Today, it was announced that Dr. Louis Uccellini will take over as the Director of the National Weather Service. I’ve had the opportunity to see him speak a couple times at conferences. I hope he will do well in his new role. Perhaps his first order of business should involve improving how the NWS communicates with the public. Take, for example, the image above. It was produced using computer model output and then color shaded to look slightly more fancy. Much of it is meaningless.
For starters, I can guarantee you there will not be 21+ inches of snow over the open Atlantic waters. When snow falls into water, it melts because, you see, the water temperature is above freezing. (Otherwise it wouldn’t be open water. It would be frozen ice.) Also, nobody lives in the open water, so why inform us of how much hypothetical snow will accumulate in that area?
Last I checked, NOAA and the NWS were organizations in the United States. No need to let us know how much snow will fall in eastern Canada. They will get that information from Environment Canada or the Weather Network.
Now, if you cut out that unnecessary information, you can zoom in on where people live in the northeast US and give them a better idea of how much snow to expect. Of course, you’ll have to get rid of the “BLIZZARD” graphics written right over the top of the heaviest snowfall so that people can actually know what to expect in their backyard.
Finally, I don’t think this is even that accurate, and it contradicts what the NWS local offices are forecasting. For example, they appear to have a 12″ band in western CT. However, the Blizzard Warning that is now in effect for that area calls for 18-24 inches of snow. Now, in my book, there’s a threshold of snow accumulation that, if crossed, it no longer matters exactly how many inches accumulate. It varies by region, but I would think 12 inches is probably the threshold in New England. Once you have a foot of snow, the impacts will be so high that any additional accumulation isn’t going to make the impacts any greater. (Essentially, a foot of snow will shut down most transportation and keep most people inside. So, how much worse can it get if another foot falls?) Still, a 6-12 inch difference in forecast snowfall is not insignificant from a scientific standpoint. It would be nice to see the NWS and their local offices agree on the forecast snowfall, right?