By John Cifelli
NJTV News Meteorologist
– Double digit snowfall likely for at least northern New Jersey
– Begins Monday night, long duration event lasts through Tuesday
– Coastal flooding and beach erosion likely
New Jersey finds itself this weekend ensconced within the throes of a deep wintry pattern, just a week from the arrival of astronomical spring. Meteorological spring arrived on March 1, which makes Friday’s snowfall and this weekend’s cold all the more remarkable. Yet we must still further beware, for by the ides of March, New Jersey may contend with its biggest “winter” storm of the season.
It will remain chilly with brisk winds on Saturday and Sunday, with high temperatures in the 30s, about 15 degrees below normal. The next two nights will see lows in the teens, some of the coldest air of the year. The wintry pattern doesn’t relax much Monday, and Monday night, our next weather maker approaches from the southern Ohio Valley and southern coast.
Monday night and Tuesday, a deepening surface low will take shape along the Mid-Atlantic coastline. It is becoming increasingly unlikely that this system will slide harmlessly out to sea. Instead, the focus is quickly becoming how great and what kind of an impact the storm will have. Despite our aforementioned acknowledgement of impending spring, the dual core 1030mb+ high pressure centers to the north and northwest of New Jersey will provide plenty of Arctic air, making the likelihood of a significant winter event increasingly likely.
I often talk about upper level energy acting as a catalyst for strengthening surface lows. Friday’s snow had one, acting as a spark plug to trigger a moderate three- to five-inch snowfall for the norther half of the state. Tuesday’s developing coastal storm will have several of these upper level shortwaves aligning together within a deepening and coalescing longwave trough. This is the recipe for the historic ones. It seems disingenuous to use that term so often; a winter storm gave the climate reporting station at Central Park its greatest single snowfall total just last year. Once again, however, we are looking at a setup with incredible potential. There’s simply no denying that, regardless of how incredible it seems.
There are still paths that avoid a historic winter storm. The series of upper level shortwaves could not align, syncing up too early or too late. In these cases, we have a significant weather event Tuesday but not more. That is still a possibility, particularly given climatology which says a major snowfall shouldn’t happen in mid-March. If we are to dodge the major wintry threat, we need to see a shift in the placement of these upper level features in successive runs of model guidance. As it stand currently, New Jersey is in line for a double digit snowfall across a fair part of the state, particularly away from the coast. Even if the shore misses out on the heavy snowfall, an extended period of strong winds off the water will threaten coastal flooding and beach erosion. Gale force winds on the water, and blizzard criteria winds inland, look very possible. This will be a long duration event, about 24 hours of immediate impact.
The first call snow map will be released Saturday around 4 p.m.