By Meteorologist John Cifelli
Some very significant changes have occurred in the pattern set to affect New Jersey for the next three days. Our Manitoba Mauler, a clipper system originating in central Canada, is currently spreading precipitation across the northern Mississippi Valley, and headed eastward toward the northern mid-Atlantic. Temperatures are surging into the 40s nearly statewide already, as high clouds from the clipper are beginning to arrive. They will thicken throughout the late afternoon and early evening, and some light rain (south) and snow (north) will begin toward midnight.
Tomorrow, we start the day with light snow and a rain/snow mix far south and coastal areas. We will be somewhat in between precipitation shields. The light stuff associated with the clipper will be weakening as the upper level energy transitions from the clipper to the developing coastal low, which will be off the coast of Virginia. The upper level trough orientation will encourage the low to take a north-northeast or even northerly track from that point, as the surface lows are greatly influenced by the path carved out aloft. As it does so, powerful jet dynamics at the top of the atmosphere will act for the storm as a premium exhaust system does for a vehicle, encouraging the rapid deepening and strengthening of the storm into a powerful, mature east coast snowstorm.
Model guidance has come into clear agreement that this setup is happening. New England is under the gun for a historic snowstorm. Now what remains yet to be seen is when does the low strengthen to a point where it can drive moisture back over New Jersey? Literally, how far south and west will historic snowfall totals be experienced, and what part of the mid-Atlantic is on the outside looking in? Also, when do we transition from light, clipper-type snow that might struggle to accumulate to intense wintry conditions that force normal living in New Jersey to grind to a halt?
Heaviest snowfall totals will be the further north and east across the region. Once the coastal low takes over and strengthens, precipitation will be snow everywhere, even south and at the coast. But I feel that New Jersey will be on the western and southern fringe of the heaviest snows. I don’t expect the widespread crippling conditions that New England faces. I think late Monday afternoon snow begins to increase in intensity. It might even stop in some places earlier in the afternoon, but as we approach nightfall, winds will pick up and heavy snow will spread across the state. The heaviest bands will impact New York City and surrounding parts of New Jersey, and the New Jersey coastline overnight. Blizzard conditions are possible at times for Monmouth County and the counties directly north — Hudson, Essex, Bergen, Union and Middlesex — as well as the city and Long Island.
Tuesday we will wake to snow beginning to lighten and end southwest to northeast. It will remain breezy and plenty cold as we begin to dig out. Another chance at snow comes Thursday which will reinforce the cold as well.
It is important to remember that these kinds of setups have given New Jersey some of its biggest snowfalls, and also its biggest forecast “busts.” March 2001 comes to mind, when a coastal low was projected to deliver feet of snow to the entire state, and southwest New Jersey and Philadelphia woke the next day to sunny skies, ending the event with a couple inches. There will be a very sharp cutoff from historic snow totals to a few inches. A different track will cause dramatic changes in snowfall placement, and if it deepens a few hours earlier or later, that will have a large impact as well. It’s a high risk forecast.