First, I’d like to apologize for the delay in this post and to thank you for being patient. Second, I was going to editorialize about the general public’s widely-held habit of bashing weather people for “getting it wrong”, but I don’t really think that’s necessary. The readers (and lurkers) of this blog know better, and for that I am grateful. Those who comment day in and day out are well aware of the process, some of them from dabbling in it themselves, and all from the experiences that I and a few other meteorologists share in the comments. There is a process that I and others go through daily to produce a forecast. Although there is slight variation day-to-day in this process, much of it is the same as the day before, but no matter how much experience a forecaster has, there are going to be exceedingly challenging forecasts. This was definitely one of them. At first, several days ago, I had this thing as a miss with “high confidence”. I should have known better. That’s the kiss of death on a forecast, declaring high confidence more than a couple days in advance. Alright, harsh reminder there. Then when I knew this would not be a complete miss the process of trying to figure out its impact began. This in itself is now more complicated that it should be. Oh the forecasting part is hard enough, but it’s a challenge I welcome and very much enjoy. The greater challenge and often losing battle is doing it the way I feel is right, but that puts me in a tiny sailboat on a chaotic sea of media hype. And I’m not talking about my fellow TV meteorologists. We all have our opinions on how they present their information, but we are all really working toward a common goal – informing the pubic. Unlike myself, they are under intense pressure from managers and others who scrutinize everything they do to not only get the information out there but “entertain” the audience. I’m not sure what words are used, but they are told to play the hype game. And what a difficult spot that leaves them in, as they really want to just get the information out there, but have to “please the boss” in the process. Yes, it is a ratings game, but somewhere along the way that took precedence over delivering quality information, correct or incorrect. I’m not even sure the public is getting the message any more. In talking to people I encounter during the day, they are not really getting it. Perhaps having a “bust” storm like this one is a good thing in that it teaches a lesson to the media outlets what too much hype can lead to. But are they really paying attention enough to learn the lesson? And if they do learn it, how long until complacency sets in and its forgotten, leaving the cycle to begin anew? All I can do is keep sailing my boat…
A QUICK LOOK BACK AT THE STORM THAT WAS (AND WASN’T)
I don’t need to go into too much detail here as it was already explained in the comments section of the previous blog posts, but in case anybody missed it. I referred to my forecasting process in the commentary above. For this event, once I knew it was going to impact us, I was nervous about the dry air to the north, as depicted, it turns out quite accurately, by several runs of the ECMWF (European) forecast model. But since it was basically the only model doing that, it naturally lead to a little skepticism about its solution, but not enough in me to completely ignore it. I’ve seen this before, more than once, with a somewhat similar set-up, and that model being the only one to see something. I couldn’t shake that, so I opted to play it safe, forecasting enough snow to give the idea of decent impact, but leaving it just above a level I could adjust to if my drier scenario worked out, without looking like I was hacking my forecast to shreds with a hatchet. The fact is, this rather impressive storm system was up against a brick wall of dry air, and took quite some time to eat into it. Why did it rain for a while in areas that snow was forecast? Simple. The forecast of colder air was depending on steadier and widespread precipitation helping to cool the atmosphere enough to support snow. When the storm held off to the south pretty much all day, the atmosphere was able to warm enough to not support snow in a good portion of the region, so once areas of relatively light precipitation moved in, it was rain, not snow, and then the process had to take place when finally, in the overnight hours, enough precipitation had eroded the dry air to do the process that was forecast hours before. While this was going on, the heavy bands of precipitation that were forecast to be working into southern New England were instead about 25 to 40 miles further south, thanks to a little wobble in the elongated low pressure center, keeping the storm just a touch further offshore than had been expected. With 5 inches of snow falling at Islip, Long Island, NY, in a little over 1 hour, it is clearly evident just how close Southern New England was to having a much different outcome. In terms of a forecast miss, distance-wise it is not that much, but impact-wise, it made a world of difference. All I can say is I am glad I took the chance and lowered snow amounts by late evening to reflect that the full potential of this was not to be realized. This is not a claim of victory by any stretch, but a sigh of relief that my forecast didn’t have as far to fall flat on its face. So, on we go to look ahead…
DAYS 1-5 (MARCH 22-26)
So the storm is gone, or is it? Our double-barrel storm and its attendant upper level low pressure area isn’t really going away, and will actually have an impact on the weather here for this entire 5-day period. Today’s impact has already been seen, since I’m putting out this blog late in the afternoon. During the next few days, some instability on the back side of the upper low offshore will bring the chance of a few snow and rain showers to the region, especially midday and afternoon Friday and again for a portion of Saturday. A stronger lobe of energy may bring a more widespread area of snow showers in the early to mid morning hours of Sunday, so if you wake up Sunday morning to what looks like a snowstorm in progress, it should not be hanging around all that long. By Monday, it will be precipitation-free, but a northerly flow will persist, with chilly weather continuing. Forecast details…
THROUGH EVENING: Mostly cloudy. Spotty light snow and drizzle mainly near the eastern MA coast. Temperatures ranging from the middle 30s to middle 40s. Wind N 5-15 MPH, higher gusts.
TONIGHT: Mostly cloudy. Lows 27-34. Wind NW 5-15 MPH.
FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy. A passing rain or snow shower possible. Highs 38-44. Wind NW 5-15 MPH.
FRIDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy. Lows 27-34. Wind NW 5-15 MPH.
SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy. Scattered rain/snow showers, especially in the afternoon. Highs 38-44. Wind N 5-15 MPH.
SUNDAY: Mostly cloudy. Snow showers likely in the morning. Lows in the 20s. Highs in the 30s.
MONDAY: Partly cloudy. Lows in the 20s. Highs in the 30s.
DAYS 6-10 (MARCH 27-31)
The last 5 days of March will start out dry/cool as the final influence of the offshore storm hangs on while high pressure builds in. It looks like a weakening system may bring some cloudiness March 28 but may be absent of precipitation, and the March 29-30 period may be milder, starting fair and ending showery, but probably rain showery versus snow showery. Based on current timing, drier but windy/colder weather is expected for the last day of the month.
DAYS 11-15 (APRIL 1-5)
A more progressive west to east flow is expected as the blocking pattern will have broken down during the final days of March. This would mean up and down temperatures and weaker storm systems, one of these likely around April 2 or 3 dividing a milder start for the period from a colder finish.