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COMMENTARY

November gales fade as wintry hints (including the s-word) arrive

Don Paul

After being rocked by a widespread high wind event and its ongoing impacts, the not-so-subtle hints of winter in our early November forecast are probably easier to face by comparison. The winds, unfortunately, lived up to expectations in most locations and did produce widespread damage and outages. Here are the peak recorded gusts, via the National Weather Service

The strongest single gust was 66 mph, from the automated site at the U.S. Coast Guard, with 62 mph at Niagara Falls International Airport. We also experienced record Halloween rainfall for Buffalo, with plenty of soaking rain to go around across the region.

The first snowflakes have already been flying in the cold wind over higher terrain, and there are more to come this weekend. At least a few-of-no-consequence should reach the metro area as well, but some of the hills below the Buffalo southtowns will probably pick up a few inches.

The amounts in this high-resolution model may be slightly overdone with some melting likely, but some of the highest elevations of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties may see totals of up to 5 inches later Saturday night and early Sunday, in a combination of lake-effect enhanced by a passing disturbance. The westerly orientation of the flow will keep the bulk of this modest snow well south, but by late in the game a few mixed rain and wet snowshowers may reach the vicinity of the stadium.

Compared to where we’ve been this autumn, this will be the first fairly cold home game. West winds running about 12-20 mph will take temps not far above 40 and put a low 30s wind chill in the air. There should be some limited sunshine to help out a bit. Early tailgaters will be dealing with readings in the mid-upper 30s and a fairly stiff wind chill as well. A few wet flakes may provide a topic of conversation.

Early signs are pointing to a colder than average first part of November. October brought Buffalo more than twice its average rainfall, but temperatures were 1.5 degrees above average. November will at least start out with more days colder than average (the average high falls slowly through the low 50s early in the month). While Monday and Tuesday will be close to average, a distinct trend toward colder readings will begin to arrive midweek and amplify by late next week into the following weekend. Just a look at the forecast surface map later next week paints a chilly story. A huge dome of high pressure with its origins in northwest Canada will gain dominance of the nation’s midsection, spreading our way.

This progression results in these late week forecast high temperatures, much colder than anything we’ve seen yet.

In the bigger picture for the first half of the month, the European/ECMWF ensemble mean shows a huge blocking ridge of warm high pressure building into far northwest North America, with more of a polar flow approaching the Great Lakes due to a disrupted polar vortex. Again these disruptions point to links with anomalous warmth in the high latitudes, such as near Alaska, weakening the polar jet stream and allowing the vortex to “buckle” southward. Dr. Michael Ventrice of IBM’s the Weather Company posted the ECMWF.

Even a week before the above ensemble, Ventrice posts the developing polar vortex disruption showing up by next Friday.

Here you have the more commonly occurring paradox of regional temporary cold outbreaks in the mid-latitudes being linked with arctic warming. The arctic warming is part and parcel of the world’s mean warming climate, predicted decades ago. The paradox is the episodes of the weakened jet stream produced by that warming leading to the polar vortex dipping south and bringing regional cold in the midst of mean global warming. This can be a tough concept to grasp, but the evidence for it has become very strong.

The Climate Prediction Center is picking up on the polar flow as well, with high probabilities for below average temperatures in our region during the six to 10 day period.

There isn’t much change in their eight to 14 day outlook.

These kinds of probability outlooks don’t necessarily mean every single day in the time period will be so cold. With the passage of time, waves of low pressure come along with some warming ahead of each wave followed by renewed cooling behind the wave. However, such waves also bring up probabilities for rounds of precipitation, some of which will fall as snow.

There is no way to know this far in advance where or how much snow will fall in WNY. But it’s probably a good idea in this coming week to check out your snowblower to make sure it’s ready to roll … just in case. You know the routine, folks.

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