Friday’s Storm System – As of Thursday Morning

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Good Thursday morning! This blog was written at 8am Thursday and is subject to change with new information…

I know many are curious to know the latest details on our storm system for Friday, so let’s jump right in and see what’s going on (and what could happen).

RIGHT NOW
To know where we are going, we need to know where we are. Our storm system is currently over the state of Kansas, putting down rain, sleet, and snow. Take a look:

What is happening now should look similar in our area by tomorrow night. The question still remain: where will the center of the storm system be? That’s going to be key.

As of this morning, the main computer forecast models are starting to line up and agree on a possible track. However, there is still one high-resolution model that is going a different route–literally–and could drastically change our forecast.

If we want to know which computer model *could* be right, we have to see which one has a handle on what’s going on now. Remember the map from above? Let’s see how that compares to the various computer forecast models.

GFS

The GFS model is suggesting the low should be farther South than it currently is. Remember that it was the GFS model which has been calling for extremely high snowfall amounts in our area. More on that in a bit. Let’s move on to see what another model thinks should be happening now.

EURO

The European model has a pretty decent handle on what’s going right now. This was the model that suggested heavy snow ends up in Indiana as opposed to Ohio. Of course, that has changed… Let’s check another model.

RPM

This is our in-house computer model, it’s the RPM model. This model cannot be found online and only certain TV station can get access to this model. It is very similar to the Euro and has a good handle on where the system actually is right now.

So off the bat, the GFS is a bit questionable as it has not “initialized” well. Meaning, it hasn’t started off in the right place. Now it’s not too far crazy, but it’s enough when compared to the others.

We’ll take a look now at each of the models and see where they take the system over the next 12-18 hours. What you will see here is that all the models suggest the storm system takes a dive toward the Gulf Coast. Take a look:

GFS

Euro

RPM

What I find interesting here is that the Euro “digs” the system more to the South than the other models. Meanwhile, the RPM takes it farthest North compared to the others. Hmmmm…. Let’s go a little farther in time and see what the models say.

GFS

Euro

RPM

My, oh my. Now we start to see a split in the models. And the placement of the low is extremely critical. If it goes more East and faster (like the GFS is showing), then our area gets into the snow faster and we’d wind up with heavier snow.
Meanwhile, notice the Euro doesn’t move the system as fast to the East. This keeps our area in the zone for a wintry mix. Please keep this in mind too: the GFS and Euro have a low resolution. Then means they can’t quite see some of the finer details. Think of it like an old camera phone. If you had a camera phone from about five or six years ago, remember how fuzzy the pictures would be if you zoomed in on them? They had lower resolution; they couldn’t pick up on the finer details.
But now we have high resolution phone, with more detail. Well, similar with higher resolution models. They can “see” more detail in what could happen.
So… when you look at the map for the RPM, you are seeing more of the pink colors–indicating sleet and snow. The RPM also takes the center of the storm more North, this pushes the zone for higher snow back to the West. You’ll see the impact of this in a minute.

Let’s talk about that ice potential. I still believe–as I’ve been saying–that we’ll get an area of warm air aloft (a few thousand feet up in the atmosphere). What this will do is melt the snow before it gets to the ground. Melted snow cannot turn back into snow, all it can do is fall as rain or fall as sleet (if it passes through a layer of cold air).

To visualize this:

So there is our system, drawing in cold air from the Northwest. It’s also pulling in warm air from the South. Because of how these system work, that air actually gets pushed up in the atmosphere, creating that warm layer of air aloft.

Then if we have snow falling through that layer of warm air, it will melt. If the air closer to the surface of the Earth is all below freezing, we’ll get sleet.

The key thing to know about sleet: it makes a sound! You can hear sleet ‘ping’ as it hits things.

But… let’s say the cold air isn’t as thick. Perhaps it’s cold right at the surface. This would allow the melted snow to fall as rain, then becomes freezing rain after it hits.

Freezing rain does not make a ping sound. It’s rain that freezes on surfaces. This is what causes patches of black ice.

I think sleet and freezing rain are going to be a problem for part of our area. Hard to say where exactly right now. Why? Because of the track of the storm. It’s hard to pin it down. And with so many variables at play, it’s not wise to give a “promised” forecast. As soon as you say “this place will get xxxx many inches of snow”, things will likely change.
A key example of this? A couple of days ago the models were screaming for as much as 30″ of snow in our area. Today? The highest amount on any model is 12″. That’s a big difference!

Since I know many are curious about snow, let’s see what all the models are suggesting for snowfall by Saturday morning.

GFS

The GFS is still wanting to put the heaviest snow over our area. Personally, I am not sold on this. Remember, the GFS is already off on where it thinks the storm should be right now…

Euro

The Euro is also calling for high snowfall amounts, but pushes them a little more to the East. That’s because of the different track the Euro takes (versus the GFS). Something to remember here: the Euro and GFS are those lower resolution models, so they can’t see finer details. This leads to snowfall amounts that are a bit more exaggerated.

NAM

This is our 1st look at the NAM. It’s a slightly higher resolution model. It too is banging the drum for high snowfall amounts, but notice the placement. A little more to the East.

RPM

Ah, the odd one out. The RPM is the one model saying the heavy snow winds up well to our West. The only model to do this. Why? Again, because of the track it takes. This is the model that takes the storm more North. While this solution seems out of line, it cannot be ruled out.

Let’s talk about ice. Once again, I think ice is going to be a huge factor. If we get a few hours of sleet and freezing rain, it will cut down the snow amounts. If we get multiple hours of a rain/sleet/freezing rain mix, then snow amounts will really tumble.

GFS

Euro

NAM

RPM

So the ice amounts are pretty much all over the place. To step back for a second, there is one thing to takeaway from this: there *will* be ice in the area! It’s just a matter of how much and where.

Phew! A lot to digest here. And folks, this is just the basics. There is so much data we look over and decode. There are truly dozens of variables in a forecast like this. And at this point–even 36 hours away–things will likely still change.

Based on what I have seen, and how things have evolved, this is why idea of what it plays out on Friday:

The morning drive should be fine. It will be warm and there will be scattered showers. The concern comes in by the afternoon and evening. With the ice and the snow, it could get nasty on the roads. The system should be gone and out of our hair by mid-morning Saturday.

Finally, here’s my stab at snowfall amounts. Remember, this is still highly subject to change.

New forecast model data will roll in after 2pm today and again after 2am Friday morning. This should give us a better handle on the storm’s track. And of course, that track is key for what happens in Northeast Ohio Friday night.
Stay with News 5, keep checking our forecasts, and we’ll get you through this next round of winter!
-JD

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