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January-like cold may be followed by a snowstorm

Posted by David Epstein  March 23, 2014 11:50 AM

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There is a lot to discuss this morning so let’s get right to it. Some of you, via your tweets to me, figured I was on vacation last week and you were correct. I was doing some hiking through Arizona and seeing the trees and shrubs flushing out their flowers and leaves made coming back to forecasting another snowstorm all the more painful.

Before I get to the midweek storm, let me discuss the upcoming cold as that will play into the forecast. Yesterday, while certainly windy was a mild early spring day. The warmest part of today will be before about 2PM. Later this afternoon, arctic air will begin to push into the area dropping temperatures and adding that familiar chill.

Arctic Cold
Tomorrow, when you head off to work or school, it will feel like the middle of January. Temperatures of 7 or 8 degrees above zero will be common over northern areas with lower teens more typical in and around Boston. Even more remarkable than the morning lows tomorrow, will be the afternoon highs. The coldest March 24th ever in Boston was 26°F back in 1888 (a year with a major blizzard earlier that month). While the high tomorrow will likely be a degree or two milder, it puts in perspective just how far below our typical late March ranges Monday will be.

Another cold night for tomorrow night leads to a chilly, but above freezing day on Tuesday. Then all eyes turn to the potential storm Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Another storm is possible
The best forecasts are made when the models we use agree on what will happen to the atmosphere. Sometimes I see one model forecasting something and know it’s just not the correct solution.

This morning we find two camps set up with regard to the upcoming storm. In the first camp we have the USA models as well as the Canadians and the Brits with a monster ocean storm giving Cape Cod a significant wind and late March snowstorm with the snow penetrating west to the Route 495 corridor. If these models are correct, the storm would be a nuisance or even nothing for Boston, but the biggest impact would be wind and cold.

The image below shows the predicted position of the storm according the GFS (American) model. Notice all the black lines around the low, those are isobars and when they are very close together it’s an indication of a lot of wind.

The NAM model, which isn't the most accurate, but still should be considered has the entire storm going out to sea and if this is correct there would be no snow for anyone.

On the other extreme is the European model. This model has the storm 100 miles closer to the coast and if this scenario plays out we would be looking at a much more significant snow storm for all of eastern New England.

This image above shows the position of the storm according to the Euro, also on Wednesday morning. Notice there are many isobars around the storm and just like the GFS model, it's an indication of a lot of wind. The biggest difference with this model, as opposed to the others, is the storm and its associated wind/snow fields are further west. If this came to fruition it would give much of the area a very significant storm. I can't yet discount this possibility nor can I favor the idea the greatest impact will remain over the fishes. It's just too early and the stakes are too high.

My job the next two days is to figure out which model is correct and then give you folks the best forecast. Right now it’s too early and there is too big of a discrepancy to say with confidence how this storm is going to play out.

Since all the models agree there is going to be a storm we know we are all certainly under the threat of a significant last season winter event. If you live over southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod, the odds of you seeing a plowable snowstorm are highest, but not a sure bet. If you live west of Worcester the odds of you seeing a significant storm are quite low.

If we do see storm travel will be impacted mostly Wednesday. If the worst case scenario did play out, the storm would be over Thursday, but travel would still be an issue especially in the morning. I’ll have many more updates over the next couple of days and you can read more of my analysis and latest thinking on Twitter @growingwisdom

The good news, and there is some, is that milder air will come in behind the storm, so the snow will be melting relatively quickly in the very strong spring sunshine.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

David Epstein has been a professional meteorologist and horticulturalist for three decades. David spent 16 years at WCVB in Boston and currently freelances for WGME in Portland, ME. In 2006, More »
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