CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - There's going to be a lot of silly talk this week surrounding our first winter storm of the season. A lot of it will come via Social Media and on the internet.
Even over this past weekend, I was asked out in public about forecasts being thrown around with 10 inches of snow - or more - for the Charlotte area.
I simply laughed.
Let me pull back the curtain and shed a little light on the forecast for this coming weekend by taking a step backward first.
When I last looked at this past weekend's rain model output on Friday, the consensus - just 24 hours out - was for less than 1/3 of an inch of rain, generally limited to Saturday afternoon / evening hours.
This afternoon I emptied 1 solid inch of rain from my backyard gauge.
That's a terrible short-range forecast. In our business, we call such a forecast a bust.
Interestingly, oftentimes meteorologists get a "pass" on rain busts, because most people only see wet streets, etc and unless it's a really heavy rain, they can't tell if .25 inches fell or 1.25 inches.
It doesn't work that way with snow.
If we forecast 3 to 6 inches of snow and your neighborhood only receives 2 to 3 inches, many want to run me out of town for being off by .10 of an inch of liquid (melted snow).
It's unreasonable, but it is what it is.
Snow is visible and it's emotional and forecasting it in a place like Charlotte, North Carolina is rarely an easy task.
And so if you're wanting to know "how much snow is ----- - fill in the blank for your town - is going to get this coming weekend?", I'm not going to answer...at least not now.
There are some “knows” regarding the late-week forecast, but there are many more “unknowns” and so great uncertainty exists in the eventual unfolding of this event.
What we do know is that a decent high pressure system is going to build east across the Midwest late this week and nose eastward down our side of the Appalachian Mountains setting up a very cold pattern across the entire region - including the WBTV viewing area. Temperatures - both highs and low - will be well below average here starting Wednesday and lasting through the weekend.
At the same time, low pressure will develop along the Gulf Coast region and slowly drift east (going south of the WBTV viewing area) as we push into the weekend.
Given the expected set-up and the time of year, snow or a snow-sleet mix seems likely for the mountains and northern foothills Saturday into Sunday. That's because those areas will likely be deeper into the cold air.
When it comes to the Piedmont, rarely do we get a pure snowfall, start to finish, and again, given the expected set-up that "given" looks to hold true again this go-round. Most likely a mixed bag of precipitation will combine over the Piedmont.
That's what makes these type forecast so tricky, especially since what whatever is going to come our way is still 5 or 6 days out in time.
Meteorologists don't just look at the surface temperature and forecast snow or rain. We look at the temperature forecast through the column of air over us and right now it suggests near 32F air at the surface, much colder air (below freezing, in the 20s) just above our heads, then a developing "warm nose" above that with air back near 32F again. Warm-cold-warm from the surface up through 10,000 feet or so.
So, in summary, yes, it's going to be very cold here later this week and yes, there's likely going to be a storm that impacts the region. But, many wildcards are in play. What if the high pressure system is not as strong as forecast? What if the eventual low tracks farther south?
Subtle changes over time always have big ramifications!
So, don't ask me about "how much for ---". I don't know and neither does anyone else - at least with any degree of certainty.
I should have a decent idea about 3 days out and will look to throw out amounts and timing forecasts late in the week.
In the meantime, the weather looks great for Monday with mostly sunny skies and afternoon reading in the upper 60s!
- Meteorologist Al Conklin