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The Challenges of Forecasting and Hindcasting Winter Weather

Contributed by James Bria, CompuWeather Sr. Forensic Meteorologist & Weather Expert

Have you heard a meteorologist say, “There remains a lot of uncertainty with the exact track of this upcoming storm” and thought to yourself…..what does that even mean? Winter weather forecasting can be very difficult and subject to large variations based on the track of a storm. The wind around a low pressure system rotates counterclockwise; therefore the eastern side of a low is the mild side (winds coming from the south) and the western side is the cold side (winds coming from the north) of the low. In general, when a storm passes directly overhead or to the west of your location, that means you are on the warm side of the storm so the precipitation type is more likely to be wet rather than frozen. There are always exceptions to this rule. For instance, higher elevations tend to be colder thus frozen precipitation is more likely. When a storm passes east of a location, precipitation is more likely to be frozen rather than wet. Of course, there still has to be a supply of available cold air for a storm to tap into.

In these types of situations, there can be drastic variations in the type of precipitation over small areas. The location of the incident may be in between a weather station with rain while another equidistant station that has snow  For this reason, the utilization of a forensic meteorologist is extremely vital in determining the weather at a specific location.  CompuWeather’s meteorologists are well versed in all winter weather situations and can give you the definitive opinions you need. Our meteorologist have the experience and knowledge to understand the local tendencies that contribute to weather conditions at a specific location.