A first, no-hype look specific to the Finger Lakes region on the potential for a winter storm Monday, January 24 and Tuesday, January 25, 2017.
A complex weather pattern is expected to begin to take place on Sunday over the eastern part of North America which will help spawn a slow moving storm system along the east coast of the United States.
A storm system that is moving into the Pacific Northwest today (Friday) will track east, then south over the Great Plains and into the Deep South this weekend.
On Monday, the system will become better organized over Georgia and will turn northeast towards the Mid-Atlantic and New England states by Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a strong, polar high-pressure system will drop south across eastern Canada and take up residence just north of New England.
This high-pressure system is an extremely important piece of the setup. Not only will it block and slow the progression of the coastal storm, but it will also deliver colder air to the region out ahead of the storm.
Finger Lakes Impacts
Given the above setup, precipitation would likely begin to overspread the Finger Lakes from the south during the daytime hours on Monday.
After an initial burst of precipitation, a lull would be possible later in the day, followed by a renewal of precipitation late Monday night and into Tuesday.
Lighter precipitation could linger into Tuesday night.
Winds could become rather strong Monday afternoon and evening, but that will ultimately be determined by the storm track.
Temperature will be key with this system, as cold air from the high-pressure battles with warm air from the low. Predicting precipitation type at this point is extremely uncertain and cannot be done with any degree of confidence.
Closer Look at the Uncertainties
In an attempt to take a closer look at what may or may not happen, we can look at how the model projections are changing and the ensemble suites. I explained ensemble suites on Wednesday, but here is a quick summary in case you missed it.
An ensemble suite is a set of computer simulations where either the input used to start to the model, or the equations used to run the model, are slightly different for each run. By adjusting the model only slightly each time, a broad look at different possibilities is given.
On Wednesday, I also mentioned the possibility of this event bringing snow to the Finger Lakes. At that time, about 15% of the ensembles were showing significant snow (over 6 inches) in the Finger Lakes. In the latest European ensemble suite, that has jumped to about 25%. Another 40% of the suite members show between 2 and 6 inches. The other 35% show little to no snow.
Overall, the models have been consistent in showing this event. However, as the storm track varies from model to model, so does not only the precipitation type but the amount of precipitation that falls. Looking at precipitation amounts (rain and/or the liquid equivalent of any snow or ice), the ensembles range from less than a quarter of an inch (a very minor event) to nearly an inch and a half (significant event).
The temperatures have trended slightly colder over the last few days, which is shown in the increase in snow on the ensemble suites. However, even the colder solutions are very near to freezing, making this a rather narrow window for wintry precipitation. Any snow that does fall will likely be heavy and wet.
How to React
At this point, it is important to keep the uncertainties in mind and realize that there is simply no possible way anyone can make an accurate, confident forecast.
Undoubtedly, the hype machine will crank up as different media outlets rush to be the first to get their snow map circulating on social media. Don’t buy into the hype and don’t share the hype.
This will likely be an event that will keep us meteorologists scratching our heads until the storm is on our doorstep. Even then, we may not have a very good idea what exactly will happen. Forecasts over the next few days will be very vague and should be heavy on communicating the uncertainty.
Hopefully by Sunday afternoon, there will be enough information to go off of for a decent forecast. Before that point though, take any forecast that promises specific details with a grain of salt.
Watch patiently. Understand the uncertainties. Look for trends in the forecast. And rely on Finger Lakes Weather as the only source for no-hype weather information covering and focusing exclusively on the entire Finger Lakes region.
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