Bitter Blast: Is It a Sign That Our Predicted Brutal Winter Has Arrived? | NBC 10 Philadelphia
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NBC10 First Alert Severe Weather Central

Bitter Blast: Is It a Sign That Our Predicted Brutal Winter Has Arrived?

NBC10 First Alert Weather Chief Meteorologist Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz explains what caused this winter to be so mild early on and what we might be in store for the rest of the season. (Published Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015)

It wasn’t just my forecast. It was all of them.

This was going to be another cold and VERY snowy winter around here. Well, December wasn’t brutal at all!

Temperatures were about 3 degrees above normal, and we had practically NO snow. But now that the new year has arrived, has the pattern changed for good?

More on that in a bit.

Hurricane Explains: Are Sharp Temperature Changes in Winter Normal?Hurricane Explains: Are Sharp Temperature Changes in Winter Normal?How can it go from the 60s one day to freezing temperatures the next day? NBC10 First Alert Weather Chief Meteorologist Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz says that's pretty typical. (Published Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015)

First, about the current bitter cold blast. After a mere 1-2 inches of snow Tuesday, the coldest air in a year has moved in. Temperatures will drop to the single digits overnight tonight, with wind chills down to -10 degrees in the Philadelphia area, -15 degrees North & West, and -20 degrees in the Poconos.

As bad as that is, wind chills reached -40 to -50 degrees in Minnesota! Here it is in map form for the U.S.:


 

SHORT-TERM OUTLOOK

It won’t be quite as bitter cold after Thursday morning, but it’s still a pretty cold pattern through the weekend. Then, the pattern next week changes from bitter cold and dry to just king-of-cold and possibly wet.

The arctic front that is in the Southern U.S. now will become nearly stationary just south of our area. Moisture will ride along the front, leading to a few chances of wintry precipitation.

Temperatures will be marginal for snow, so northern parts of our area have the best chance of accumulating snow next week. But conditions could favor some icing in some regions. Stay tuned for updates.

LONGER TERM — THE REST OF WINTER

While I won’t do a complete Winter Forecast Update (due to continued uncertainty of the evolving pattern), there are a few things to watch.

Obviously, the overall pattern expected has not materialized (yet). It’s certainly a way more wintry pattern than December — just not as extreme as expected. This map from Penn State University shows the upper-air pattern over the past couple of weeks. The blue areas show colder-than-normal areas, and the “warm” colors show the opposite. The North Pole is in the middle.

In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of “warm” colors near the North Pole, which has driven colder air southward into the U.S. and Europe. So far, that hasn’t happened this winter.

The most respected seasonal forecaster, Dr. Judah Cohen of the company AER, has connected October snow in Siberia and Eurasia with winter snow in the U.S. He has successfully predicted the general winter trend many times in recent years. This year, signs there (and in other parts of the world) favored a cold and snowy winter in our area. He still believes this will happen eventually. Here’s his latest, very technical discussion for those interested.

Developments in the Tropical Pacific may determine if the rest of our winter will be severe or not. But two things are clear:

  • This winter, so far, is closer to a “normal” winter than many recent years.
  • We still have a LOT to learn about the relatively new science of seasonal forecasting.

Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz is the chief meteorologist for the NBC10 First Alert Weather Team.

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