|Mean 500 mb pattern for March 1-March 29th|
|Mean 500 mb pattern March 30th-April 1st|
|500 mb pattern for Monday morning|
meteorologists term meso-banded precipitation or mesobands. Even more intriguing is these mesobands can often allow snow to fall (and possibly accumulate) at much lower snow levels than expected.
The odds are quite good that the region will see mesobands of precipitation form, the big question is where and what will the impacts be?
To answer the first question of where will these bands form, we first need to look at the positioning and track of any surface low tracks. Here is a look at four weather models we typically utilize and where they place the low (and resultant precipitation) as of 5am Monday morning.
|4 model solutions with surface low position and 6-hour precipitation valid 5am Monday|
When there are wide disparities between our core models we like to defer to ensemble modeling. This is where we take an initial model run and add small perturbations to the mix. The perturbations begin small but with time tend to grow. When the models cluster the positioning of a low, this boosts our confidence in the forecast, whereas if lows are strewn haphazardly across the region, our confidence is quite low. So here's a look at the SREF positioning of the surface lows for Monday morning.
|SREF Surface low positions for 5am Monday|
Although there are plentiful lows (L's) found across the Inland Northwest there is a wide scattering of their positions. The fact that there are plentiful lows is good from a standpoint of there is fair confidence of an event occurring. However, the wide scattering of the L's lowers our locational confidence significantly. We can also look at the mean of all the low positions and the mean of all the precipitation data to come up with a preliminary snow forecast. In this case, the SREF is showing this as the mean snowfall for the 12hrs ending at 11 am Monday.
|Mean 12hr snowfall ending 11am Monday|
|Sandpoint snow plume diagram|
|Spokane snow plume diagram|
Now despite these snow forecasts, the other factor to consider is how easily will this snow accumulate on the ground? The temperature forecast for late Sunday night and early Monday morning is for readings in the lower to middle 30s. Certainly cold enough for snow, but perhaps not enough for significant accumulations, especially in the Spokane area. After sunrise, temperatures will slowly climb into the upper 30s to middle 40s which suggest snow accumulations are even less plausible except perhaps on grassy surfaces.
So in summary we are fairly confident a deep but compact surface and upper-level low-pressure system will track through the Inland Northwest producing locally moderate to heavy precipitation some of which will fall as snow. Where it will go and what time of day it hits will be critical for determining what it's impacts will be. Winter driving conditions are certainly possible for the Monday morning commute, especially north and east of Spokane. In the meantime, stay tuned to our latest National Weather Service Forecasts and don't put away your winter clothes quite yet.