El Niño and BLIZZARD (the novel)

Blizzard-home-cvrAs you’re undoubtedly aware, a powerful El
Niño is expected to exert heavy-handed authority over our weather this winter.  And before I go any further, please, please, please remember El Niño is NOT a weather phenomenon.  It’s the name given to a particular Pacific Ocean temperature regime.  El Niño exerts an influence on weather patterns, but is not in and of itself a weather event.

Okay, glad we got that straightened out.  Anyhow, with a chiller- and wetter-than-average cool season looming for much of the Southeast (see graphics below) due to El Niño’s impact, I got to wondering if that meant there might be a greater chance than usual for ice and snow in the land of cotton and kudzu.

Behind the scenes–forecasting snowstorms

It’s been quite a winter so far. This morning, winter storm warnings blanket New England as the second major tempest–a true blizzard near Boston–in a little over two weeks mounts a furious assault. It’s already dropped 6 to 12 inches on NYC.

Winter storm warnings are also in effect for much of Washington state, northern Idaho and northwest Montana. Wind chill advisories cover the Great Plains and portions of the Midwest. Hard freeze warnings are a dime-a-dozen in the Deep South.

Eight plows?

To say this has been an interesting winter so far would be a healthy understatement. As I write this, the largest city in the South remains wrapped in a blanket of white and virtually shut down for the second day in a row. What little traffic there is creeps like a garden slug on a dewy morning. And the busiest airport in the world isn’t boasting any more action than the airstrip at Barrow, Alaska.

Do they make you do it?

As I write this, bitter cold arctic air is slashing eastward and southward across the eastern two-thirds of the nation, and a pugnacious winter storm is aborning over the Southwest.  Thus, the stage is set for a blitzkrieg of ice and snow from New Mexico to North Carolina over the next 48 hours.

Curiously enough, the storm comes almost exactly a year after a devastating bout of ice and snow assaulted roughly the same area.  The 2010 version, however, will end up focusing its fury just a bit farther south.  After punching New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma hard, the system will throw crippling haymakers at large chunks of Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Sack and Pillage Alert

All one has to do in the Deep South is mention “snow” or even “snow flurries” in a weather forecast, and it’s a given that residents will descend upon local grocery stores like barbarian hordes. All milk and bread will disappear from shelves within 12 hours. The sacking of Kroger. The pillaging of Publix.

Now, before you read any further, I must issue a caution: please keep in mind the Bernard Three-Day Theorem which states “never make or alter any plans based on a weather forecast beyond 72 hours into future.” Despite the proliferation of modern technology and computerized tools, that’s what this ancient meteorologist has learned the hard way a number of times.