2014 to start with snow… see how much

A long duration snow event is still set to get 2014 off to a wintry start. Snow will develop along a stalled out front this afternoon and evening and linger through Thursday night. Weak, disorganized low pressure will move along this front, then rapidly strengthen off of the coast of New England Thursday night.There are two parts of the forecast that I think will make a big impact on the snow totals we will see. One is subtle, the other less so.Wild Card #1: Coastal Low Development… The models are developing the coastal low a bit quicker than they were. As a result, the amount of Atlantic moisture and energy from this low we will see may increase. This would result in a couple extra inches of snow over what I was thinking yesterday. Of course, if the low does not develop as rapidly, we will see less. This will have more of an impact the further east you are; areas west of the Finger Lakes probably will see about the same amount either way.One other impact of the low developing quicker and stronger is an increase in the winds for Thursday night and a decrease in temperature as cold air get sucked into the storm. It is possible that Thursday night will have some heavy snow, along with strong winds and sub-zero wind chills. The strong winds will easily blow the snow around because…Wild Card #2: Snowflake Type… The snow will most likely be light and fluffy. Determining the snowflake type is a rather involved and sensitive process. The snow takes on different characteristics depending on the temperatures throughout the atmosphere (especially within the clouds) and where the most upward motion in the atmosphere is. Upward motion is important because it acts to squeeze the moisture out of the clouds, much like wringing out a wet cloth.It is very possible that we will get maximum upward motion within the clouds at the ideal temperatures for maximum snowflake growth. The result of this would be a very light, fluffy snow that would accumulate quickly. My gut instinct is that some models may be under-doing the impact of the snow flake type and underestimating snow totals.In the end, verifying the forecast for this storm will be difficult come Friday morning. The wind will be one major problem in measuring the snow, but the frequency of measuring will have an impact as well. The National Weather Service standards for measurements are once every 6 hours. This will prevent an overestimate from not allowing the fluffy snow to settle some, but will prevent an underestimate from increased blowing and settling if a single measurement at the end of the storm is taken.Stay tuned for more updates and details as this storm evolves. Happy New Year!

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