By Meteorologist John Cifelli
Is winter’s grand finale on our doorstep? This forecaster says yes! Next week looks seasonably milder if not downright spring-like, but we have another bout of significant winter weather to contend with first, which is likely to bring the biggest snowfall of the year to some parts of the state.
Currently, temperatures are springlike in their own right. A couple spots in New Jersey are creeping close to 50 degrees, and we’ve had a few rounds of March showers. It’ll probably be a while before we melt off the Kevlar strength snow pack and see the crocus emerge, however. A cold front, currently draped across central Pennsylvania and New York will sag southward over the next 12 hours or so, knocking temperatures back below freezing. Meanwhile, a plume of moisture that starts all the way on the Pacific side of Mexico is spreading precipitation along this frontal boundary. As a couple waves of low pressure develop along the front, and slide over the mid-Atlantic coast, they will focus bands of heavier precipitation over the Garden State later tonight and tomorrow. Rain will change to snow from northwest to southeast, bringing accumulating snow statewide.
The first major question is timing. The evening drive looks fine, and honestly you can probably head out if you have plans this evening. It will be raw and wet, but the roads will not be icy, and the only thing falling will be rain. Around midnight, we fall below freezing, first aloft, then at the surface. Rain will first mix with and then change to snow. By dawn, it is snowing statewide, and heavy in places.
The next question is where will the best forcing be, and who sees the heaviest snowfall. That continues to look to be the Turnpike corridor and points southeast. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the banding nature of the snowfall results in some locations far north and west being somewhat robbed of moisture. Sussex and Warren counties will see their snow tapering to flurries by mid morning, while it will be snowing in Cape May for most of the day. Northern New Jersey sees the rain change to snow earlier but will receive less overall precipitation, while southeast New Jersey will be last to get the changeover to snow but receive more precipitation. It’s the sweet spot in between that I think takes home the bacon with this snowstorm. A line from Camden to Manasquan will be the axis of heaviest snowfall, with most of it falling from 4 to 10 a.m.
I’ve made two small changes to the snowfall forecast map. I expanded the four- to eight-inch range to include southern Ocean County and adjacent areas, and I extended the end time for this storm to account for snows lingering in the southern half of the state into the afternoon. The “end time” is deceiving because, as I said, this will be over in northern New Jersey half a day before it wraps up in the south. For Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic and Ocean counties, accumulating snow will linger almost until dark.
This will be a heavy, wet snowfall. It will struggle to stick at first after we warmed up nicely today. Temperatures aloft of the snow growth region will not be cold to support great ratios, so I am using a general 10:1 idea for snow to liquid equivalent. Friday is arctic cold but dry, and we will moderate with a decent weekend on tap — sunny and seasonable temperatures.