, so stay warm over the next couple weeks!

Upcoming Nor’easter

The upcoming storm has all the features of a classic nor’easter. The actual system has actually already started to spin up in the Gulf of Mexico and will strengthen off the Atlantic coast tomorrow afternoon. Once the storm gathers strength, it will begin to move northeast and continue to strengthen.

There are a few factors that favor the development of a significant nor’easter. First, ocean temperatures in the Atlantic are above normal for this time of year. This promotes faster and stronger development. Below is a map showing the Atlantic warmth:

Above average ocean temperatures
Above Average Ocean Temperatures

Second, the current state of the teleconnections indicates conditions for storm development. The NAO will be transitioning to negative during the storm, the PNA remains strongly positive (trough in the east), and the EPO is negative. Finally, there is plenty of cold air feeding into the storm, creating blizzard conditions in some regions.

We know a storm is coming, but where and when? Right now, the nor’easter is projected to track up the coast late Wednesday and strengthen rapidly as it moves north on Thursday. The latest forecast models show the worst of the storm impacting New England with most of the heavy snow occurring east of the NJ coastline.

Thursday Morning Snow
Thursday Morning Storm Track

By Thursday evening, storm’s low pressure will be the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane. Blizzard conditions will be occurring in much of New England while the light snow ends in the Delaware Valley:

Nor'easter Peak Strength
Nor’easter Peak Strength

With all this being said, recent short term models have been trending slightly west. The ramifications for more westerly track could be significant in our region. As shown on the 3K NAM, a model that specializes in short range forecasting, a track even 75-100 miles west could bring heavy snows into the I-95 corridor:

3K NAM 7 AM Thursday
3K NAM 7 AM Thursday

It is apparent there is still uncertainty associated with this nor’easter. We are currently 36 hours before the beginning of the event, which means the next 12-18 hours are critical in determining the actual track of the storm.

Based on recent data, it would be reasonable to expect a disruptive storm on Thursday.  If the storm takes a more easterly track, 1-4 inches of snow should fall from this storm with more near the coast and less NW. If the storm takes a western path as shown in the 3k NAM above, 6-10 inches of snow would not be unreasonable.

If there are any changes overnight, I will post a quick update with a revised forecast tomorrow morning.


Welcome Back! A Teleconnection Primer

Hello dedicated followers! It has been an astonishing 687 days since my last post! While I could delve into what has happened since then (Hurricane Hermine, Hurricane Matthew’s impacts on the outer banks, 2016 being the warmest year on record, California’s historic drought followed by historic flooding, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, and the recent wildfires in California), it would probably take another 687 days to complete a comprehensive overview (with a separate addendum on Trump and the tragedy that is the EPA). So instead, I will start out with an educational article on one of the most essential tools of meteorological forecasting: teleconnections.

Posts on real weather in the Delaware Valley will begin tomorrow, and I will attempt to post at least weekly in perpetuity. Also, enjoy the new and improved look, and feel free to send suggestions!

Onto the teleconnections!

Teleconnections quantify changes in the atmosphere that can have wide-ranging effects on the global climate. Each of the following teleconnections is used by forecasters to determine weather patterns across the world. While all teleconnections measure different elements ranging from mid-level atmospheric changes to water temperature anomalies, all are very interconnected. As a forecaster, it is critical to not only understand the dynamics of each teleconnection but also the relationship between them.

El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) – This is the El Niño/La Niña that everyone knows and loves! The ENSO is the most extensively studied teleconnection and has a significant impact on global climate. The ENSO is a variable pattern in the tropical region of the Pacific ocean. When this area of the Pacific is warmer than average, it’s called an El Niño (positive ENSO). A colder Pacific is represented by the La Niña (negative ENSO). The ENSO’s impacts on the globe are significant but not well understood. We know stronger El Niños are accompanied by warmer temperatures in the US (think 1997-1998 and 2015-2016). However, La Niñas, neutral ENSO periods, and weaker El Niños have more localized effects. For the northeastern seaboard, only the El Niño has a clear correlation with our weather (warmer when strong, snowier when weak).

North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) – The NAO is determined by the differences in pressures over northern latitudes and central latitudes of the North Atlantic. When the NAO is positive, the northern latitudes have lower pressures than the central latitudes. The opposite is true when the NAO is negative. The NAO is one of the most important teleconnection patterns used by forecasters because of its impacts on the jet stream, especially in Europe and North America. A negative NAO means a colder and snowier period for our region. A negative NAO transitioning to neutral or positive generally indicates an incoming snowstorm.

Eastern Pacific Oscillation (EPO) – Similar teleconnection to the NAO, except located in the Pacific. When the EPO is negative, pressures in the northern latitudes are higher than the southern ones. A positive EPO is the opposite. A negative EPO generally corresponds to a cooling period in the eastern US.

Arctic Oscillation (AO) – Determined by opposing pressure patterns in the middle and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. A negative AO occurs when there’s higher pressure over the polar region and lower pressure in the mid-latitudes. The opposite occurs during the positive phase. The AO is an excellent indicator of the track of storms and the location of cold air. With a negative AO, the higher pressure over the poles allows more cold air to drop into the mid-latitudes (continental US).

Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) – The MJO is represented by an eastward tracking wave that travels across the planet. The cycle of the MJO lasts 40-60 days and is represented by 8 different phases. Each stage can have a disparate impact on temperature patterns in the US and is a predictor of tropical activity. In the winter months, the effects of the MJO on the east coast are generally not well understood (although it is thought phases 1 & 8 promote coastal storm development)


Pacific-North American (PNA) – The PNA is a prominent mode of low-frequency variability in the Northern Hemisphere. It measures the pattern of 500 mb height anomalies. 500 mb is a measurement of the pressure in the middle of the atmosphere. It is extremely useful in determining the locations of pressure systems and identifying patterns in the middle latitudes (30 to 60). The location of the PNA is determined by a quadripole ranging from the southeastern US to the Aleutian islands in Alaska. A positive PNA is represented by ridging in the west (above average 500 mb pressures) and troughing in the east (below average 500 mb pressures). It is also represented by above average temperatures in the west and below average temperatures in the east:

A negative PNA is characterized by the opposite pattern:

Below is the current forecast for the PNA:


Complex Forecast: Plowable Snow Likely Tomorrow

Hi all, hope everyone had a nice weekend. A complex and extremely difficult to forecast inverted trough will form tomorrow, creating snowy conditions tomorrow afternoon into Wednesday morning.

The setup:

As of Monday morning, an extremely powerful low pressure system is moving up the coast, affecting areas of New England. As this low pressure moves away, a clipper will enter the area late tonight and transfer it’s energy off the coast. As this transfer occurs, a rare phenomenon known as the Norlun Trough will form. The trough is an interaction between the weakening low pressure in Ohio and western PA and the strengthening one off the coast. The North American Model depicts this interaction in the 500mb image below:

nam_rapid-hgtprs--conus-33-C-001.pngReferring to the image above, the Norlun Trough will likely setup somewhere along the turquoise arrow I drew to illustrate the interaction between the lows.

Forecasting the Trough:

I will be completely honest here: the Norlun Trough is a forecaster’s nightmare. The models have been historically bad at determining the location of the trough, since we still do not completely understand the atmospheric factors that drive the transfer of energy between the low pressures. That being said, from the data and information I have, it is looking likely that the trough will setup a little south of Philadelphia.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 11.13.27 AM.pngThe NAM 4KM is one of the better short range simulated radar models. As you can see in the above image, the trough parks itself over the area for a prolonged period of time tomorrow evening into early Wednesday morning. Even though the event is a little over 24 hours away, there is still lots of uncertainty to where the trough will setup. If the interaction occurs 100 miles south or north, no snow would fall in Philadelphia.

My forecast: 

For areas north of the city, less snow will fall: 2-4 inches

For areas West and South of the city, more substantial snowfall is likely: 4-8 inches

There will also be banding during this storm, meaning that there might be places that receive locally higher amounts in excess of 8 inches.

Stay tuned for updates.