An instantarily accurate forecast of significant lake effect snowfall during Thanksgiving is followed by an immediate reversal. What caused that to occur, and why did the National Weather Service and other government agencies express such concern, only to retract those warnings so abruptly?
The initial response of the National Weather Service in determining to be in advance of this potential weather phenomenon was absolutely accurate. The Thanksgiving week forecasts generated by the various computer models on Wednesday and Thursday of the previous week were unanimous.
The three long-range computer models—the Canadian, the European, and the Global Freeze—all projected the identical relative forecast. A significant depression of low pressure was anticipated to traverse the Great Lakes from the Plains, absorbing substantial quantities of frigid air and resulting in a prolonged lake effect snow event throughout a week of heavy travel.
The fact that all of the models projected the same thing instilled sufficient assurance to issue a warning regarding a potentially severe and even perilous weather circumstance in the days preceding and including Thanksgiving. It is not always possible for computer models to reach an agreement five to six days prior to an event; therefore, all models needed to be in agreement for this decision.
What then happened?
The meteorological prediction underwent a substantial transformation due to the failure of two energy components that were required to combine or phase in order to generate a region of exceptionally low pressure to do so in subsequent forecasts.
The aforementioned “phasing” was observed by computer model solutions on Wednesday and Thursday of the previous week. The same algorithms then predicted on Friday that the energy phasing would no longer occur. Thus, there was no longer a substantial quantity of cold air as predicted, as there was no longer a deep area of low pressure through which frigid air could be drawn down.
The anticipated substantial lake effect snow event was subsequently superseded by temperatures in the forties and partly sunny conditions.Certain computer model-generated predictions for snowfall were published on social media platforms last week, as the outlook for this Thanksgiving week began to appear potentially bleak.
The aforementioned postings failed to accurately convey the prudence and unpredictability inherent in such forecasts. Thus, in the absence of an explanation for that uncertainty, it seemed as though a forecast had been drastically altered without any context. In reality, reputable sources’ and the National Weather Service’s forecasts did advise caution and unpredictability, a viewpoint that was conspicuously absent from numerous social media posts.
Given the meteorological conditions that existed at the time, the precautionary advice issued well in advance of the cyclone was, in retrospect, the correct course of action.
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