Alarm bells went off Saturday when a computer model operated by the European Forecast Center – whose runs generally are considered superior – spit out 2-plus feet of snow for Philly for the impending storm.
By contrast, the U.S.-run Global Forecast System (GFS) was unimpressed, and its model weighed in with the water equivalent of about 3 inches.
From the model tally sheet compiled by Tony Gigi, a lead forecaster at the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, for the period preceding the would-be main event, three points are evident:
Meteorologists were issuing a blizzard of apologies this morning for a forecast that went awry, and rarely have we known weathermen say they’re sorry it didn’t snow more.
“No one is happy about the forecast,” said Gary Szatkowski, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, who, as noted, took to Twitter to offer a public apology.
In the end, the official total at Philadelphia International Airport/National Park of 1.2 inches, even failed to topple the reigning title-holder for the biggest snow of the winter – Jan. 6, when 1.5 was measured.
The government has been keeping official snow records in Philadelphia since the winter of 1884-85, and in terms of lack of snow the first 20 days of this year have been extraordinary.
Precipitation, 3.35 inches, has been well above the long-term average ( 2.1 inches) for the period, and temperature, 30.7, below (33.17).
Since that winter of 1884-85, we identified only 10 winters in which precipitation exceeded 3 inches in the first 20 days of the new year while temperatures were below average.
Motorists weren’t the only ones ambushed by Sunday morning’s attack of freezing rain – so were the meteorologists.
By the time the National Weather Service officially hoisted the ice advisories, the lacquering already was well under way.
The long and short of it: The air was a few degrees colder, and the rain came a few hours sooner, than expected.
The Japanese already have declared 2014 as the warmest on record, and at last look it was holding a infinitesimal lead in the National Climactic Data Center’s tallies.
On Friday, NCDC will release its official Planet Earth tally for 2014, and we would be beyond surprised if it didn’t finish in the top three.
Through November, 2014 was 0.01 degree ahead of 2010 in the race for the warmest first 11 months of the year, in records dating to 1880. That’s more than close, given the margin of error.
Snubbed by this morning’s “slipper” ( southern variant of a “clipper”), Philadelphia’s official seasonal snowfall total stands at 1.6 inches, and holding.
Some small accumulations were anticipated in the Baltimore-Washington area before the storm that was sliding to our south slipped out to sea.
But already, coming into today both Washington, at 2.4 inches, and Baltimore, at 2.8, were running ahead of Philly for the 2014-15 season.
Rarely have we seen so much red on a U.S. Climate Prediction Center forecast map.
Its outlook for the Jan. 18-22 period has the odds favoring above-normal temperatures throughout all 48 of the continental United States – from Maine moose country to the Florida Keys, from Seattle to Death Valley -- and the majority of Alaska.
In its discussion, in simple terms the climate center says that the cross-polar flow that caused temperatures to plummet and appetites to spike upward is heading in reverse.
A day like this is hard to like. For snow-lovers, cold rain is a bitter consolation prize; for sane people, it’s just plain unpleasant.
Even though precipitation this month now is 15 to 20 percent above normal and temperatures significantly below, Philadelphia’s official monthly snow total stands at 1.5 inches.
Adding that tenth of an inch on Dec. 11, the seasonal figure comes to 1.6.