Click on the image to enlarge. This graphic from Greg Carbin at SPC shows where near-blizzard conditions occurred and for how long. The NWS forecast for the East Coast Storm was very good for much of Long Island, E CT, RI Central and Eastern MA, SE NH and (I haven’t checked numbers and winds here) and E Maine. They also hit their hurricane force winds out on Nantucket (gust to 78 mph reported). They were too strong with their forecast in the NYC area and especially down thru New Jersey into Philadelphia.
In the old days, there were essentially two models and they only went out 48-hours. We had the Barotropic and the LFM (Limited Fine Mesh). The models didn’t handle mountains (elevation), the Great Lakes or snow cover. We knew the basic physics of the models and they remained unchanged for a long time, so we learned their biases (like the Barotropic racing closed upper lows across the U.S. in late spring…we knew the model would be too fast).
Today, we have better models and the models go out for many days and even weeks. Sometimes the physics of the models is tweaked and just when you get used to one model, it behaves a little differently. There are dozens of models. I look at a lot of models. Each day I check the NAM, GFS and FIM (the U.S. models), the Canadian, The European, and the Japanese model…some days other models. I check ensembles. I’m an old guy that still likes to print out data and have it spread out in front of me.
The National Weather Service is MUCH better now than it was when I started 40 years ago (and that’s taking nothing away from those who worked their 40 years ago). We used to forecast for 2 days…now we go out 8 days – that’s the biggest difference in the daily forecast. I don’t think the NWS needed to apologize for their East Coast storm forecast. This is not an exact science and they did their best with this forecast. No one was negligent that I know of, and I’m sure that the meteorologists put in long hours and extra effort on this storm. For much of the area, including the area impacted, the NWS had out a very good forecast, allowing both families and government to plan for the storm. Personally, I’d rather they err a little on the strong side than the weak side with a storm like that. NYC did get about 6-11″ of new snow, plus drifting. It was not a no-storm, it was just not as much snow as was forecast.
Remember the tone of the media is important. If the news anchor or weather anchor is jumping up and down, panting and screaming “JUNO, JUNO!!” it can give a different impression. The NWS has no control over that. The national media is giving much more airtime to weather events than it did even 10 years ago. In an earlier thread, I wrote that I personally thought this wouldn’t quite as big a deal for NJ and NYC., but I was spending more time on the Michigan weather than what was going on out east, so that was a little more educated guess than detailed model analysis at that point. The greatest impact was E. Long Island, R. Island, Eastern and Central Massachusetts and the offshore islands. There, the NWS forecast was very good and both the forecasts and the response from politicians looked very good to me. I especially liked the tone of the governor of Massachusetts. Maybe he’s just that laid-back, but he was matter-of-fact and not filled with breathless angst.
The pattern suggests that we will have more significant storms to deal with in the coming weeks…on the East Coast for sure and I think we’re headed back toward a snowier pattern here in the Great Lakes as well. February is going to be an interesting month, weatherwise. The forecasts won’t be perfect, but I hope they are generally useful to you as you plan your daily tasks and fun. Thanks as always for checkin’ into Bill’s Blog.