Late Season Nor’easter

With the recent warm weather across the eastern United States, it’s easy to forget that astronomical winter is not over, and meteorological winter – the coldest 3 months of the year – just ended.  Plus, 2015-2016 was the warmest winter for the country, and many states too.  Snow totals were also lower than average in many places.  Boston’s snowfall this year has been 26″, approximately 83″ less than last year at this time!

Nonetheless, Nor’easters can and still do occur this time of year.  One will bring several inches of snow this weekend (below is a sample forecast).snowforecast03192016

So why isn’t this storm going to produce more snow?  Several reasons, from most to least significant:

  1. Lack of cold air.  Temperatures have been too warm for too long, and there’s no good way to transport colder air from Canada to help this storm.  In New York City (Central Park), temps have been almost 9 F greater than average this month, and March 6 was the last day that readings were below freezing.  (It was also the last below average day.)
  2. Lack of connection between upper levels and the surface.  The strongest storms are enhanced by upper level lift.  In this case, the best lift is in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In the image below, the storm is off the coast of North Carolina (map on right).  But the best lift is over Tennessee (map on left), too late for this storm.  By the time it arrives, the storm will be over Nova Scotia.bestlift0319
  3. Storm track too far east.  The storm is forecast to remain around 50 miles off the coast.  Heaviest precipitation amounts will fall over the ocean.

For all of these reasons, while talk of snow and Nor’easters may seem jarring, this storm will not be a big deal for most folks outside of mountainous areas.  While winter-like storms are still around, winter is not exactly getting its revenge this weekend.

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