January 17 – The seal has been broken on winter with widespread snow today. This was the biggest snow event of the season for Baltimore. The official 0.1″ at BWI tells the story. Anything at this point is something. The main hit of this storm, although modest at best, was southern Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey which actually fits in line with a storm track I mentioned in my Winter Outlook. To wait this late in the season for the first snowfall has been frustrating for winter lovers, but it was sort of a surprise to many. The results of 1 to 3 inches in the main snow zone definitely was not expected. The trace to a few tenths of an inch into central Maryland at least proved that having Faith in the Flakes was justified. There will be more on the way.
The purpose of this post is to highlight how the GFS Model handled it. At least with the maps I posted in my articles. I made a bold decision to go with it when it stood alone showing snow today. It wasn’t perfect. The storm was not nearly as strong as it showed 10 days ago, and it verified farther south and east. But it was the best performer over all, even if it still is prone to disappearing system that return a day or two later. NOAA invested a lot of money to upgrade the American meteorological computing power and perhaps it has made our forecast systems more competitive and accurate in medium to long range?
I have always wanted to explain some reasoning behind my thoughts and forecast. In this case, my choice for this model over the well respected European Model worked. Will be a good test for the rest of winter that is getting more active for us. Note that the European and even Canadian Models did not show this storm for us, so I don’t have those maps to compare. In this case, just pretend they are there showing a dry Sunday for us 🙂
GFS Model Wins!
Here are the two marks of the storm view this Sunday afternoon. Please compare to the notes and forecast maps below.
Let’s Back Up 10 Days
I have been talking about snow for the past 10 days. But for the record, I was hesitant when I first mentioned it with this map. The GFS computer model is the most widely used American forecast model, but also known for big misses. When it was this robust a week and a half away, I posted this map with message to discuss with caution.
As is typical with the GFS Model, within a week, storms can seem robust and then disappear, only to come back again. This frustration is only magnified with the absence of any other model support.
6 Days Beforehand
It looked like the GFS had caught on with the other main computer models, showing no storm for Sunday for our region as the system was too far south.
But later that evening…It was back!
At this point, I wrote a post about it, showing why I saw more support for this system to pull farther north and have some impact. It was not nearly as strong as the 10 day forecast, but seems reasonable with a Mid Atlantic snow hit.
This was the upper level support:
This was my post on Wednesday:
“The upper level energy seen here with the vorticity at 500 mb (18,000 Ft) is the same product I used for Tuesday evening’s snow many days in advance. What I see here is the upper level Low back in the Great Lakes positioned with the trough axis in a negative tilt. This allows the energy near the coast to hang back and develop instead of running out to sea. There is a fort max, and other spokes of energy around that core upper Low that will help capture the coastal, but also send more energy after it passes by.”
I decided to give the GFS a shot considering NOAA just completed an upgrade to the speed and power of the computers handling these models. They are 4 times faster now. Here’s the article I wrote on that.
I want to point out that GFS lost the storm again a day later… but I had a hunch that it would come back north with the snow again.
The Day Before…
It was creeping back north. I noted in my post to watch it for a push farther north
So once again, this was very close to the verification of today’s event as shown above. Perhaps the GFS model will handle the next winter events better? There will be others… In fact I forced myself to go back and read my Winter Outlook for 2015-2016. In it I actually wrote that I expected El Nino the force a few snow systems to our south that could benefit southern Maryland and the beached. Here’s an excerpt:
As for the rest of winter… I also noted in my title that it would be back loaded. There would be more action in the second half of winter, and we are approaching that time. Here is another except. I will have more to say about the active pattern building in my next report.
Faith In The Flakes: Show Off You Pride As The Snow Arrives
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