Strong Nor’easter Threatening – Of All Places – Northeast U.S. Next Week

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It’s starting to look like late next week a strong nor’easter will develop and then threaten the northeastern United States. It’s difficult to begin putting these thoughts into a blog; more difficult will be the client video that I’ll produce in just a few minutes. Can this really be happening, to the same place, again? It looks like it could be so.

First, let’s get past two things right away: Another Sandy is not approaching the Northeast. However, nor’easters can be devastating to this region. Second, Sandy was very unusual — once in a lifetime, once in 100 years, perhaps never again? Nor’easters, on the other hand, if not frequent are certainly not uncommon. With the right conditions, nor’easters can develop and threaten several times a season.

The Euro model (ECMWF) places a 986 millibar low off the coast of Cape Cod on the evening of 11/07, next Wednesday, with heavy rains and strong winds in true nor’easter fashion. Image: Penn State e-Wall

Here’s what’s going on now, and with Sandy still so fresh in our minds it’s easy to examine the meteorology as a lot of these features are either still in place or making a repeat performance. First, we’ve moved into the winter season. The jet streams are stronger and lower and they drive storms across North America with more ferocity. Next, a strong upper-level trough of low pressure is expected to sweep across the U.S. next week, similar to what exacerbated Sandy. Also in place, a strong Atlantic high pressure system that will block features from moving east. This same high is what forced Sandy to take its unusual jog to the west last weekend. Now, like a logjam on the Mississippi, this blocking high will force the jet stream to dig the approaching trough deeper serving to intensify the disturbance. Long story short, all the features are in place to develop a strong nor’easter as we head into the latter half of next week.

What’s in question? The biggest uncertainly, like when we ID’d the potential Sandy superstorm more than a week in advance, is that we’re talking about a developing storm that’s still eight days away (based on last night’s models run) and the features that will develop this storm are still in development themselves. A lot can happen between now and then. As I said on 10/22 when I wrote about the Sandy potential, “In the world of numerical computer modeling, things can change in six hours let alone six days.” And, like with Sandy, there are the obvious questions of exactly when, where and how strong. The cause for such considerable thought however, lies in the fact that the same models that developed and moved Sandy so well are the very ones that are indicating next week’s nor’easter. Fred Schmude, ImpactWeather’s StormWatch team manager said earlier this morning, “Even though confidence is low on the exact timing, intensity and track of this potential winter storm system, atmospheric flow pattern data is favorable and we see no reason to discount some of the long range computer model data depicting this weather system.”

The GFS ensemble model puts the less-strong low a bit farther north 24 hours later. Also evident, the strong blocking high pressure center well southeast of the tip of Greenland. Image: Penn State e-Wall

What can we do now? Let’s watch and wait. There’s still lots of time, so let’s begin thinking about possible preparations. Earlier this week, with Sandy only hours in the rear-view mirror, I wrote about preparing or supplementing your emergency kit. If you don’t have an emergency kit and have been thinking over the last few days, “You know, I really ought to do something about that,” then now is the perfect time. Also, with so many people still without power and communications in the Northeast, let’s do everything we can to make sure they know what may be on the approaching horizon. Text or call when conditions allow and let your family and friends know that there may be something else down the road that will require their attention. If you’re in the supply, logistics, retail or medical fields you already know to think about current stock and what’s needed to replenish after Sandy, but now it’s time to think about what additional stock may be needed if this possible nor’easter comes to fruition.

We don’t have to look too far back to see what nor’easters can do or how often they can strike. In fact, a middling case can be made that Superstorm Sandy was a hurricane wrapped in a nor’easter. Before Sandy there was last year’s Halloween Nor’easter that brought record snowfall from West Virginia to Nova Scotia. Before that there was the Nor’easter of 2010 (December) that brought two feet of snow to some of the major metro areas of the Northeast. 2009, 2005 and 2004 all had stand-out nor’easters.

Stay tuned to YourWeatherBlog for more details in the coming week.

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