Wintry week of weather ahead for New Jersey?
The Garden State's active weather forecast over the next several days includes a potential one-two punch of snow, then a blast of arctic cold air.
We are enjoying a nice, quiet weekend across the Garden State with just-above-normal temperatures and ample sunshine. Active weather returns, however, as we return to work and school on Monday.
The forecast for the week ahead is shaping up, although confidence remains admittedly shaky.
As I have been discussing on-air and online, it is becoming clear that New Jersey will have to endure three potentially wintry challenges this week:
1.) A coastal storm system that may or may not come close enough to the coast to affect New Jersey
2.) The combination of a clipper and another system developing along the Atlantic coast that will drop some complicated mix of snow and/or rain
3.) A cold front that will deliver some of the coldest air of the season
Snow Chance #1: Near-Miss
There is no getting around the fact that this is an impressive freakin' storm. Very low pressure and an expansive wind and precipitation fields make this storm a monster. But will it affect New Jersey? It's a definite maybe - too close to call, in fact.
Any impacts of this storm would be felt in New Jersey during the day on Monday. I always talk about the track of a winter storm undergoing a little "wiggle" and therefore necessitating a big change to the going snow forecast. That worry is certainly in play here, with three potential scenarios shaping up for Monday:
--Out-to-Sea (Best-Case Scenario): The storm pushes out into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with enough buffer to not impact New Jersey directly. We could still experience some marginally gusty winds and rough surf, as we would any time a powerful storm is just off-shore. However, the lack of snow and rain would make this storm a non-issue.
--Just Clipped (My Preferred Scenario at this time): If the outer bands of precipitation from this storm clip the Jersey Shore on Monday morning, some light snow or rain may fall, mainly over Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic, and Cape May counties. Low temperatures along the coast will be in the mid 30s on Monday morning - right on the line between rain and snow. In either case, it's not going to amount to much in this scenario. IF it's cold enough, and IF the snow sustains long enough, I could see a limited half-inch to inch of accumulation.
--More Than Clipped (Worst-Case Scenario): Several storms over the past few weeks have trended further west than initially forecast. (The National Weather Service has suggested the warmer-than-usual Gulf Stream ocean current causes a tight pressure gradient near the coast, steering storms further "left" - I have not done enough research to determine whether this is or is not true.) As you could probably guess, the further west the storm tracks, the further west the snow bands spread. And a coast-hugging track would also produce the most snowfall overall. How much snow? Assuming the track doesn't change *too* much, possibly upwards of 6 inches throughout the day. Again, this is the worst-case and least likely scenario.
I'll just say that the Euro model currently shows the first solution, the GFS depicts the second, and the NAM is closest to the third. Meh. The problem is that we may not get complete resolution on which scenario will play out much before Monday morning - the margin-of-error is just that tight. Stay tuned.
Snow Chance #2: Tricky Setup
In the wake of Monday's coastal monster, a smaller-yet-still-potent coastal storm looks to team up with a clipper system over the Great Lakes. At this point, confidence is reasonably high that we'll see "something" from this setup on Tuesday into Wednesday morning. However, the exact timing and accumulation details are still very much unclear and volatile.
This storm and therefore this forecast is all about energy transfer - the interaction between the coastal low and the inland low will dictate who gets the most precipitation. So there are three giant question marks that need to be addressed before we can issue a more definitive forecast:
--Strength and track of the coastal storm
--Track and strength of the clipper
--Temperatures (especially where the rain/snow line may end up)
Over the past few days, I have seen model output suggesting snow totals in New Jersey anywhere from 0 to about 10 inches. So no, this will NOT be another "Blizzard of 2016" type of situation. Still, 6+ inches of snow would be potentially disruptive for many.
Do I think we're going to see 10 inches of snow from this storm? Doubtful. Do I think we're going to see 6 inches of snow from this storm? Eh, maybe. Overall, I'm really not impressed by the modeled dynamics of this setup. My gut is leaning toward a general 3" of accumulation (give or take) for the northern 2/3 of the state, with predominantly wintry mix and/or rain in South Jersey.
It's not a bread and milk storm for now, this forecast might have to be increased as we get closer. Again, stay tuned.
Cold Front: Brrrrr
Hey, this is the most confident forecast of the week! Behind our storm complex on Tuesday-Wednesday, it is going to get COLD.
Thursday's high temperatures will be limited to the 20s - with a gusty wind, the wind chill (or "feels like") may be stuck in the single digits all day. On Friday morning, the thermometer will probably plummet to around 0 for most of New Jersey. Through the Valentine's Day Weekend, we'll probably see highs in the 20s and lows in the teens, at best. Of course, these bitterly cold temperatures will make snow melt a difficult proposition.
With this active weather pattern developing, we're monitoring the forecast even more carefully than usual. And you probably should too. Our next weather blog update is planned by Sunday evening.
Dan Zarrow is the Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.