Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday Morning: So What Went Wrong?

Good morning everyone. Well it was sure a big one! A big bust that is. I apologize for the bad call on this one, believe me, I will not forget it for a while.  So before we discuss why this storm busted lets look at what is currently going on.

We have intense snow falling right now with blizzard conditions in eastern CT, Mass and Maine. Snowfall rates of 2-3 inches per hour!  You will see some imporessive snow amounts come out of those areas. Down to the southwest the intensity is only reduced. Long Island looks like they did pretty well with this storm. You will see accumulations of over over a foot there. NYC had a decent accumulation so far, but no where near what was expected. To the west of NYC some snow did accumulate overnight and you can see the snow is still underway but it is not intense. 

Our storm right now is sitting just to the southeast of Cape Cod at 976 millibars and completely bombing out. 

So lets get into what went wrong, because you can see the storm is very impressive on the satellite.

Two parts as to why my forecast busted along with other so badly this time- The meteorological reason and the mental reason. 

The meteorological reason:

The low simply formed too far east compared to what the European model was saying.

Actual low position at 1am..

Europeans projection at the same time..

I know this doesn't look like much, but it had drastic implications on the forecast. This was a very complex storm that depended on the transfer of energy to the coast. That transfer of energy was extremely hard to model and pin point. As good as the European model is, this was a major failure. 

But where there warning signs? Yes!

The GFS, Canadian, North American and British (UKMET) model threw many warning signs as their forecasts began to shift east Sunday. So why where they ignored? I think the reason to that is part two of why this forecast was a failure, physcology. 

Everyone has learned to praise the European model over the last few years. After all it was for good reason. The other models, in particular the GFS, always seemed to be wrong and push storms too far east. Eventually, they always came back in line with what the European was saying.So when the European model showed an epic blizzard on its run Saturday night, Sunday and Sunday night the whole meteorological and amateur weather community jumped on board. All of a sudden a herd mentality developed and it seemed like no matter where you went the totals kept getting higher and higher from everyone. The National Weather Service came out with almost unprecedented snowfall protections and all other outlets followed.  Meanwhile those other models lingered and suggested otherwise. There was no turning back now.

Now when I make a forecast I always favor the European. However, how many times have you heard me say " the European looks the best here but you need to blend in the GFS and adjust east a little. I would say take a blend of 65% Euro 35% GFS." Also how many times have you heard me praise the UKMET model as being very accurate. Why did I break form this time and go against what has worked so well in the past? Well, part of it might be what I just listed above but the other part was that I did not want to believe in this extreme case that the European model would be wrong. In other words, I let my snow bias effect the clarity of this forecast. I was waiting years for a storm this big to hit the area again. Well, it resulted in me getting burned. Hopefully as we move throughout the rest of the winter I learn from this failure and the accuracy of my forecasts are a beneficiary of that.

We have a great stretch of winter ahead of us over the next several weeks. The snow that has fallen will not melt quickly and temps will get very cold. There is the chance at light snow later in the week and the pattern is ripe for storm development. If we take a step back for a second, we just had two moderate snow events in a few days so no one can argue that winter is not here. 

I will get back to work and try to keep everyone ahead of the weather as it unfolds. Let's hope next time I am faced with more success and I am confident I will be.

Thanks for all the new followers it makes this passion of mine worth it.


  1. We are all disappointed and we know you are. I pay close attention to your blog and appreciate your "saying it how it is". Keep it up.

    1. Will do! Thank you.. It's now on to the next one.

  2. Keep on doing what you're oing, Willie. I will always check your blog for what I believe to usually be the most accurate weather forecast. Take comfort I nth fact that you were not alone In your mis-prediction. All the big guys got it wrong.

    1. Thanks I appreachiate it, a lot more fun to come

  3. Hi Willy, me and my friend at work have to commute from the 'burbs into Newark every day, so we weren't exactly thrilled about the idea of a blizzard. Yesterday morning at the office we looked at the NAM and GFS 7am runs on the coolwx site, and saw that NAM was in synch with the gloom and doom (from our perspective as urban commuters) bombogenesis scenario. But GFS was going contrarian, bomb would hit Boston, not us. We didn't want to get our hopes up, as the NOAA/NWS forecast discussion was trashing it, outlier with bad convection analysis, whatever.

    But then the 1pm NAM started going east with the storm, and we looked at a North Atlantic weather chart. We could see the high over eastern Canada blocking the storm to the north. And also the high over the Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland. But the forecast track showed that high moving fairly quickly to the ENE, towards the British Isles. Was that what gave the big developing low a chance to spread out to the east, ducking around the 40/70 to the right? Did we actually see an example of under-dog GFS beating champ Euromodel? Is GFS actually new and improved?

    I gather that the overall theory is still to "look at them all" (easier said than done for those of us who are just scrounging around for whatever is free online - so we really appreciate the "Willy synthesis", and we will continue to weigh your forecasts into the mix). But hey, maybe GFS has to be taken a little more seriously now. But we're just at the half-way mark, plenty of winter fun yet to come. It will be interesting to see! We share your overall enthusiasm about the weather, if not always your love of snow.

    You know, though, that guy on the Weather Centre site was talking almost two weeks ago about big storm potential in this timeframe, based on the Pacific Typhoon rule . . . hmm, another thing to add to the mix, maybe. Jim G

    1. Thanks for the comment. You made some good points there. The low passed just outside of the benchmark so you are right that is why this storm was a miss. The European was actually off by 150 miles! There where warning signs all over the place that this could bust. Even the euro ensembles had an unusual spread. The GFS def wins here but I would not say it's time to crown it king.. I think euro will still reign supreme overall.

      So many small factors caused this storm to shift and many which could have been measured in fractions. Andrew at the weather Centre is very good and the typhoon rule is a good general rule for a trough to develop which is always step one for a storm. We should have a lot of action ahead so stay tuned winter is just getting started!

  4. Oh, and the NAO didn't seem right for this either (we checked that yesterday too). Although, PNA was favorable, no big west-east push . . . But hey, the weather is still the weather, still plenty of chaos theory and butterflies flapping over Kalamazoo or wherever. Bottom line, keep on doing what you're doing, Willy; win or lose, it's great stuff !! Jim G

  5. I really appreciate your honesty and your blog. You're my go-to guy where weather is concerned. Even though you got
    burned by the hype and your own desire for snow, you're willingness to admit that openly makes you head and shoulders
    above ALL the other weather guys (on TV etc.) who are trying to cover their asses and making excuses! Last night Lonnie Quinn on Channel 2 at 11 p.m. said, "I'm standing by my snowfall predictions!" as he pointed to a clearly revised map of projected snow totals!!!! We laughed out loud. Willie, You're the best!!!