Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The White Christmas Debate - (Tuesday AM)

The last couple of days have featured many media outlets discussing the potential for Christmas snowfall. However, only a small percentage of the general public understands the mechanics behind this threat.

To start things off, let us discuss why the media outlets are jumping on this threat so far in advance.

  • A White Christmas is an event that many people fantasize about, but seldom see.
  • Other than holiday shopping stories, this week is slow for news producers. The producers of local and national news pressure the on-air meteorologists to stick their necks out more than they would normally be comfortable with.
  • The weather models (computer simulations of weather forecasts) are in somewhat decent agreement that there will be snow (thus increasing overall confidence in an event happening).
With those thoughts in mind, I would like the readers of this website to keep their minds open to both sides of the argument (snow vs no snow). To keep things in relatively simple layman's terms - several "pieces of a puzzle" must come together in the correct combinations for a big storm to occur. Pieces of energy known as "shortwaves" must phase, tilt, and combine at the right times or no snow will occur (or a much smaller scale storm).

The latest run of the GFS, for example shows the storm almost making the turn up the coast, but then being whisked out to sea (see image below).

This image shows the low pressure center fairly weak, and about to roll mainly east or northeast off the coast.

In comparison, many other computer models are suggesting the storm will intensify sooner and take a more northeasterly or NNE track closer to the coast - such a result would allow for more snow on the I-95 corridor of the east coast.

As should be obvious by now, many factors are involved in this and a white Christmas (or near Christmas) is certainly on the table, but by no means certain.

Stay tuned for continuing updates as the event draws closer. For now, The Capital Region Pulse weather team will say that there is a 40 percent chance of at least 1 inch of snow on Christmas Day. But that can go up or down!

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