Saturday, April 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Bolaris: Megastorm on horizon: Fact or fiction?

Word spread like wildfire a few days ago as someone took to social media and posted a weather map that was indicating 2-3 feet of snow that would cut us off from civilization on the weekend of February 8th-9th.

Whomever posted it should be taken to the woodshed and smacked with frozen weather maps.

Now the blame doesn't totally hang on this person, as the source for these maps was a company named Weather Bell, which has maps that generate snow predictions by algorithms (calculations, automated reasoning) via a particular computer model.

The problem is that computer information being digested at the time can dramatically change, especially more than 10 days out.

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  • Coldest January in 10 years, officially
  • So someone who subscribes to get this information (non-meteorologist) sees this, says, HOLY CRAP! look at this Armageddon, and posts it.

    Before you can say pass the salt, it goes global, inducing weather hysteria - a sickness that is usually confined to your local TV news directors (with massive outbreaks in February, November, May, the prime ratings periods.) You the viewer gets the backlash, as 2 inches of snow means 15 reporters saying basically the same thing and, of course, wake up with us an extra 30 minutes early (4:30 a.m.) so we can help you safely navigate the storm.

    Honestly, most don't care about your safety; they care about ratings which equate to higher rates in ad times with the bottom line being money.

    Any anchor in the industry would tell you the same thing. It's an antiquated model.

    Now getting back to this "megastorm," the question is: Are we going to get nailed with it next weekend?

    As I've been looking over computer run after run, they continue to suggest that, yes, it's most likely that some sort of a storm will take place next weekend.

    But they have been waffling - with wild swings of positioning, intensity, and tracks.

    Some runs show mainly a liquid event, others suggest a mix to snow, and others all snow. Others indicate storm super-intensity and 2 storms - with one rain, then snow on its heels.

    The bottom line: all the computer models are having difficulties with timing. Models are still quite distant from one run to the next. Until I see models trending toward one solution, one must simply wait a bit longer for any real responsible forecast.

    The models should start to narrow between storms Monday (previously discussed) and Wednesday. We could see some freezing rain problems come Wednesday morning before we see a changeover to all rain, which could be heavy at times.

    Icing could be a significant problem, especially north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike through the morning.

    So, in summary, the verdict is stilll out on next weekend's potential storm. Let's first get through the first two.

    John Bolaris

    John Bolaris PHILLY.COM
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