Finding Nemo – Blizzard Forecast to Impact New England

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For some reason I think it’s just hilarious that The Weather Channel has named our Friday blizzard Nemo! While naming storms is just a silly enterprise it looks like Nemo may really be a beast!

Earlier today we were all having fun with the 12z NAM that was showing 40-60″ of snow in parts of New England. No big deal, right? The NAM is just not designed to be used for rip and read snowfall forecasts. It’s a curiosity and is of no use. Toss it. You can toss other QPF forecasts from non-hydrostatic models out the window at this juncture as well.

The global models are in exceptional agreement that this storm is going to be huge. The GFS/Euro combination along with their respective ensemble members have honed in on an impressive solution. Here’s my latest thinking in a probabilistic way.

chart_1

While a chart like this would give TV news consultants heart palpitations it’s really the best way to express forecast uncertainty! I know my blog readers have a lot of weather geek in them… so enjoy! If you notice here the odds of more than 18″ of snow are pretty low… there’s a reason for that! The greater Hartford area has only recorded 5 snowstorms (officially) of 18″+ in the last 108 years! The Bridgeport coop observer has never recorded an 18″ snowstorm since the 50s! They’re just not all that common. We’re also still 36 hours before the storm’s onset and a lot can change.

Before I get accused of being a debbie downer. Let me now talk about how amazing this storm looks meteorologically. Here’s the 18z GFS valid at 6z Friday.

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Here’s the GFS which is in fair agreement with the Euro (though the GFS is a bit more impressive with an earlier phase/capture). Synoptically, a digging northern stream disturbance mananges to be timed and located perfectly to dig and capture a moisture laden southern stream disturbance. Beauty! Without blocking downstream there’s not much wiggle room. The timing has to be PERFECT for this to work out for Connecticut. 6 hours in either direction will make a huge difference (keep in mind the northern stream disturbance is over Montana and the southern stream is over Texas).

All of our models show the perfect phase though the Euro is a bit late and therefore a bit less impressive in Connecticut compared to places around Boston. So assuming that actually occurs and it’s not late (a late phase would still clobber the Cape and eastern Massachusetts but give us a more pedestrian storm) let’s watch the beauty unfold at 700mb from 18z Friday to 6z Saturday in 6 hour increments on the 18z GFS.

700mbEvolution

I mean if that’s not breathtaking I don’t know what is. We even manage a little loop-de-loop there as the 700mb low tightens and matures. Exceptionally powerful frontogenesis on the northwest flank of that mid level low would result in a super band the likes of which you rarely experience. All of this is taking place under an area of strong divergence thanks to a coupled jet streak (classic KU setup).

The result of this “perfect scenario” is a large swath of 1.5″ to 3.0″ of liquid and likely a snowfall on the order of 1 1/2 to 3 feet.  Wowzers.

The perfect scenario is only one such possibility, of course, and small changes in the next 24 hours with the 2 disturbances we’re watching can make a large difference down the line. In order to start picking up over 15″ of snow in this part of the country you need small-scale (mesoscale) features on your side. These are notoriously challenging to forecast even 6 hours ahead of time!

That said, as of right now this has all the makings of a classic. Odds are better than 50/50 that many inland areas see a foot of snow. Along the shoreline some sneaky mid level warmth may  bring a period of sleet and a bit of mid level drying may promote some dry slotting. Big “IFs” here though with plenty of potential for a crippling snowstorm if the shoreline is able to hold the sleet and dry slotting at bay.

Will this turn into an historic storm? It’s possible. Too early to say for sure. The amount of liquid being generated by the normally reliable models (like the GFS and Euro – ignore the NAM) are staggering. I’m excited for this one 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Finding Nemo – Blizzard Forecast to Impact New England

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