Thursday, February 6, 2014

Kudos to the groundhog ... winter is alive

During the height of the arctic outbreak in late January, a few of the computer models were predicting a ice warming trend through the early part of February. But it looks as if Charlotte's groundhog, which saw its shadow Sunday, was on to something.

While the intensity of the cold air does not rival that of January, we'll be cold enough during the next week to be at risk of trouble-making storm systems. And there appears to be no shortage of trouble-makers on the way.

One weak system, responsible for snowfall Thursday from Dallas to near New Orleans, is expected to zip across the Carolinas late tonight.

Another, bigger storm system is forecast sometime around the middle of next week.

Today's little storm, which was expected to be a nuisance-level event, has proved to be a bit more feisty than first expected. It is dumping heavy snow (for an hour or two) in central Louisiana and Mississippi. As that system crosses the Carolinas late Thursday and early Friday, it could trigger some light snow in the mountains.

Don't be surprised to see a little sleet fall late tonight in Charlotte, although the temperatures indicate rain is more likely. Either way, it won't amount to much.

The bigger story is next week.  As usual, there are tons of uncertainty over what will happen.

There are two key players -- a cold high pressure system which is expected to build down the East Coast on Monday and Tuesday, centered over the eastern Great Lakes; and a fairly strong storm system that is forecast to move from the Gulf of Mexico to the Carolinas coast. Some of the computer models indicate there also could be a weak storm system over the Great Lakes, and that could play a role in how everything develops.

The two main computer models, the European and the Global, have been consistent over the past day or two in predicting frozen precipitation in the Carolinas, most likely late Tuesday or Wednesday. Some of the model numbers have been ridiculous with their snowfall predictions.

Temperatures will be cold, but they'll be close to freezing. That means the trick will be in predicting what form of precipitation falls in the Charlotte region. Everything is on the board -- rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow.  Maybe all four could fall.

If the high pressure system over the Great Lakes begin moving toward or off the East Coast before the storm arrives, our supply of cold air will weaken. That means we'll get rain. If the high pressure stays in place, frozen precipitation is more likely.

Most of the forecasts I've seen have pointed toward sleet and freezing rain. That's not good. Visiting historic sites and seeing how people lived in the early 19th Century is nice.  But most of us don't want to live that way. A major ice storm means power outages, which means no heat, TV and computers.  If you lived in Charlotte in December 2002, you know how little fun ice storms are.

This is no time to panic.  If every storm predicted by the computer models came to pass this winter, we would've had 100 inches of snow in Charlotte.  Instead, we've had 1 inch.

But it's clear that winter has not disappeared.


Anonymous said...

Time for another hype-up. There was dead silence here for over a week of "boring" weather following the last hype-up, and now it's a possible return to the 19th century.

Anonymous said...

With all the Artic air in this area since Dec., we should have had several snow storms-lots more than one inch. We'll see about next week, but here's predicting a little freezing rain followed by a "chilly" monsoon rain.

Anonymous said...

I love the anonymous posters who do nothing but bash this feature, yet they READ it all the time to bash it. Weather is an inexact science, but it is based in data and science. Steve does a fine job using what is available to predict what MAY happen. If you don't like this column, read something else.

Keith Maletta


"Inexact" science? I thought science is settled, or "exact." And science is based on "science," or itself? And predicting is based on something inexact, and based on itself?

Glad you you love the anonymous posters that bash this feature, You will not be disappointed here!

Snuffy said...

I am so ready for warmer weather!
I am never going to complain about hot weather again, I mean it, really, I do.

bentley said...

Charlotte hasn't moved north or south in all the time I've been alive. When some interesting winter weather comes, it's always like this. One degree warmer or colder makes all the difference. Snow is lovely and freezing rain causes trouble. I vote for snow.

jd shaw said...

Indeed, much hype--and enough salt on the roads to rival the Dead Sea--over 1/12 foot of snow.