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Winter Reprieve Slowly Comes to an End

By: Chief Meteorologist Eric Fisher
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WBZ-TV's Eric Fisher Eric Fisher
Eric Fisher is Chief Meteorologist for CBS Boston’s WBZ-TV News and...
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Apologies for the blog absence lately! My eyes are still giving me trouble since lasik, and my vision is pretty blurry. I’ve been trying to give them a little rest from the consistent computer-screen-staring between newscasts. Hopefully clearer soon.

STATE OF THE CLIMATE

Let’s start off tonight with the release of NOAA’s ‘2013 State of the Climate‘ report, which was released earlier today. Even if you’re typically just interested in what’s going on here at home, I think it’s important to get an idea for what all our fellow Americans are dealing with when it comes to Mother Nature. Keep in mind when you look at an annual report, some of the small-scale or short-lived stories can get smoothed out by the averages of time. But when the year closed, 2013 was neither remarkable for overall precipitation (21st wettest year) or temperature (37th warmest). There were some important tidbits to be gleaned, though.

- More record lows than record highs (a slight edge) for the first time in 20 years. The last such occurance was 1993.

- Very weak Atlantic hurricanes – no majors for the first time since 1994, and no Category 2 storms for only the 2nd time in the satellite era

- Much lower than average number of tornadoes. The least number of confirmed twisters since 1989 (and many of us scientists believe that ‘tornado inflation’ skews these numbers. More spotters and interest in severe weather now means that more tornadoes are reported and discovered. That means the low total this year stands out even more)

- (7) billion dollar disasters occurred in 2013. 5 of them tornado related, 1 due to drought, 1 the major flooding in Colorado

- Extreme drought in California. 2013 was the driest year ever recorded in the state, and they are on pace for the driest January ever recorded right now.

Below is an interesting infographic from Climate Central showing many of the major stats in NOAA’s SOTC report. One stop shopping!

climate Winter Reprieve Slowly Comes to an End

Source: Climate Central and NOAA

JANUARY THAW SLOWLY COMING TO AN END…

bostonsunset Winter Reprieve Slowly Comes to an End

A glorious sunset over Boston on Wednesday. Source: @bikesafeboston on Twitter.

Many of us took in an utterly stunning sunset this evening as a day that felt more like March than mid-January came to a close. Can’t ask for much more than that! A perfect deck of cirrus clouds helped create these hues over southern New England. If you can believe it, all the cold earlier in the month has been erased. Ten days into January, Boston was running -8.2º below average. Now? Back to even. The highs have been high, and the lows have been low. Going forward we’ll track closer to average through Monday before the bottom drops out and big cold returns for the end of the month.

tempanomaly Winter Reprieve Slowly Comes to an End

Surface temperature anomalies over the past 7 days. Almost all of North America seeing above-average temps over that time, in particular southeastern Canada! Don’t worry cold lovers, this isn’t going to last in the east much longer. Source: WeatherBell

TONIGHT THROUGH FRIDAY…

Check out the micro-moon! It’s the ‘smallest’ full moon of the year. Of course, the moon doesn’t change in size throughout the year. It is simply farther away in its orbit right now (about 30,000 miles farther away at its point of fullness than the Supermoon coming up on August 10th…the ‘largest’ moon of the year). There will be some cloudiness, but perhaps thin enough to create a nice halo around our orbiting buddy. This full moon is known as the ‘Wolf’ moon, and Jupiter will also appear very nearby. Temperatures will stay pretty comfortable by mid-January standards. Just about everyone should stay in the upper 20s/30s throughout the night.

One thing to keep an eye on will be areas of dense fog that may form, cutting down visibility to 1/4 mile or less. Plus with temperatures near or below freezing in some towns, this could lead to some really slick roads through the early am commute. Be cautious out there and slow your roll!

moonandjupiter Winter Reprieve Slowly Comes to an End

An utterly stunning photo taken by Ryan Knapp, an Observer and excellent photographer at Mt. Washington Observatory on Tuesday night. The nearly full moon and Jupiter displaying their beauty above an undercast of clouds.

On Thursday an ocean storm passes off to our east, just close enough to bring a couple of scattered rain/snow showers. Not much to write home about, and temperatures should generally stay above freezing all day so no big impact on travel. Many will stay dry for the majority of the day, although it will feel a bit cooler due to the increase in cloud cover and slightly lower temps.

Ho-hum weather again on Friday as we once again split the uprights between a front to the west and waves of low pressure riding out to sea to the east. There’s a slight chance one of those waves could just barely clip the Cape & Islands with a shower, but otherwise a mix of sun and clouds across the area with seasonable highs in the 30s/low 40s. Getting out of town for the weekend? No travel issues!

WHERE’S THE SNOW???

usasnow Winter Reprieve Slowly Comes to an End snowdepth Winter Reprieve Slowly Comes to an End

Source: NOAA

Take a peek at the graphics above. The first shows Lower 48 snow cover, which is at its 2nd lowest extent for this date over the past 10 years. Only 2006 had slightly less coverage. Of course, storms and warm-ups can quickly change these numbers. But there isn’t much on the way across the Nation. A few nickle-and-dimers in the days to come, mainly across the Midwest and into the Northeast.

Speaking of the Northeast – unless you live on a hill or in interior Maine there isn’t much wintry about the scenery. Massachusetts is just about snow-free at this point, and Vermont isn’t faring much better. The snow junkies, skiers and snowboarders are begging for a storm! Well I can’t promise that over the next 5 days, but I can promise that at least *some* flakes will fly.

bostonsnow Winter Reprieve Slowly Comes to an End

As weak as the snow cover is right now, we’re still above average and WAY above last year’s pace for snow. Still a long way to go!

THE WEEKEND…

On Saturday yet another wave of low pressure will move close to our shores, but not close or deep enough for a big event. For now I’m just thinking some areas of light snow, perhaps even raindrops for the Cape & Islands. But it’s a start! Now the RPM is the only model that’s started to act up over the past couple of runs and project more precipitation (both rain and snow) on Saturday. Being a few days out, we’ll have to keep an eye on that and see if anything changes. For now I’m throwing that solution out.

On Sunday another short-wave rounds the long-wave trough drifting east and may help produce more snow showers. At the same time, a strong cold front will be coming down out of the northwest from Canada. Looks to me that many of us should see some flakes, but again accumulation doesn’t look like anything major.

euro Winter Reprieve Slowly Comes to an End

Wishful thinking? Probably. But we’ll have to keep an eye on this feature for next Tuesday-Wednesday. Source: WSI Energycast

The next chance for truly significant snow comes Tuesday night into Wednesday. For now, the ECMWF operational is the only model really projecting this. It’s ensemble mean is farther east out to sea, and the GFS operational + its ensemble mean is also much farther east. The pattern has been rather progressive and the NAO isn’t looking all that negative (not much blocking downstream). So if I had to place a bet now, I’d say this thing stays just far enough to the east to keep us away from a big one. BUT it’s 6 days out, and we all know how that goes. At least there’s a chance. So if you’re a snow hound and praying to the gods of winter, this is your best bet at the moment.

EPISODE 2 (THIS YEAR): RETURN OF THE ARCTIC

One thing that’s essentially locked up is a big blast of cold air that will invade the eastern U.S. next week, much like what we saw to end the month. This may be on scale with that outbreak of cold and lead to some bitterly cold air. Below are the GFS forecast temperature anomalies for next Wednesday night. Much of the east is covered in temps 15-30º below average at this time. One thing to consider is that right now we’re in the heart of climatological cold. This is, on average, the coldest time of the entire year. So when you see temps 30º below average, it’s pretty brutal. In any case, it should get a heck of a lot colder starting around Tuesday next week and last until quite possibly the end of the month.

nextweekcold Winter Reprieve Slowly Comes to an End

GFS surface temperature anomalies for January 23rd. Source: WeatherBell

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