This week will again present us with ups and downs, and a fairly typical early spring lack of consistency. After a Very Wet Monday evening, drier conditions will set in for the midweek with below average temperatures giving way to above average on Thursday, slipping a few degrees on Friday, and coming back above average during the weekend. One feature this spring which has not yet plagued us it the “cutoff low” in a blocking pattern. These tend to become more common in climatology as we move a little closer to mid-spring, but there are no signs yet of such a development in the next 14-16 days. So, there’s THAT–at least. Of course, in a block, you could also get under the ‘sweet spot’, the blocking ridge. THAT would be a good deal. No signs of that either.
Ensemble means (I’m relying on them more than operational models) continue to show those ups and downs into next week. By April 17-19, a flatter zonal flow shows up in the means. However, some of that flatter, low amplitude flow shows up because of the huge spread between ensemble members farther out in time. That is, the members and models cannot see short waves, their amplitudes and their paths so far in advance. When the spread between ensemble members is very large at the 500mb height level, the mean tends to be flatter. It’s a statistical compromise which has little to do with actual predictions for amplitude and teleconnections. What’s been happening so far this spring is a tendency to return to ups and downs the closer we get to the ensemble means prediction of a flat, zonal flow…as soon as the members and the models are able to “see” the short waves and the wavelengths between ridges and troughs. We’re certainly out of the extremes of winter, but for the umpteenth blog thread in a row (or so it seems), I still see no sign of a lasting pattern shift to a western trough/eastern ridge.
There are smaller uncertainties about this weekend and the timing for showers either Sunday night or Monday or, if the GFS 18z run were to be believed, showers during Sunday. There will be a transition back to Below Average temps for several days next week. Showers will again cross the region by Thursday night, exiting by early Friday. The weekend is not a lock for Sunday staying dry, but temps both days should be above average…unless 18z GFS (with the GFS’ inherent fast bias) wins out on Sunday and gets those showers and a trailing cold front in here and beats the slower ECMWF.
The first 3 days and nights of this work week we’ll still be stuck with harsh cold and true arctic air. But that all changes beginning Thursday. The northern/polar branch of the jetstream will be changing to a much lower amplitude flow, losing its connection with arctic air and bringing mainly Pacific air across the lower 48. This does not equate to mid-spring warmth in the mean, but it does mean there will be no true arctic blasts in the foreseeable future. During this time, the northern branch will be active, sending frequent short waves with their warm fronts and trailing cold fronts across the northern tier of the US. That will probably bring more frequent rounds of precipitation, and more frequent ups and downs with our temperatures. However, the downs will not be AS down. The cold fronts will bring cooler air masses rather than harsh cold. The warm fronts, of course, will bring periods of above average temperatures as well. In the mean, we’re looking at a more seasonable pattern. It’s not “June Is Busting Out All Over”, but it will have to do until the real thing comes along.
We’ll have to monitor area streams and creeks on Friday with the potential for moderate rainfall accompanying seasonably mild temperatures. There continue to be some ice jams in place.
We’re still in neutral ENSO conditions and should be for some months to come, with a slightly greater than 50% probability of el nino developing toward or during the summer. In my view, it’s not possible to know the amplitude of this possible el nino this far in advance. I’ve previously written its development would have little impact around here during the summer. The probability of neutral ENSO conditions shrinks into the 40-45% range by mid/late summer, and la nina drops to under 10%. Currently, there are early signs of a developing el nino with SSTs and near sfc Pacific tropical temps beginning to rebound, with cool anomalies at those latitudes restricted to the far eastern Pacific.
STILL Cooler/Colder than average in the mean. During the week of March 17th, we’ll start on a cold note, with some moderation on Tue-Wed ahead of a storm system crossing the northern Great Lakes. However, the lows and highs this week appear to be of a lesser amplitude. It won’t be as warm on the warmer days, and it won’t be as cold on the colder days…a little bit of a smoother ride. The Great Lakes storm will be vigorous as we move toward Wednesday night, but its cold front won’t be tapping much Gulf moisture and the low will be too far north to present us with that much rain or snow. Behind, some Pacific-moderated colder air will take us back to the 30s on Thursday-Friday. Another system could bring us some mixed precip or rain by later Saturday, with cooler air returning by Sunday or Monday the following week. After that, week 2 looks smoother with a more zonal characteristic to the flow…but not quite pure zonal. There will still be very broad, weak troughing in the northern branch of the jet. In such a fast flow, it’s virtually impossible to pick out short waves in that flow, so the mean looks smoother. With the broad troughing, the mean anomaly still points pretty clearly to below average temperatures. Whatever western ridge exists will probably be out well west of N America, so no cross polar flow will be possible in such a regime.
So I have to go back to my tired phrase: “more tolerable.” There is no sign of a western trough which would teleconnect with an eastern ridge, and no sign of a prolonged warming period. Again, though, there is no sign of a cross polar flow with the kind of cold we had on Thursday and will have Sunday-Monday. Unforeseen short waves in week 2 could change that, though there is no way to know that at the time of this posting.
This Monday evening, our in-house Rapid Precision and Vividcast models are both nudging what will be an intense low pressure storm system closer to us on Wednesday. What this may mean is less snow south of the metro area (more mixed precipitation may hold actual snow accumulations down quite a bit), but a stripe of genuinely Heavy Snow farther north, on the Niagara Frontier. As we’ve been telling you, the storm impact will be enhanced by strengthening NE to N winds producing lots of blowing and drifting north, and bringing Lake Ontario enhancement into the picture. The good news in these 2 models is that not much snow will yet be on the ground for the start of the AM commute on Wednesday. In fact, rain is depicted closer to PA. However, jumping with both feet into a model shift like this is risky business, and needs to be blended in with other models to avoid the flip-flop syndrome.
So I’m dropping amounts back to the south, but my dropback is less than these 2 in-house models show. The Heavy Snow for the Niagara Frontier looks at least as intense as it did in earlier runs. The RPM brings totals close to a foot, with Vividcast going several inches higher. This time around in the man-machine mix, man will have the heavier hand in projecting amounts.
Travel will deteriorate more rapidly by late Wed AM into the early evening, and the afternoon commute looks tough. Temps will still take the plunge in the afternoon, and head into the single digits by Thursday AM, with a high of just 10-14. That rapid recovery to the upper 30s is still on for Friday; Seasonably Chilly conditions for Saturday and Colder conditions for Sun-Mon.
There are no real signs of a fundamental warm pattern change going out through at least March 18th. However, we will get somewhat warmer. We HAVE to. It is March, and the sun angle is getting higher in the sky. Climatology virtually dictates the kind of cold we have this Monday, March 3rd will become a thing of the past. With the higher sun angle, the high Arctic and polar region will no longer be able to produce the unseasonably frigid air masses which have been so common for the central and eastern parts of the nation this winter.
And what our extended range guidance does show is more frequent incursions of Pacific air mixing in with and modifying the Arctic air reaching the Great Lakes over the next couple of weeks. Again, this is not to say we’re going to be experiencing many days with above average temperatures. It means we will have more days with tolerable chill instead of frigid conditions. The “bright” side to that is a reduced risk of renewed ice jam flooding, and a prolonging of the ski season. The negative side is the likely prolonged ice season on Lake Erie (the Great Lakes are more than 90% ice covered as of March 2nd), which makes an early spring much less likely downwind of that Lake. Over the next couple of weeks, the MEAN will be below average temperatures. But from day to day, there will be more ups and downs, and more days during which spending some time outdoors won’t seem like such a shivery idea.
As we’re staring down the barrel of another very cold to occasionally Bitter cold week, it’s almost tempting for a meteorologist to cherry pick for favorable trends in the extended range. It does get tiring giving one wintry forecast after another, but I’m not going to succumb to that temptation.
Fact is, as cold as this week will be, there will be a little improvement in temperatures in the mean for next week. The 500 mb flow flattens somewhat for a few days, allowing more Pacific air to mix in with the Arctic air. That doesn’t equate to mild, but it does equate to more bearable. As I posted on the previous thread, a rapid thaw after this week would again spell probable trouble in the way of increased risk of new ice jams forming. A gradual thaw, of course, reduces that threat (not that we’re looking at anything yet you’d call a thaw). There also were signs over this past weekend that the PNA ridge was going to be building and the Great Lakes trough would be moving toward reamplification around March 9-10. As of today, that western ridge looks a bit less permanent and a little more progressive, and the eastern trough looks a bit shallower. If these ensemble mean solutions worked out, we’d be tolerably cool rather than truly cold–after this week. The operational ECMWF today wants to paint some synoptic snow into our region Sunday night-Monday night from a storm going by to our SE, while the GFS keeps that storm farther away.
This week’s snow will be sporadic and spotty, but no major storm is foreseen during the week.
Back to that extended range…there are still no signs of a fundamental pattern shift to western trough/eastern ridge with any staying power. The PNA ensemble and GFS outlook still point to a positive PNA further out in time, near the end of the extended range.
The big picture…a coming warmup…seems simple enough. There will be one. But the details are fuzzy and getting fuzzier. After a mostly uneventful February weekend, the 2nd half of which will be colder, a storm system will be approaching our region by late Monday or Monday night. The deterministic GFS is much faster than ECMWF or the Canadian with this low. The ECMWF on Friday actually slowed the low down further than its already slower solution, not bringing its snow in until after dark Monday. There still is enough warm advection so that some sleet might mix in and hold down accumulations, while the Canadian and GFS keep us with all snow. The ECMWF is slow enough so that snow or a mixture turning back to snow would still be around for the Tuesday AM commute.
After that system is by us, Pacific air will dominate for some days to come. Some additional moderation will occur on Wednesday into Thursday. However, this (Friday) evening’s models and ensembles are not quite so warm as previous runs, even in the warmest model for this time frame, the GFS. With that in mind, I’m having to shave a few degrees off the Wed and Thursday highs, though temps will still be above average. If it had been just one model and/or ensemble which took the edge off the peak warming, I would have left the numbers unchanged. But because both the ECMWF and the GFS do so, and the Canadian ensemble mean does so, I’m changing the numbers a little. The low 50s I’d put out for Thursday earlier today are now back to the mid 40s. Of course, all this could change in additional runs. But the overall trend is to make the warmup more irregular, with another Pacific cold front taking us back down a few degrees on Friday. The GFS deterministic model seems set on bringing a wet plains low up into the western Grt Lks on Saturday, while the ECMWF is less organized with this low. In any case, periods of rain with this warmup will add to the risk of ice jam and poor drainage flooding by late next week. The less reliable GFS deterministic run shows a sharp arctic front crossing our region next Sunday, bringing us quickly back into a significantly colder pattern. The ECMWF is a little slower with that cold progression.
While a colder pattern is assured for the following week, it remains unclear how much colder. The Canadian and GFS ensemble mean take us back to significantly colder than average, with a well defined western ridge/eastern trough. The ECMWF had been moving in that direction all along, but just to throw in an additional note of disarray, it flattens that ridge on the last day of the run in the ensemble. This could just be a signal of a strong Pacific short wave showing up. It’s impossible to know if that’s a trend, or a one day special. The other 2 ensemble means are now in good agreement on the western ridge through at least March 1st.
In looking at this harsh winter thus far, as of this posting we are now the 9th snowiest winter in Buffalo record keeping history through February 5th, with records going back to 1871. The Buffalo airport observatory snow total is now approaching what would be considered normal for the entire cold weather season, with plenty more wintry weather to come.
However, the overall upper air pattern will begin to “relax” later next week, allowing more Pacific air to mix in with the cold air masses from the arctic. There will be more ups and downs. In the mean, our temperatures will still be running below average, but not so FAR below average. There should also be a smattering of days in which the temps go above average…days like that have been hard to come by, as if you didn’t know. This same pattern favors above average precipitation, but the details of individual waves/storm systems in the flow cannot be seen beyond about 7 days out. In the next week coming, current indications point to some low impact light snow moving in later Saturday night into a portion of Sunday. There may be another brush with snow by Wednesday afternoon. Most models favor any stronger systems passing well to the south and east of our region, having little impact here during the next week. Of course, we’ll be keeping an eye on those systems for their tracks and intensities at 4Warn Weather.
After this last bout of brutally cold temperatures begins to fade by Thursday the 30th (it should be noted the Thursday moderation will be accompanied by gusty winds, however), we will be heading into what I call the “Tolerable Weeks.” By comparison, of course, to where we’ve been. The full latitude long wave ridge in the west will deamplify, with assaults by one short wave after another. The flattening of that ridge will allow more Pacific air to mix in with our modified arctic air, and the cross polar flow we’ve endured will shift well away from us. The polar vortex will also shift further east and northeast, aiming any such flow far to the north of our latitude.
In the place of our long wave trough will be a much broader, lower amplitude trough. The axis of this trough will shift to the west central U.S. for nearly a week, and then shift back toward the Great Lakes as we move through the 2nd week of February. That will probably mean colder temperatures, but nothing extreme is in sight during that period. When this trough axis is further west, it will favor more short waves moving up from the SW and probably increasing our overall precipitation. How much of that turns out to be synoptic snow cannot be seen at the time of this posting. And, as per usual, embedded short waves with their ups and downs cannot be seen much beyond day 7 either. But this may not be a dull period–just a more tolerable one. There are no signs in the 16 day period of a reamplification of that western ridge anywhere near N America or even the eastern Pacific. That may change in the 2nd half of February, of course.
The overall pattern of an exceptionally strong western ridge/eastern trough will be with us right through the end of the month. Within this unusually anomalous pattern will come a train of such frequent Canadian short waves (which have their origins far to the west & northwest of Canada) that the timing of thermal ebbs and flows will be quite difficult until we get closer to each event. As expected, there is disagreement between the deterministic/operational models in timing & amplitude of each wave. As of this midday Monday posting, there is decent agreement on the Thursday system we wrote about last week, and a more vigorous system passing to our north on Saturday-Sunday. Both the GFS and ECMWF show strong winds with the latter system, both in advance out of the SW and in its wake. These winds will assure some more blowing snow and miserable wind chill, even as temperatures may briefly moderate on Saturday ahead of the next polar front. Even with lighter winds much of the time during the work week, Wind Chill may occasionally reach Advisory criteria, albeit marginally, due to the Bitter Cold temperatures.
In the longer term, nothing has changed since last week. The PNA will relax around Feb 1, and moderation will develop with more Pacific influence. Heights in the ensemble means don’t suggest a warm pattern by any means…just warmER than the bitter cold pattern we’ll be enduring. As that western ridge flattens, the episodes of cross polar flow will cease, at least for awhile. What can’t possibly be seen in this time range is what ups and downs will develop in early February due to embedded short waves.
In the meantime, one of the greatest fears among operational mets, especially those of us in the public eye, is of a snowstorm hitting the NYC area for the Super Bowl. There is no way to even guess at that today, of course. But if it happened, it will be a case of the silly and worthless Farmers Almanac making a wild a__ guess and getting lucky (who among us has never done that?), thus insuring a victory for scientific illiteracy. Oh, the agony!