Blog, Weather

Calm (or Panic) Before the Storm

Starting late tomorrow, we are bracing for freezing rain and snow….Woohoo Winter Storm Hunter!!!!  This storm has been talked about by many on Facebook, Messenger, weather groups, colleagues (you get the idea) because the initial response was WHAT?!?  Two different scenarios – One with about two INCHES of snow and the other with about two FEET of snow! Yikes!! Here is what the WSYX weather team posted Tuesday on Facebook:

Tale of Two Storms Jan 2018

How can there be that much of disagreement between weather models?  At the time, the storm was still moving in from the Pacific Ocean providing all of the rain that hit California causing mud slides in the Santa Barbara area.  So the storm system appeared on radar and satellite imagery but more data was needed to better forecast this storm.  Once over land, and especially east of the Rocky Mountains, meteorologists could get a more realistic idea of what to expect from Winter Storm Hunter.

The National Weather Service (NWS) offices throughout the country launch radiosondes, or weather balloons with a sensor package attached, to take upper air observation readings.  Radiosondes report pressure, temperature, humidity, and in some cases wind speed and direction, at various levels in the atmosphere.  This data is added to the weather models, which help give a more accurate prediction of upcoming weather events.

radiosonde launch

This photo is courtesy of NWS Wilmington Ohio Facebook page from a tour showing a radiosonde launch.  The launches are performed at 12-hour intervals, and in the anticipation of severe weather events, special launches are sometimes done at 6-hour intervals.  So as this winter storm tracked eastward, more upper air data was input into the weather models.  However, even today there is still not 100% consensus on how much snowfall to expect…..

Tale of Two Storms Jan 2018 Update Weds

As you can see, the snowfall estimations are closer together but still not close in agreement.  This scenario highlights the challenges meteorologists face when forecasting weather, as it certainly isn’t just looking at the radar (or looking out the window – HA!!).  Sorry for such a short post.  I’m going to get back to looking at weather data for this storm.  I’ll post pictures of how this storm rolls through and see how much snow actually falls.  Stay posted and stay safe!

Tammy

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