Friday, November 19, 2010

A winter of close calls?

Nearly every forecast I've seen for this winter paints roughly the same picture for the Carolinas and the rest of the Southeast:

1. Generally, a mild and fairly dry pattern (due to La Nina).
2. A storm track that takes most systems up the Appalachians and then through the Northeast either along the coast or slightly inland.
3. An occasional burst of arctic air southward -- with the boundary of the cold air stopping somewhere in the region of the Carolinas. Most of the time, it'll stall to the north of our region. But occasionally, it'll reach the Charlotte area.

That's why meteorologists like WCNC-TV's Brad Panovich have forecast a better-than-average chance of ice storms in our area this year. With both the cold air and the storm track nearby, we'll be on the edge between rain and frozen precipitation.

Incidentally, another common theme has been the idea that March could be a chilly and wet month in the East.

But I've seen another interesting aspect to this winter's forecast ... something to keep in mind in the weeks to come.

A couple of long-range forecasters have mentioned that they expect the computer models to produce several bogus predictions of cold air outbreaks in the East. This winter's pattern is set up for cold air and heavy precipitation in the Northwest, but some meteorologists think the computers will erroneously forecast the dip in the jet stream to progress into the East.

Most recently, I saw that comment from Dave Tolleris, who runs a private meteorological firm called

In early to mid October, some of the computer models began predicting an outbreak of cold and wet weather in the East. It never happened. We had a cold snap for a few days in the first weekend of November, but the latter half of October was mild. The prediction of stormy weather verified (remember the tornado outbreak on Oct. 25).

But the storm systems were working with mild temperatures.

Now it seems to have happened again. Some of the models earlier this week were predicting a surge of arctic air into the Southeast on Thanksgiving weekend. Now those forecasts are being scaled back.

We're looking for above-average temperatures early next week, with highs possibly reaching 70 degrees on one or two days. The cooldown will come late Thanksgiving Day, but the "arctic surge" now is predicted to be only slightly-below-normal temperatures. We're talking about highs in the middle 50s next Saturday and Sunday.

A Reminder, Folks: I saw a series of comments under one of my blog entries earlier this week, in which sometime questioned my credentials to write a weather blog.

Let me repeat what I wrote in my first blog entry ... I am not a meteorologist. I have been covering weather for almost a decade at The Observer, and I've attended a number of workshops and seminars. I've asked hundreds of questions of meteorologists, and when I don't have the answer to a question, I'll go back to them again.

This blog is not aimed at professional meteorologists. It's for people who are interested in weather, especially in the Carolinas. Basically, it's for weather geeks like myself.

I'll try to mix forecasts, weather stories, and some scientific discussion.

I am not writing this blog from a scientific standpoint. Instead, I'm trying to translate the science of meteorology into words that every-day people can understand. If I mention the North Atlantic Oscillation, I'll explain it -- rather than simply throwing the acronym NAO into this column. The same goes for a myriad other meteorological terms.

I hope that helps.


Anonymous said...

You haven't said anything about the wooly bears. They show a very mild winter. Can we believe the wooly boogers?

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog and find it very useful.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve, I enjoy your articles.

Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying the blog

Anonymous said...

La Ninas usually give us mild booring winters. Watch the Arctic Oscillation (AO) Index though. If it goes negative, it'll get cold here quick...

Anonymous said...

FWIW. looks like the Rockies are having a record November for snow.
Maybe their turn this winter.

Anonymous said...

The Farmer's Almanac is usually just as accurate if not more accurate than the "experts" with their supercomputers. Enjoy the blog.

Anonymous said...

What about DC? I live here but work up there about a week a month. Their winter last year was catastrophically awful. Any word on that?

Anonymous said...

I like your blog, Steve.

Kindly remember that some people live to bash every word published by The Charlotte Observer.

Ignore them.

Anonymous said...

I mentioned to my wife earlier in the fall that this winter will be similar to the winter of 1960 when March had 3 Wednesdays of snow and the 4th an ice storm. I also, in the spring predicted 17-19 tropical storms with 5-7 becoming a hurricane. One with think that I came pretty close but it's just something I do having lived so long that I just make predictions on how my mind is working at the moment.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you wrote about your intent, because after reading your last few entries (which were way off, weather-wise)I too was questioning your qualifications for writing about meteorology. Now I can just sit back and enjoy your atmospheric musings. :) ~Rachel

Unknown said...

Steve: This is another good commentary. As a gardener and weather enthusiast, I really look forward to your column...having been wishing for years for something like this. Thanks!

Longmeadow said...

I have always enjoyed your articles - as most everyone else at the Observer writes like a ten year-old. Whether you're writing about traffic, weather, or something else, every article is well written and informative. Please keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I also enjoy your blog. It is so much more enjoyable and accurate than listening to the dreaded 6pm newscast. Please continue keeping us informed!

Jeff Crum said...

Weather is not an exact science. Blame the PR folks for pushing that concept.

Solid job Steve... keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Longmeadow! This is one of the few reporters that I feel doesn't "speak down" to the public. Many of the rest I feel write their articles with the notion that their readers are morons who cannot form opinions of their own.

This blog is one of my daily must-reads! It's so intelligently written that I feel it counters my daily dose of gossip reading!

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