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NJTV Weather: Cold Returns, Snow Possible

3-23-14

By Meteorologist John Cifelli

I rarely speak in absolutes when it comes to weather, but this will be the last time I write to you about snow this winter. I am 99.9 percent sure of it, but this year, you have to leave a window open when talking about snow.

Alas we do have snow in the forecast again as the tease of Saturday sun will yield to seasonal cold today, and we climb down the ladder into the 30s for Monday and Tuesday. This evening, a clipper will skirt to our south, dragging a frontal boundary across the Delmarva and through the tidewaters of Virginia, allowing ridiculous cold for March to shove our overnight lows into the teens across much of New Jersey tonight and Monday night.

Meanwhile, as I write, upper level energy is diving down from Alberta and British Columbia, riding the spine of the Appalachian Mountains overnight. This energy, along with a shortwave embedded in the Arctic jet stream will carve an amplifying trough over the middle part of the country today. This will spawn a surface low over the deep south, which will travel through the Gulf state before emerging along the eastern seaboard late tomorrow night.

Then for Tuesday, it is the usual question. What will the storm track be? Our coastal low will slide northeast and rapidly deepen (here’s the new weather buzzword — bombogenesis — at it again), bringing strong winds and a chance for significant precipitation to the coastline. Meanwhile as the deepening upper level trough swings across the state, lighter precipitation should break out across much of New Jersey and the surrounding metros.

There are several factors standing in the way of seeing snow accumulation. One is intensity — precipitation away from the coastline looks to be light. Timing — snow should be focused on the daylight hours, which matters when you are closer to April than February. Sun angle — we are closer to the summer solstice than the winter, and any bleeding of sunlight through the cloud deck will make accumulations difficult to occur, especially on black pavement. Lastly, surface temperatures will be marginal, and cold air aloft with surfaces in the mid 30s has a different end result in late March than it does in mid January.

At this point, I expect a 12-hour period of light rain (south) and snow (north), ending as snow everywhere. Timing looks to be roughly day break to sun down. Accumulations will be mostly on grass, with one to three inches possible statewide. Winds and possibly coastal erosion will be big factors as well, as this powerful nor’easter churns off our coastline on Tuesday.

There is plenty of time for this to wiggle westward and bring more significant precipitation to New Jersey, but as of now, the general flow across the country favors this coastal low being focused on the fishes.