Saturday, February 13, 2010

Another Winter Storm Heads Toward East Coast

Don't look now, but another winter storm is on its way to the Middle Atlantic and the Northeast for the beginning of next week.

Fortunately for residents still struggling to resume normal life after the recent back-to-back massive snowstorms, it's unlikely to be the same kind of monster snowfall that these regions have become accustomed to -- even though the overall weather pattern bears some important similarities. Snow amounts will be measured in inches, most likely just a few, rather than by the foot.

The new storm will most likely affect the snowy climes of Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and southern New England from Monday into Tuesday. While any additional snow will add to the cumulative problems associated with the extreme winter weather of late, especially from Philadelphia southward to Washington, the storm's overall impact will not be extreme. Problems will be more in line with a typical winter storm: slippery roads, travel delays and perhaps some school closings, not days' worth of canceled flights, closed roads, canceled classes and power outages.

The storms that pushed seasonal snowfall totals past record levels in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington had three things in common: a strong upper-level storm system, a strengthening low-pressure system at the surface and an abundance of moisture. The next storm will have a strong upper-level storm system associated with it, one that will dive southeastward through the Plains and into the Missouri Valley over the weekend.

By midday on Monday, a big, swirling upper-level storm system will be located over West Virginia, the location where strong upper-level storm systems set up during the last two major snowstorms. The following map is a forecast chart for early Monday morning.

.(Image courtesy of National Centers for Environmental Prediction)

While that piece of information might understandably be disconcerting, the same general weather pattern does not always produce identical results -- at least in this case, fortunately.

Moisture, which was extremely abundant when the recent storms arrived, especially the one last weekend that produced widespread snowfall amounts of 20 to 30 inches, will be in much less supply when the new storm arrives Monday. This, in addition to the likelihood that the low-pressure system at the ground will probably not intensify until after the storm is offshore and farther to the north, means the storm system will not produce nearly as much snow as the recent storms, at least from Philadelphia southward to Washington.

Weather forecasting is not a perfect science (insert your favorite joke about the weather forecaster here), so the details related to the storm, including the amount of available moisture and the intensity and placement of the storm along the coast, can change by the time the storm arrives. Snow-weary residents should keep an eye on the sky -- while meteorologists keep an eye on their forecast charts.


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