BOSTON (CBS) – It’s not too often in winter that people in Texas look longingly at New England for the cold and snow. This would be one of those times. With parts of Texas and the deep south “digging” up to 4 to 10 inches of snow (at least check to see that it was 4 “in Dallas and Houston and 10” in Little Rock, Arkansas), we are prepared here in New England look forward to some ice and rain. How about that?
How in the world do Texas Gulf beaches get snow while our local coastline gets rain? You can trace the roots of this historic cold and snow back about a month ago. You may remember me or other meteorologists who discussed the “sudden warming of the stratosphere” that began in mid-January? Well, that global event was essentially the atmospheric bowling ball that is still knocking over the pegs about 4 to 5 weeks later. As the temperatures in the stratosphere over the Arctic warmed up quickly, the typical bitter cold over the pole was displaced and the “Polar Vortex” began to fan out and to push south into the mid-latitudes. If something of this magnitude occurs, look for severe winter weather for the next 4 to 8 weeks. It could be in Europe (check) … it could be in Asia (check) … it could be in North America (add the checkbox now) … or it could come to all of the above at different times (one final check).
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Essentially, we’re seeing a lobe of the Polar Vortex breaking off and sliding all the way south into Texas. Nine out of ten times it gets so cold in the central part of the country it eventually finds its way east into our region. And while we’ll likely get some snow and cold later this week, we’ll never see the kind of anomalous winter weather that now prevails in the Midwest and South.
Why? Well, you can probably say thank you to La Nina (yes, that’s still possible), which tends to make for a strong “southeast ridge”. In other words, warm air over the southeastern US is fighting back and withstanding the harsh cold that floods east. The 3:00 p.m. Monday afternoon temperatures illustrate this pretty well … 12 degrees in Dallas, TX and 85 degrees in Orlando, FL. When you get such temperature gradients, crazy weather can happen!
Back in New England we find ourselves in the middle of this warm and cold battlefield. Not (yet) cold enough for snow and not warm enough to let go of our watch. The atmosphere wants to balance itself again and again and find a balance. I mean, it can’t stay this cold in Texas for long … and to get that balance we get storms. Two of them, to be precise.
STORM # 1:
Our first storm will arrive after midnight on Monday evening. There will be some light snow and ice on Monday night before the storm, but this will be mostly annoying stuff with no buildup or real hazards to deal with.
After midnight the radar fills up. We see greens (rain) in southeast Massachusetts, pink (sleet and mostly freezing rain) west of I95, and blue / white (snow) in central and northern England. Between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the warmer air will gradually gain in and the rain will continue to push inland. By the time most of us wake up (around 5 a.m. to 7 a.m.) it is warm enough for simple rain all over southern England except the Worcester Hills and Berkshires (high altitude). These areas hold on to the last of the cold air and are the last places above 32 degrees.
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We therefore forecast the best chance of significant ice formation in these areas, roughly in the range of 0.25 to 0.50 “. This is roughly on the threshold where you see tree and wire damage. This won’t be a major ice storm, but there may be some isolated, rundown limbs and failures in northern Worcester County, southwest New Hampshire, and western MA.
In the late morning the ice and rain will subside and the last bit of cold air will be washed out. Temperatures will be well above freezing in the afternoon, the further south and east you go, the milder. Only long after sunset does the colder air come back and we freeze again. Untreated surfaces that are still damp are sure to become slippery overnight.
STORM # 2:
We’ll wait about 24 hours before we really get into this. But I think we can say with great certainty that Storm # 2 will be very different from its predecessor. We’re going to start with a much colder air mass, so like everything, it will start snow. This looks like one of those “front-end snow puffs” that we get so often here in winter. About six hours of snow falling rapidly 3 to 6 inches over most of the area before milder air is introduced into the storm system.
The time for this snow seems to be Thursday evening into the night. On Friday morning we will likely see some mixing or rain near the coast. Storm # 2 will be another fast engine. By late Friday morning, everything that falls from the sky should already be rejuvenating.
Stay tuned Tuesday / Wednesday for more detailed schedules, snow amounts and rain / snow limits!
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Looks like a dry and calm weekend!