Monday, December 22, 2014

Special Forecast Discussion - Christmas Snowstorm Threat

This is a special forecast discussion concerning the Christmas snowstorm threat.

Discussion prepared Monday (12/22), 06z
Purpose of discussion: To analyze the Christmas snowstorm threat

Model guidance continues to have unresolved problems with the upcoming potential of a high-impact Christmas storm system. Solutions range from a major snowstorm impacting Chicago, to snow falling in central and southern Ohio.

The attached image shows the American GFS model interpretation for the set-up of this storm. In this depiction, we see a positively-tilted trough positioned in the Southern Plains, with ridging set up on either coastline of the United States. The previous expectation saw the northern piece of energy slide north and out of the picture, allowing the southern energy to become negatively-tilted, and turn into a significant storm. Since then, guidance has converged on stronger northern energy, and slower progression of the southern energy. These two factors combine to force the trough to tilt more positively, and restrict strengthening.

Consequentially, precipitation impacts continue to be reduced on incoming model runs, as both the southern energy weakens and slows down, with continued persistence of the strong northern energy. Thus, a strong snowstorm is not necessarily expected at this time. However, should a decent precipitation shield form on the western flank of the low, dynamic cooling aloft may permit accumulating snow in a swath of the Great Lakes. Exactly where this snow may fall is uncertain. For that, we turn to ensemble guidance.

Shown above is the ensemble spread track guidance from the government modeling agency. This graphic depicts American GFS model ensemble members, and their individual predictions for where this storm will go. For this discussion, we will only focus on the tracks leading from the Gulf of Mexico on northward. Analyzing this picture closely, you may see a brown line tracking north and east into western Ohio. That brown line is the GFS model itself; all the other green lines are ensemble members. Notice how the ensemble members are predominantly west of the operational model. It appears the ensembles are split into two groups: one that carries the storm in a similar track to the GFS operational model, and one that drags the storm through western Michigan, even through eastern Illinois. This means that we could see the GFS model correct westward with its track. It may very well not happen, as the trend has been for a weaker, slower trough, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Briefly adding in other ensemble guidance, we see the CMC ensembles favor a track through eastern Indiana and western Ohio as of their morning forecast run (12z). Since then, the situation has changed as more energy has come onshore, but this westward idea remains something to monitor (as does an eastward correction). It is worth noting that those same 12z CMC ensembles see the storm as being stronger than projected, and just slightly to the west of this afternoon's actual 12z CMC model forecast, shown on that red line above.

Caveats to Forecast
Significant caveats exist with continued ensemble support for a westward shift in the track, but operational guidance's refusal to take such a step. Additional problems arise with significant timing variability among ensemble and operational guidance, as well as temperature profile variability.

The continued degradation of the trough by model guidance, as well as slowing progression and strengthening northern energy, ultimately leads me to believe a more eastern track will come to fruition. Ensemble guidance appears to foresee a westward shift in track, though I fail to see the basis for such a solution unless the southern energy ends up stronger and a bit more progressive than recently projected. Additional monitoring of both operational and ensemble guidance is needed, as continued disagreement among individual models, and even among their own ensembles, means only one solution can be right. I can see reason for trough ending up slightly stronger than advertised, and this could bring about a notable shift in track, and I am still struggling with continued ensemble support for a western shift in track, but for now it appears best to go with newly emerging model data.

Favored Track
My favored track as of this writing resembles a CMC/GFS (pink/red lines respectively) track, through western Ohio and central Kentucky. Confidence in this track is low.
Next Update
The next update to this special forecast discussion is not currently planned. If an update is needed, one will be provided prior to 11:00 AM Central Time on Monday, December 22.



Anonymous said...

60 degrees and rain on Christmas Eve here.. UGHH!! This is depressing and only slightly cooler on Christmas Day. This is definitely 2011-12 all over again.

Oh well... I guess it's time for me to pack up and leave Maryland and move to Alaska if I want winter LOL!

KBC said...

No good snow for Western NY?

Anonymous said...

Yet, another weather Bust!!