Mid-latitude winter storms have increased in both intensity and frequency nationally since 1950. Overall, there were twice as many extreme winter storms in the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century as there were in the first half. This is consistent with what you’d expect in a warming world. Higher temperatures lead to more evaporation fromMore
Winter could make up for lost time on the East Coast this weekend as all of the factors for a high-impact snowstorm are coming together. In addition to snow, strong winds and coastal flooding could make for miserable conditions in the Mid-Atlantic starting on Friday evening, with storm conditions potentially extending into the Northeast through the weekend.
The Twitter hashtag machine is ramping up (your choice of #BrideofSnowmageddon or #Snowvechkin) and comparisons are already being made to the infamous Snowmageddon storm that shut down Washington, D.C. for two days in 2010. Here’s what you need to know about a storm that’s still more than three days away.
Models are all in agreement that things are going to get real. All of the major weather models are forecasting a major winter storm that will hit the Mid-Atlantic by Friday afternoon with the biggest impacts on Friday night and Saturday. The Euro model — famous for nailing Sandy’s track days before other models — has shown a significant storm for the past few days and other weather models are now onto the same scenario.
The storm will have ample moisture to work with thanks to abnormally warm waters just off the coast thanks to a particularly mild December. Add in cold air pouring down from a strong block of high pressure over Quebec and you have a recipe for major snowfall somewhere.
In fact, the meteorologist who wrote the textbook on northeast snowstorms says this is a textbook setup. The Capital Weather Gang also outline the conditions that tend to bring big snowstorms to the Washington, D.C. area and show a largely similar pattern to the one setting up. Up to 3 feet of snow are possible when all is said and done, though where exactly is still up in the air (more on that below).
Despite it being more than three days away, the National Weather Service office in Washington, D.C. already has high confidence in a major storm hitting the area. Impacts further north — especially in regards to snowfall — are still a bit uncertain. The Tuesday afternoon run of the Euro model showed a slightly more southerly track to the storm, further decreasing the odds of major snow in the Northeast. But…
There’s still uncertainty on the track and snowfall totals. Model agreement is one thing, but it’s still too far out to talk exact snowfall totals in exact locations. A change in the storm’s track by 50-100 miles can mean the difference between Washington, D.C. getting crippled by 3 feet of snow and a more manageable 6-12 inches.
Here is a satellite image of the storm that is forecast to reach the East Coast by Friday, along with forecast track pic.twitter.com/c1Q6ySbUmz
— NWS WPC (@NWSWPC) January 19, 2016
The storm is just coming ashore on the West Coast and will traverse the entire country. There are a lot factors that can influence its track before it reaches the Eastern Seaboard so any exact snowfall totals are more conjecture than anything else at this point.
Snowfall totals might get headlines, but flooding and strong wind are also major concerns. While snow is responsible for the majority of Instagram photos, flooding is responsible for most of the economic damage wrought by winter storms. And this storm is likely to see both coastal flooding and high winds that could wreak havoc.
At the storm’s peak, winds could gust up to 65 mph offshore of southern New England. And if those winds arrive at high tide (on a full moon no less), that could drive heavy surf and storm surge ashore, causing erosion and flooding from the Mid-Atlantic to southern New England. Even though New York is on the fringe of the snowfall, storm surge could reach within a foot of flooding parts of the subway.