Martinsville Weather - Winter Storm Forecast Review for Sat 12/25/10
Long Range Forecast (Poor): I find it interesting (though also a bit frustrating) that, despite all these sophisticated computers that we have nowadays, sometimes we still have no idea what's going to happen just 24 hours into the future. Such was the case with this winter storm. As most of you know, it was discussed a week or more ahead of time, and I was closely watching it along with all the meteorologists up and down the eastern part of the country. But there was a great amount of uncertainty in the actual track the storm would take, and as usual, that was critical in determining how much (if any) snow we would get. In the end, the storm did track closer to the coast, pushing more snow inland. In addition, another system that was sliding along the northern branch of the jet stream pulled even more moisture in toward our area, and that was the critical component that caused us to end up getting so much snow. None of the computer models even began to pick up on that until about 18 hours before the snow began to fall, and that is what led to such poor forecasts from everyone in this area. I always strive to do my best, but in this particular situation, I don't think I could have done any better. We all knew a more significant snowstorm was a slight possibility, but I don't think anyone really saw this coming. I did at least have a mention of some light snow (or originally a wintry mix) in the forecast several days in advance, which is the only thing that saved this from getting a "very poor" rating. Either way, the long range forecast simply wasn't good.
Short Range Timing Forecast (Good): My website update is always later on Christmas morning anyway, so by the time I got my forecast updated, the snow was almost here, making that aspect of my forecast quite simple. I did a good job predicting the end time as well, as the snow tapered off after midnight Saturday night.
Precipitation Type Forecast (Very Good): This was not questionable at all with this particular system; it was obvious that we would get all snow.
Temperature Forecast (Very Good): Temperatures hovered in the mid 30s all day Saturday as I predicted, then we only fell to 30 Saturday night, which was my forecast low. I have learned from the other snow events we've had so far this winter (as well as some in the past) that temperatures don't seem to want to drop very much the night after a snowstorm, especially if clouds hang around. Some other forecasters predicted lows in the lower to mid 20s, but I was fairly certain we wouldn't drop that far.
Accumulation Forecast (Good): My last forecast right before the snow began falling was for 2 to 4 inches, then I upped that to 3 to 5 inches in my evening update. Most locations picked up around 4 or 5 inches, with isolated higher amounts, so that aspect of my forecast could have been better but was still fairly good. I also feel like I did a good job of specifying that snow would mainly accumulate on grass before sunset, then would begin to accumulate more on paved surfaces after that.
Overall Grade: D+
Summary / Conclusion: The "+" after the "D" is because I did have several good aspects to this forecast. However, none of those does a very good job of cancelling out the horrible long-range forecast. This basically turned out to be a big surprise snowstorm, and such a storm can't score any higher than a D. Unfortunately, as I stated above, with the scenario that we were facing, I don't think I could have done much better, and other forecasters certainly didn't do a great job either. All I can do now is see what I can learn from this experience and try to use that to improve my forecasting in the future!
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