Monday, February 27, 2012

Weather Blog: See the Celestial Line Up Tonight

With clearing skies tonight, it will be a great opportunity to see 4 planets (and the moon) lined up across the sky. You will need an unobstructed view of the western sky to see Mercury, and of the eastern sky to see Mars. The two graphics I've included show the positions of the planets on March 1st, which will be very similar to tonight. Here's where to look: Start by looking east about 30-45 minutes after the sun sets tonight. Official sunset is at 6:01 PM, so try to shoot for around 6:45. Look toward the western horizon where the remaining glow of the sun lies, and you'll see Mercury, appearing as a faint star. Higher in the sky lies Venus, the most brilliant star-like object in the sky. Next in the line a little higher in the sky is Jupiter, with a very bright and more yellowish hue.
Well east of the moon and fairly low on the eastern horizon is Mars, with a very noticeable reddish orange color. The sky will get darker the later you go out and Mars will rise higher in the east, but Mercury will also be setting soon after the sun sets. It's for that reason, that you need to be out around 6:45 to see all of these objects together in the same sky. All of these planets are easily viewed by the unaided eye, and it will be well worth the effort to go out and see them. Happy viewing! -Zach

Monday, February 20, 2012

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

We'll maybe not all of it, but the heavy wet snowfall we received yesterday will be fighting an uphill battle trying to maintain its frozen status over the next few days. We reached the mid 40s today, and I expect our highs to reach the low 50s tomorrow, low 60s Wednesday, and hit 70 on Thursday. That's a lethal lineup for even the deepest drifts found in the hardest hit areas of west-central Virginia. And then there's that problem with black ice that will be an issue for the next couple of mornings. I noticed my children this morning were wet rather than cold when they came inside from playing in the winter wonderland. This is nothing new to Virginians, as we've seen this scenario many times, especially as we approach Spring.
If you're a snow lover and the totals weren't enough to satisfy you for the season, take comfort in knowing that some of the biggest snows we've had in our state's history have occurred in the month of March. Nothing very promising is showing up in the pattern over the next week or so, with the only system of even minor interest arriving around the first of March. I'll be tracking any potential closely, and will have the latest on the air, at, and on my facebook page. Enjoy the week, and the snow while it lasts. -Zach

Sunday snowfall will mostly melt Monday

All of central Virginia began Monday morning with a Winter wonderland still on the ground. Here's the sunrise view from Downtown Richmond looking toward Oregon Hill (left side of picture), where nearly 3" fell Sunday night.

The better snowfall was in the west-central and southwestern parts of Virginia, though, as depicted by this morning's post-snow storm snow depth map:

Areas in red on this snow-pack temperature map are the most prone to rapid melting today, especially aided by sunshine and highs in the upper 40s!

Here's some selected snowfall reports from Sunday's storm in central Virginia:
5.1" Glen Allen (Henrico Co)
5.0" Midlothian (Chesterfield Co)
4.0" Hanover (Hanover Co)
4.0" Ruther Glen (Caroline Co)
3.9" Richmond Intl Airport (Henrico Co)
3.8" 4 miles W of Bowling Green (Caroline Co)
3.5" 1 mile WSW of Brook Hill, City of Richmond
3.5" Victoria (Lunenburg Co)
3.5" 5 miles N of Boydton (Mecklenburg Co)
3.3" Caret (Essex Co)
3.0" Westover Heights, City of Richmond
3.0" Hampden Sydney (Prince Edward Co)
3.0" 7 miles NE of Disputanta (Prince George Co)
2.5" Chesterfield (Chesterfield Co)
2.5" Chester (Chesterfield Co)
2.5" Amelia Courthouse (Amelia Co)
2.5" 2 miles WSW of Meltons (Louisa Co)
2.5" 2 miles E of Blackstone (Nottoway Co)
2.0" Newland (Richmond Co)
2.0" City of Colonial Heights
2.0" South Hill (Mecklenburg Co)
1.7" 1 mile NW of Wakefield (Sussex Co)
1.5" Louisa (Louisa Co)
1.5" 1 WNW of Bottoms Bridge (New Kent Co)
1.3" 1 NW of Wakefield (Sussex Co)
1.0" Norge (James City Co)
0.8" Gloucester (Gloucester Co)
0.5" Jamestown (James City Co)

Here's another snowy sunrise shot from Ashland at the campus of Randolph-Macon College:

Stay with CBS 6, we'll keep you ahead of the storm!
--Meteorologist Carrie Rose

Friday, February 17, 2012

Snowfall Forecast Map

Winter Storm Watch In Effect

A winter storm watch is in effect for Sunday across the northwest part of Virginia. A significant accumulation is expected in the watch area, with more than a half of a foot likely in many area. Other counties will be added to the watch area after the adjacent National Weather Services have a chance to issue. -ZD

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dense Fog Advisory In Effect

A dense fog advisory is in effect through the remainder of tonight. Visibilities will be reduced to 1/4 of a mile or less at times. Caution is advised for any overnight travel. Be extra cautious and slow down when encountering foggy conditions. The density of fog in situations like tonight can change rapidly over a very short distance. -ZD

Weather Blog: Snowless Winter Ends This Sunday

So far this season we've only had a few very minor brushes with wintry weather, with nothing more than a trace of snow and ice. That should all change on Sunday. All of the most reliable weather models are now showing a temperature and moisture scenario that should at least give us a measurable snow greater than a trace, even at the seemingly snow-resistant precip gauge at RIC. How much snow is still in question, and won't be determined with true accuracy until the system has come and gone. The model solutions are many, and the number of opinions across the blogosphere are exponentially greater.

I won't snow you, no pun intended, with confusing model lingo and acronyms, but I'll get into some specifics of what I think will occur in the Richmond area as this storm moves through. So here we go. We should begin to see rain developing during the morning hours on Sunday. A cold front will move through the metro around 6 AM on Sunday, and I expect the temperature to be around 40 degrees at sunrise. Forecast vertical temperature profiles, which we call soundings, show the precip to begin as rain. As the rain falls, we will see temperatures begin to fall as well, but only until the air becomes saturated. The point of saturation is called the wet bulb temperature, and with small differences in the temperature and low-level moisture (called dew point depression), we'll see the surface temperatures fall only into the mid 30s by noon. A northerly wind will continue to bring lower dew point air into the region during the day, so we will continue to see the temperature slowly fall to near freezing just after sunset. Although the surface temps might not reach the freezing mark until after dark, I think we will see a change from rain to snow during the afternoon hours. The snow will be heavy and wet and will only initially accumulate on grassy and elevated surfaces, but as the temps approach freezing, we should still have enough moisture around for a quick accumulation before everything comes to an end. Slick spots will be likely by Monday morning, as I expect temps to fall into the upper 20s.

This event is coming at a perfect time, with a light commute to school and work expected on Presidents Day. There will of course be some changes in the track and intensity of the storm, so I'll be back with an update and any necessary tweaking of the forecast tomorrow. Feel free to share this with friends, and you're welcome to drop by my facebook page and leave your thoughts, questions, and comments. Thanks to Claire Powell for the daffodil photo. -ZD

Three-month outlook for Spring

The three-month temperature and precipitation outlook is out from the Climate Prediction Center, showing a continued warmer-than-average trend for Virginia that has persisted all Winter. It looks likely to continue into our Spring as La Nina gradually weakens in the equatorial Pacific. ENSO Neutral conditions should be reached by this Summer.

Here's the temperature outlook for Spring (March, April, & May):

Here's the precipitation outlook for Spring (March, April, & May):

Stay with CBS 6, we'll keep you ahead of the storm.
--Meteorologist Carrie Rose

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Snow or No Snow This Weekend?

The model giveth and the model taketh away. Whether you want a big storm or 70-degrees and sunshine, when we're peering into the future more than a few days ahead, computer model data is all we have to go on. And while weather modeling has becoming increasingly accurate over the past few decades, we sometimes tend to forget that the solutions they give us aren't real. The pretty graphics they generate are based on many approximations, and regardless of how great a storm might look several days away, any one model is only as good as its initial conditions. If it fails to resolve a feature in the atmosphere when it initializes, it will give an incorrect solution for the future. That's why we often approach the extended forecasts with due caution, knowing good and well that things can and will change, even if every model out there shows the same thing. We've seen some pretty big changes in the model forecasts in the past 24 hours for the potential snow this Sunday, and it now looks less likely we'll see much of a storm. But before you write this one off completely, understand that we could just as easily see a move back in the other direction over the next day or two. The system is just now coming on shore near Seattle and Portland, and the models should have a better handle on what it will do in subsequent runs.
Here are a couple of things I like and don't like about the potential for snow this weekend: I like the fact that this is a pattern that has been depicted by the GFS model for over week now. It looked like something could happen around the 17th-19th of the month, and the system is due on the 20th. I also like that while the models are in agreement with a more southerly track that doesn't effect Virginia much, at least all of the models are showing a storm in the region. You can't have a storm shift it's course north if it's not there to begin with. I don't like that the main vort max becomes nearly cut off across the southwest U.S. on Friday. Cut off lows can be a nightmare for forecasting. I also don't like the lack of a Greenland block. Even the most aggressive model takes the storm on a SW to NE track, which has a much better chance of completely missing us to the south. If we had more of a blocking pattern (indicated by a negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)), this would allow a more southern extent to the cold air, and would also cause the storm to track more S to N, or right along the coast. And the last red flag, and a very important one, was the lack of near-freezing surface air during the time of the event. Our in-house model generated a whopping 0.7" of snow yesterday when the Euro model looked its most impressive. Similar to what happened here on Saturday, it can pour snow, but if temps are in the mid to upper 30s, it won't amount to much. But again, it's a model, and it too will change.
So all this leads to me making no changes to my forecast for Sunday. I'm leaving us at 40% for snow, and won't move it until we get a little closer. As I type this, the midday GFS run has completed through the weekend, and is more favorable for snow. But I don't like the midday and overnight model runs. Confused yet? Be ready for snow on Sunday, and a plan for some decent weather as well. Mother Nature will take care of the details. -ZD

Friday, February 10, 2012

Weather Blog: Snowfall Forecast

I was sitting at the dinner table with my wife last night complaining about how this time of the year is the worst for a sports fan like myself. As passionate as I am about weather, my love of sports is not too far off. The NFL is over, as is college football, the NCAA tournament doesn't begin for another month, spring training for baseball hasn't started, the PGA tour schedule is pretty weak, and I've never been a big fan of the NBA or NHL which are in full swing. I'm certainly blessed with a great family and friends, and a few hobbies, but I still tend to get bored without a good lineup of sports on the weekend to either play or watch, or...some interesting weather to forecast. It's just a minor event, and the term itself might even be a stretch, but at least Mother Nature has thrown me a bone this weekend and given me and other snow lovers something to be excited about. The system arriving this weekend will come in two waves. We'll have a round of rain overnight tonight, with a round of light snow late Saturday night. The state of West Virginia and the mountains of west-central Virginia will see a decent snow, with Snowshoe Ski Resort likely enjoying around 10" of powder for the weekend skiers and riders. Amounts in central and eastern Virginia will be far less, ranging from and inch or two across northern and eastern VA, to a dusting to an inch across Richmond and vicinity. The snow will occur after dark in the metro, likely occurring between 9 PM and 2 AM, adding the perfect romantic touch to lovers out on a late night stroll enjoying an early Valentine evening together. Wow, did I really just type that? Anyway, whatever falls will be blowing around mightily on the backs of northwest winds of 15-25 mph. A little light snow collected next to the dog house or on a parked car could be all the evidence left of the system by Sunday morning. I'll have a fire going, the TV off, and a fiercely competitive game of scrabble going wife my wife Saturday evening as I wait for the first flakes to fall. The graphic above is my snowfall forecast through Sunday morning. I'll have updates on my facebook page, so drop by and send me a note and hit the "like" button while your there. Feel free to share this with others, and have a great weekend. -Zach

Weekend Weather Preview

A strong storm system will move through the Mid-Atlantic Saturday, and we'll start to see the signs of it today as cloud-cover increases over us from the west. Here's the early Friday morning infrared satellite picture of the U.S.:

I'll point out two features to you. The first of note is the cold front also associated with the clouds you see moving through the Upper Midwest. That front will move through Virginia Saturday. The second feature is the low pressure system tracking from Texas and pulling in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into the Mississippi Valley region and the Southeast. As these two features converge in the Mid-Atlantic Saturday, we'll have rounds of cold rain in central Virginia, with snow in the mountains of western Virginia in the colder air. However, as that cold front sweeps through along with the digging upper trough (see the 500mb vorticity picture Saturday evening below) and brings in deeper, colder air, we'll have more snow mixing in with the rain Saturday afternoon and after dark.

It currently does not look like there will be any chance for an accumulating snow in the metro, as surface temps should remain well above freezing during the time of the precipitation (in the 40s). A winter weather advisory will likely be issued for areas to our northwest on Saturday (especially along I-81). After the surface cold front passes Saturday afternoon and evening, you can expect windy and much colder weather, with wind chills plummeting into the 20s and teens. If you have Saturday evening plans, be prepared for a blustery, cold night out! There may be a quick burst of snow in central Virginia on the back side of this storm system as that good upper-level energy passes overhead, including in the Richmond Metro, between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Saturday. This may lead to a dusting of snow on vehicles and roofs, but no significant accumulation is expected. Here's one forecast map (NAM) of snowfall potential from that final gasp of snow Saturday night:

Sunday will be mostly sunny, very cold with high temperatures struggling to get out of the upper 30s, and also a bit windy behind Saturday's system. The air mass will moderate some on Monday before the next storm system arrives Tuesday morning. The temperature profile for this second storm system will be similar to Saturday's, with the best chance of wintry weather lying just a little north of Richmond.

Stay with CBS 6, we'll keep you ahead of the storm.
--Meteorologist Carrie Rose
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Some parts of Virginia will see snow Wednesday

A storm system will move east into the Mid-Atlantic today, bringing snow to west-central and far north-central Virginia. Accumulations from this afternoon into early evening should be light in the 1"-3" range, but this will make travel hazardous during the Wednesday evening commute as moderate snow falls and accumulates on roads.

Locations just southeast of the Advisory may also see some snow mixing in with rain showers today, but no significant accumulations will occur as temperatures remain above freezing there. The best snow accumulations will be along ridge-tops and at higher elevations.

Overnight as the storm system moves offshore into the Atlantic and colder air wraps around the backside into Virginia, there may be a few lingering flurries in central Virginia that will not lead to any accumulation.

If you're on Facebook, be sure to "Like" my page here and receive weather updates. You can also follow me on Twitter @SouthernRedRose.

Stay with CBS 6, we'll keep you ahead of the storm.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New snow plow tracker released by the City of Richmond

A new snow plow tracking webpage is now available for public use whenever the City of Richmond snow plows are on the move. Now you can track their progress toward your neighborhood, seeing where plows have already been and where they are heading next. The map will display the City's emergency routes and also the "Priority 1 and Priority 2 routes." Those routes are the major roads, like Broad Street, the Midlothian Turnpike and Belvidere Street. Also on the map: fire stations, police precincts and hospitals, as well as City schools and fire hydrants.

City of Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones released this statement Monday, February 6, 2012 upon the public release of the snow plow map: “Even though we’ve had a very mild winter thus far, we want to be thoroughly ready for any possible inclement weather. Ensuring that our snow removal equipment is up to par and that information is readily available and easily accessible will do much to improve our overall performance in the event of a weather occurrence.”

No additional costs were required to produce this "Snow Plow Tracker" because the City of Richmond says it was developed in-house, using GIS software the City already owns.

You can check out the map on your computer or smartphone at this link:

The mayor is correct about this being a mild Winter so far! Here's the latest Richmond snowfall update:

Stay with CBS 6, we'll keep you ahead of the storm.
--Meteorologist Carrie Rose

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Richmond January 2012 weather summary

As many snow-lovers have noticed (and loathed), January 2012 passed quietly by with only a Trace of snowfall. Although our temperatures generally remained milder most days in January, the average temperature still didn't break into the Top 10 warmest on record for January in Richmond. You can check out that list by clicking here. 2006 holds the number 10 spot with an average monthly temperature of 45.0 degrees, and 1950 in January was the record warmest with an average temperature of a whopping 49.7 degrees! That puts our mild January to shame, really. Here are the complete temperature and precipitation stats for Richmond International Airport this January:

So far this Winter in the Mid-Atlantic, La Nina appears to be impacting our temperature and precipitation trend. Here's what La Nina can do to the U.S. during the Winter Months:

Looks like we are indeed warmer and drier! The jet stream to our north has primarily prevented deep, cold air from plunging into our region and lingering for weeks. The Pacific Northwest also testifies to a cold, wet Winter thus far, with some of the worst winter storms there so far in recent memory. Click here for the summary on their latest winter storm.

Our Winter-to-date snowfall deficit now stands at 6.2" below average. February is typically our snowiest month with about 4.9" of snow on average.

Let me know: do you love a mild Winter, or are you hoping for snow? Join the conversation on Facebook!

Stay with CBS 6, we'll keep you ahead of the storm.
--Meteorologist Carrie Rose