The Pink Elephant Forecast….?

February 4th, 2014 at 8:50 am by under Weather

Well, I’m back writing a blog again today.  I took yesterday off as meteorologist Tiffany Savona did such an excellent job, and I felt like I couldn’t add much.  Today I want to write about the short-term forecast first, but everyone is asking about the “Pink elephant in the room” lately.  That pachyderm being the chance for snow next Sunday into Monday.  The whole weather team has repeatedly stated that long range forecasts are difficult for models to lock down in this region.  Some folks lately have taken forecasts out of context.  There is even a magical map floating around from days ago that shows somewhere between 10 and a bajillion inches of snow for Monday.   Or is it Sunday?  Anyway, you have to be careful with what you hear and see on the internet these days.  There are forecasters and meteorologists out there that know the limitations on medium-long range forecasts. However, there are others that take the models at face value.  They love snow and excitement.  So they sound the alarm early, but then there is no accountability if the forecast busts.  There’s usually no big focus on how a model misses a big forecast.  What map?  Who said that?  What did he/she forecast?  With that said…here is the latest that I’m seeing on the upcoming storm system.  I won’t lock down a forecast, but I do like to get the trend right.  That’s my goal for 4-7 days out.  So for now the models are showing an area of low pressure that will form somewhere between West Virginia and South Carolina (a big range).  The low will move east or northeast and rapidly develop.  The models are very split as to what will happen.  The European model shows an area of low pressure that will form near the coast of South Carolina.  Then it will rapidly develop and move northeast.  It gives us barely any snow in the region as the moisture pushes out before the cold air can rush in.  If the track/timing were to change just a bit though, then we could be talking about some brief snow.  The GFS model, often cited as the American model, is the snowiest.  It develops a very broad area of low pressure which then intensifies and focuses off the coast of Maryland.  It allows for the cold air to push well south of the region.  So it drops some brief, but heavy snow over our viewing area.  However, it looks short-lived.  We’re talking about a 3-4 hour window.  At this point it’s just too tough to really get the thermal (temperature) profiles right during that time.  But some of the factors for snow are there.  Finally, the Canadian model shows the low starting off the coast of North Carolina. It keeps it weaker, and it keeps it well offshore.  So the cold air doesn’t get pushed as far south, and therefore we just get a little rain.  The timing is too far out for the NAM model, but it will be curious to see what it sees when we get to that point.

Since the models disagree quite a bit, then you know there is a good amount of uncertainty in the forecast.  That is a solid rule of forecasting.  To me it seems that the models are trying to say that they are having a tough time handling the formation of the low.  The upper level winds are different on each model.  This is probably a product of their different resolutions.  Resolution is the ability to see a wider or smaller area.  In this case I believe they see the surface warming differently, and that in turn drives the upper level wind patterns.  As we get closer to the event in time, then the NAM model will be in range.  It does a pretty good job at resolving surface temperatures compared to the medium range models.  Yet we’ll have to keep in mind that it doesn’t handle coastal systems too well (typically).  The GFS model did a pretty good job with the last event, but it was perhaps a little overzealous on the amounts.  So I’ll keep that in mind going into Monday.

So after all of that complicated model talk, I give you the forecast:  Chance for rain next Sunday into Monday.  There may be a brief changeover to snow into Monday morning, but the details have yet to be worked out.  For now there is a higher chance for this north of the metro, but stay tuned!  I could pick a favorite model, but this will be a forming area of low pressure at 6-7 days out.  Plus, it will be behind another 2 large systems that will affect the Midwest over the next few days.  Those will likely affect what goes into the models over the next 2-4 days.  So until some of that dust settles, I am going to go have a soda pop with the pink elephant.

I mentioned the short-term forecast.  Ahem…  As you have seen, we have a lot of clouds out there today.  It is cloudy to mostly cloudy out this morning, but that was actually a good thing.

Satellite/Radar

Satellite/Radar

The clouds kept the temperatures in the mid 30s instead of the low 30s.  So we didn’t have to deal with any black ice this morning.  There was a little drizzle, but otherwise we were rain-free this morning.  Notice out west that there is a lot of snow forming over the Plains states.  This will move into the Midwest over the next 6-12 hours.  They will get hit with a couple of rounds of cold and snow.  Meanwhile we’ll just see clouds and colder temperatures here today:

Today's Forecast

Today’s Forecast

Other than a little drizzle we’ll only see clouds through the afternoon.  A few showers may sneak in by the evening commute. Then we’ll see showers increase in the area overnight.  Highs today will be in the low 40s.  Winds will be out of the northeast at 10mph.
Tonight a warm front will move up from the south.  This will allow for warming overnight. Temps will rise from near 40 to the mid-upper 40s overnight.  Then tomorrow we’ll keep warming up.  Southwest winds will help to push temperatures into the low 60s.  We’ll see scattered to occasional rain showers, and an isolated thunderstorm is not out of the question.

Tomorrow's Forecast

Tomorrow’s Forecast

We Are looking at about a half inch of rain, but a few cities will see more.  Then we’ll dry out and cool down again for Thursday and Friday.  Highs will be in the low 40s with a mix of sun and clouds.  I’ve lowered the chance for rain on Saturday.  I put it down to a slight chance.  However, the rain chances are high for Sunday into Monday.  Even that detail could change though.

So on a final note…These weather blogs were developed for several reasons.  The main reason was because I love talking about weather, and so I started blogging about 8 years ago.  The second reason was to inform the public.  The blogs allow us to go into more detail that when we are on-air.  Finally, the third more subtle reason was to be accountable.  You can go back and see what we were thinking before, during, and after the storm.  This hopefully, lets you see some of the behind the scenes of what we do.  Then hopefully, you’ll understand why we do what we do.  I’ve always appreciated your feedback.  Thanks for your time, and I hope you’ll appreciate ours.

Meteorologist: Jeremy Wheeler

15 Responses to “The Pink Elephant Forecast….?”

  1. Melissa says:

    I love your blogs. I love the science behind it and seeing each different forecast model. I no longer believe in the hype but instead read your blog every day (pretty much right after it’s posted too). Thank you for what you do and thank you for providing so much detail for us to learn from!

  2. Louis says:

    Thanks for keeping us updated Jeremy, I must say I do enjoy reading the blogs you guys put out. As a snow lover I am hoping for more snow, what are the chances of Toano getting snow this Sunday?

    1. Jeremy Wheeler says:

      While it’s still early in the forecasting game Louis, I will say that you would have a little better chance for seeing it compared to down here. Just because you are closer to the cold air. Again…still early. Jeremy

  3. Scott Ervin says:

    I really enjoy reading the weather blogs. Don”t stop writing them! Keep up the great work as always…

  4. Sheila Hightower says:

    Thanks so much! I love snow and you do great blogs! Like to stay informed!! Here’s hoping!!!

  5. Tom says:

    Well,

    I too love the blog and all the details of whats going on with the snow. As a company that enjoys the snow, because I have a large fleet of snow removal trucks that supply my income, keep us up to date, and let it SNOW!!!! 12 inches

  6. Reader in Wmbg says:

    Please do your readers a favor and learn your metaphors. A “pink elephant” is not part of the “elephant in the room”.

    1. Jeremy Wheeler says:

      Formally you may be right Reader, but I have had friends who have used it as such. I have also seen it in a movie or two. I’ll try to think about which one it was. Jeremy

      1. Goose says:

        Pink elephant refers to one is so drunk as to be hallucinating, thereby “seeing” pink elephants. The elephant in the room refers to something so obviously uncomfortable being spoken about and one not realizing it. It is SO obvious it is like there being an elephant in the room.

  7. Fred says:

    Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow and more snow!

  8. Pam says:

    Thanks for the info. They have always said this area is the most difficult to predict snow and you guys do a great job.

  9. Jeff says:

    Absolutely love the blog Jeremy! You guys do an awesome job at giving us a behind the scenes look. I always look forward to a new blog post.

  10. Tina says:

    I love your blogs. This is my first stop to weather information daily. You keep us well informed and explain, in detail, the possible weather events for our area. Your work is greatly appreciated!!! Thank you

  11. Amy says:

    Hi Jeremy! wunderground.com is showing 1 to 3 inches of snow for Chesapeake, Va and the borderline of North Carolina (Moyock) for Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. I know it’s still early, but what are your thoughts on this?

    1. Jeremy Wheeler says:

      Hi Amy. I appreciate your curiosity. However, it’s way to early to talk about amounts. Could see some snow next Wednesday into Thursday. GFS looks pretty snowy. However, a few days ago it also had a lot of snow for us coming up this Sunday. Now the forecast is partly cloudy with a few flurries Sunday night. Bottom line….we’ll have to wait a bit. Jeremy

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