The most successful thing I have done in the past 5 years has been to follow up on storms and let others grade my performance. Actually the best advice I could give any forecaster would be to not to cover only what happened, but how they did. That may be too risky, but I contend that a true forecaster will be able to stand by their record, but no one it perfect. Being honest throughout my career has won more people over that ignoring a miss ever could.
The science of meteorology is complex and there is always something new to learn. As my friend and former colleague Tony Pann has told me, you can hit a golf ball off a tree and it could still go in the hole. It counts. But you can hit it straight and a gust of wind will come and knock it away. Its just part of the game.
What happened to the snow?
If anything the expectation was for just a little bit of snow. The fact that it was the first thing many would wake up to and start their day with make it seem like a bigger deal. A shift of the wind for a few hours surged in warmer air ahead of the storm and knocked the snow line a bit. It was that simple this time and something I missed. After a warm Monday, we cooled off quickly with a clear evening. By 9 pm, BWI was at 36F and many other places were touching freezing. The dew points were in the upper 20s, and we could extrapolate what the temperature would have dropped to if it started snowing right then. This wasn’t just about surface temps, it was the whole column of air up to the clouds I wrote that I expected a little bump when the clouds rolled in, but the wind shifted from the east for about 3 hours ahead of the storm. See the temperature timeline in the slide show. That brought in a boost in temps and moisture from the Atlantic and Chesapeake father inland, erasing any chill we had. I thought the cold would hold, and that was where I went wrong.
I love snow, and I understand that can be misinterpreted for over predicting it. I was pretty clear about my philosophy in my Winter Storm Forecasting Manifesto. However I encourage you to read my final call forecast and see what I really called for. It was not that far off, but your perception is very important. To me, my most important critics are my two sons. I live in the colder part of our region, but the last thing I want to do is disappoint them. At least we got a little snow at our place, but that too was after they went to school.
Winter Weather pages on my web site
- Winter Weather Precipitation
- Winter Outlooks
- Baltimore Snow Almanac
- Baltimore Snow By Decade
Winter Storm Page
How did I do?
What I got right:
Storm Track. Last Friday I first mentioned this storm would end up south of Baltimore. I made reference to the ‘sweet spot’ off of the east coast between New Jersey and well east of North Carolina established by Sandy and the Nor’easter. That doesn’t mean all storms will be that intense, just trend in that vicinity. There was also a trend for storms to verify east of the models, and many were initially calling for this storm to pass far inland and keep us all rain. The result was the Low moving south of Baltimore and off of the Delmarva coast.
There were quite a few discussions that didn’t even give this storm credit to form let alone have enough cold air to generate snow. While temperatures did remain above freezing in many locations, it was cold enough at cloud level to snow and that did coast the ground north and west of Baltimore in areas over 800 feet in elevation.
My last call map did indicate the most likely places to have any stickage was in the same areas that got snow from the October 2011 storm. That was geographically favored and worked out again. The areas that got a little snow sticking included northern Harford, Baltimore, Carroll, and into Frederick County. The northern edge did get enough to lay and stay for a bit.
PA snow 1-3 inches. This was lower than the NWS forecast of 2-4 inches and worked out better.
Snowflakes mixed in farther east. While this did not reach Baltimore, there’s were flakes reported in much of my 50:50 zone mentioned.
I was clear that this would not be an issue within 15 miles of I-95 and all points south and east. Baltimore, Annapolis, and Maryland’s Easter Shore should not have expected much more than a chilly rain.
What I got wrong:
The lack of snow on the ground at daybreak is the most glaring, but this was really just a little bit of snow. The main issue was expecting to see snow on the ground in the morning. Despite the places mentioned that finally got snow; it was after sunrise and not an impact on the commute.
The difference between seeing a coating on the ground or nothing might appear like a major bust. I would agree if we were talking about expecting more than a few inches. My job as a forecaster is to convey my expectations as well as possible. It is human nature to lock on to the worst conditions. That is one reason I shy away from giving a range of snow with an upper limit until right before the storm arrives. My experience has shown that the higher number is the one that most people remember. In this case I only gave small numbers for the northern areas and that was a little more conservative than The National Weather Service.
Overall I still see most of this as a good forecast, but the perception is key. Based on that I give myself a C. Do you agree? Please comment here or in the post about this article on my Facebook page.
Sign up for email alerts to my articles for Baltimore Weather Examiner
Also keep up to date via
Facebook: Justin Berk, Meteorologist
My website: justinweather.com