Two more winter storm risks before the end of the week
No rest for the weary here in the DC area in January. After a very hot December and what was essentially a two-year snow drought in the DC area, the pattern has really reversed so far in the first few weeks of 2022.
Since the start of the new year, the city has already picked up more than a foot of snow. That’s enough to already make it the snowiest January in DC in six years, with at least two more chances of snow before the end of this week to add even more to that total.
The first comes into play on Thursday morning. Wednesday will actually be the hottest day of the week in our region, with places close to 50°. However, the “heat” will be short-lived as a strong cold front will cross our region on Wednesday evening. At the same time, some showers will develop as cold air spreads across the region which could change to mixed or light snow as the front passes.
The key, however, is that as the storm passes to the south, a weak wave of low pressure will “bubble” along that boundary, riding the front like a train on tracks to the northwest. Doing so could send additional moisture back into the DC area and result in a period of light to moderate snowfall over the DC area just around the morning rush hour. Ground temperatures will be slightly near zero, and the threat of rain showers before snowfall would likely limit pre-treatment, so the morning commute could potentially become a mess quickly.
It should be noted that Thursday does not promise to be a major snowfall in terms of quantities. That main question would be Thursday morning would be the time. The threat of an inch or two of overlay falling during the morning rush hour would be sufficient for winter weather advisories in the area. And school delays or cancellations would even be possible if conditions deteriorate quickly enough.
A much more vigorous storm system could approach the region this weekend. As with the other major snow systems this winter so far, this all takes place the day before when very cold air hits our area. Friday is expected to start in the teens, with highs in most places remaining in the 20s through the afternoon. Cold temperatures help cool the ground and would prepare the area for snow accumulation, now you just need moisture to “attack” the cold air to bring snow into our area.
There’s still a lot at stake here when it comes to whether or not we’re looking at a storm system this weekend. Chief among these is the force of higher level energy that will pour in from the northwest as it passes through the county. What’s different between this storm and Sunday’s is that the way the higher level items are placed, if it’s a storm it’s more likely to be a coastal storm, which means more of a snowmaker, as opposed to such an inland storm would turn us into rain like Sunday. The timing of this potential snowstorm would be Friday evening through Saturday.
We use different models to make a forecast, the two most important that are used beyond the 48 hour forecast window being the US and European models. As usual, they are in complete disagreement about what will happen with this storm. The European model, shown above, has shown in recent days a stronger wave and therefore the development of a stronger coastal storm. Such a storm would have the potential to be the most significant of the season so far, with shoveling snow for much of the Mid-Atlantic region.
While the European has been consistent in recent days in showing a storm, the American has been equally consistent in showing a near miss. The higher tier features are still there, but they’re weaker and don’t come together in the right way to bring a Nor’easter to shore. As a result, you end up with a wave that passes mostly offshore to our south, dropping lighter amounts of snow. You can see the huge difference in the totals this makes.
People always ask me which model is more accurate. Overall, the European has the best record overall. However, the American model has also done very well in recent months. The short answer is that it’s hard to decide which model has the right model this time around given their recent track record. The parts are here for a major winter storm this weekend on all models, the question is just whether they’ll fit together in time for that to actually happen.
We should receive more clarity in the days to come. Be sure to come back for new stuff.