If you're anxious for spring, you may want to stop reading right now.
Because there's a possibility for some snow to begin next week.
The GFS forecast model is the medium-range global meteorological model of note that is attempting to hone in on this possibility at the moment, while its primary counterpart — the European model — is having none of it. Previously, the Euro was showing potential for snow, while the GFS wasn't. It's been a model flip-flop war, and it remains to be seen which one will wind up victorious at the end.
The potential trouble-maker is an upper level low that is poised to swing through our region late Sunday into early Monday. You may be thinking, "It's not cold enough to snow," and you wouldn't be incorrect (although we've seen flakes flying the last couple of days and parts of Scott County saw their second-biggest snow of the season on Wednesday [which isn't saying much; it's been a snowless season]). But these cold-core, closed low pressure systems tend to generate their own cold air. They also tend to be notoriously difficult to forecast, so don't be too surprised if someone winds up with a few inches of snow when they weren't expecting it . . . and, likewise, don't be surprised if none of us see snow.
The ULL will swing through in the aftermath of a Gulf low pressure system that is poised to bring rain to the region Saturday and Sunday. Here is a computer-generated image of how much snow the GFS model is currently projecting:
Before you snow-lovers get too carried away by that image, keep in mind that this depiction assumes the standard 10:1 snow ratio, which means every tenth of an inch of rain will produce an inch of snow. Even if snow does occur on Monday, a 10:1 ratio isn't likely. Below is the same depiction, with the Kuchera method applied, which attempts to take things like temperatures into account:
Obviously that look is a little less beefy. Still, accumulating snow in mid March is rare enough to be interesting . . . and it would be even more interesting when you stop to consider that Monday is the 25th anniversary of the Blizzard of '93.
Here's the thing, though: even if atmospheric conditions are favorable for snow, we're not going to see any real problems from it. In that regard, it would be very similar to Wednesday morning's light snowfall event, when up to a half-inch accumulated on grassy and elevated surfaces in some areas of Scott County but roads were just fine because ground temperatures were too warm. If — and it's a pretty big if, if you ask me — it snows on Monday, not only will ground temperatures be warm, but atmospheric temperatures will be marginal as well. The same run of the GFS model has surface temperatures above freezing until after midnight Sunday night, and rising back above freezing fairly quickly after the sun rises Monday morning. So any snow that managed to accumulate in such a scenario would primarily "stick" on elevated and grassy surfaces. Could there be a slick spot or two on bridges or overpasses? Sure. But widespread inclement road conditions are extremely unlikely. And with temperatures getting into the 40s Monday afternoon, the snow certainly wouldn't stick around long.
Of course, the number one question on everyone's minds every time a threat of snow is in the forecast is, "Will we get out of school?" And, as we all know, it doesn't necessarily take a lot of snow to get out of school — especially when it's mid March, the school systems have unused days in their bank of snow days, and sickness is still causing relatively high absenteeism.
But that doesn't mean it's necessarily a good idea to put off those science fair projects and book reports that are due on Monday. For now, the National Weather Service is forecasting only a 40 percent chance of snow showers Sunday night and doesn't seem at all concerned with the potential for accumulating snow. In a forecast discussion this afternoon, the NWS noted the potential only for "a few flurries or light snow showers." And, it bears repeating: other models aren't showing what the above-referenced model is showing. It's kinda out on a limb by itself.
When is it going to warm up? If you're anxious for spring, take heart. The latest forecast from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center offers hope. Yes, it's going to remain colder-than-normal for the next week, but by Days 8-14, the CPC has above-average temperatures beginning to creep back into the Mid-South, and for its Weeks 3-4 forecast (the last two weeks of March), it has above-average conditions enveloping the entire eastern U.S. Real winter ended more than a month ago, but after this weekend, you can probably stick a fork in Ol' Man Winter for good.
Eye to the Sky is a weather blog by Independent Herald editor Ben Garrett. Garrett is a weather enthusiast who has long blogged about interesting weather on his personal website. He is not a professional forecaster or a meteorologist and information on this blog should not be considered a substitute for forecasts, advisories or other products from the National Weather Service.