Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Eve Potentially Significant Snowstorm

Model guidance continues to struggle on the concept of a winter storm around Christmas Eve.

Tropical Tidbits
Click images to enlarge
The image above shows the ECMWF model's projection of 500mb geopotential height values (shaded colors) and mean sea level pressure values (contours) for the morning of Christmas Eve. On this image, we see a deepening low pressure system pushing northward into western Ohio, as a strong trough (seen by the blue colors) begins to negatively tilt (seen in this image as those blue colors "pointing" southeastward) and drag the storm northward.

This forecast solution is one of (quite literally) tens of ideas for this storm that have come out of recent model runs, so individual model projections are being weighted unusually low, due to unusually low confidence. Though I don't have the maps to confirm, this projection from the ECMWF would likely deliver a hefty snowstorm, with strong winds, to portions of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes, particularly Michigan.

Tropical Tidbits
We now move on to the Canadian GEM model's projection, once again showing 500mb geopotential height values and MSLP contours, and once again valid for the morning of Christmas Eve. In this forecast, the storm system in question becomes negatively tilted quicker than the ECMWF model, which then leads to this more westward solution. Here, the GEM has the storm in central / west-central Indiana, instead of the ECMWF's west-Ohio idea.

Tropical Tidbits
As a consequence of this change, the GEM places a swath of accumulating snow in a north-south orientation, from eastern Wisconsin down through Illinois, barely scraping far western Kentucky. Additional snowfall hits Ohio and Indiana, but the amounts in Illinois are the most significant, where totals surpass the 6" benchmark. Recent model guidance has been looking more into this westward shift, but there's no consensus at this time.

Tropical Tidbits
The last model projection we can analyze, owing to an ongoing massive NOAA data outage, is the Parallel GFS model. Once again, the forecast shows 500mb geopotential height and MSLP values, and this projection is once again valid on the morning of Christmas Eve. This forecast is similar to that of the GEM model, in that we see quicker strengthening of the storm system, leading to a more westward solution.

It should be noted that ensemble guidance is a bit further east of these western tracks.

All in all, we have a very difficult forecast still evolving, which might not be resolved for another few days. For now, those across the entire Central and Eastern US should be prepared for potentially significant weather, especially if you are traveling immediately prior to, or after Christmas.

To summarize:

- Model guidance continues to suggest a powerful storm moving through the Central/Eastern US around Christmas Eve.
- Guidance remains very inconsistent, with little to no consensus currently built around a certain track.
- Regardless of where this storm tracks, significant and adverse weather remains possible, if not likely.
- Travel plans may need to be re-evaluated.