NJ weather: From fair back to frigid, weekend storm ‘snow’ or ‘no’?
The Bottom Line
I have been touting Tuesday as New Jersey's warmest day of the week. And that's still true —it just won't mean much, with temperatures running a degree or two above normal for this time of year.
The taste of seasonable temperatures also will not last very long. A new cold, dry air mass will start leaking into the state by late afternoon. Thermometers will tumble back into the deep freezer Tuesday night. And that's where we'll stay for the next few days.
Looking at the longer-range forecast, there will be a powerful coaster storm nearby to start the weekend. It's just a matter of whether it drifts close enough to New Jersey to produce 1.) big impacts, 2.) little impacts, or 3.) nothing at all. Model consensus and forecast confidence have not improved in the last 24 hours, so those three scenarios are all very much still on the table at this point for Friday night into Saturday.
It's a warm front day! Temperatures on this Tuesday morning aren't really that cold. As of this writing (5:30 a.m.), we're mainly in the 30s. (Even as warm as 40 degrees along the Atlantic City boardwalk - woohoo!)
High temperatures should reach the lower 40s, on average, across the state. (More like mid 30s to the north, mid 40s to the south.) A pretty pleasant January day. Our weather should stay dry. And skies will be mostly cloudy, until we get some late-day clearing.
It's also a cold front day! Our next cold, dry air mass will start leaking into the Garden State starting in the mid to late afternoon hours. Temperatures will really crash after sunset.
Tuesday night, thermometers will bottom out around 15 to 20 degrees. Any biting breeze will push the wind chill (the "feels like" or "apparent" temperature) as low as 5. You'll definitely be reaching for the heavy winter coat and the lip balm with that combination of cold, dry, and wind. Skies will turn crystal clever overnight.
For the fourth time this month, high temperatures on Wednesday will be stuck in the 20s. (In case you're keeping score, the other excessively cold days were 1/11, 1/15, and 1/21.) So we swing to 10 to 15 degrees below normal.
Stuck in the deep freezer all day, at least Wednesday will be sunny and dry.
Not much improvement. More sunshine. And more unseasonably cold temperatures. Highs will hover around the freezing mark, in the lower 30s. It's totally possible that all but southeastern New Jersey will be stuck below freezing for yet another day.
Friday & Beyond
Friday's forecast turns murky. And so does our sky. It will become cloudy early Friday morning. And a weak impulse from the west could spark a few snow showers. (Note: This is not the big, bad coastal storm — we'll talk about that in a moment.) Models are even suggesting a quick half-inch to an inch of accumulation. That's not a lot, but could make for a somewhat wintry scene during the day Friday. High temperatures will reach into the mid 30s or so.
Now let's talk about the weekend coastal storm. Some forecasters are posting some real "doom and gloom" pictures on social media. And I will fully admit that the worst-case scenario here would be a major storm from Virginia to Massachusetts. But we have to look at both sides of the coin — there is an equal (if not better) chance the storm slips right out to sea instead.
Let's recap and elaborate a bit on the three storm scenarios I've mentioned previously:
—Direct Hit... If the center of low pressure tracks along a line of longitude between the Jersey Shore and the eastern tip of Long Island, we'll get hammered by snow. (If it gets too close, there could be some warmer air and mixing in play for coastal communities.) This would be a foot-plus storm along and east of the NJ Turnpike corridor. Wind gusts over 40 mph could drive near-blizzard conditions, near-zero visibility, and power outages. Rough surf, beach erosion, and coastal flooding would be concerns too.
—Coast Kisser... Just a few miles farther east and we fall into much calmer weather on the outskirts of the storm. A few inches of snow accumulation could still lead to tricky travel, especially across the eastern half of New Jersey. It would be breezy, but not quite windy. Even the timing of the inclement weather would be limited. 12 hours, in and out.
—Complete Miss... Weaker high pressure over the Atlantic and stronger high pressure over the U.S. would steere the storm to the east, in the out to sea direction. We'd get some clouds and a chilly breeze, and that's it.
So which scenario will play out? Can't tell you yet. I'm scared to even hazard a guess. The latest GFS model run favors something between the "Coast Kisser" and "Out to Sea" possibilities, with only minor impacts for New Jersey. An inch or two of snow, and that's it. Other models and ensembles also lean more toward "big no" over "big snow".
However, the latest Euro model forecast shows an epic winter storm, firmly in the "Direct Hit" category. Raw snow total output range from about 2 inches in NW NJ to 22 inches along the coast.
See the dilemma here? We're still about 90 hours away from the brunt of the storm. And that leaves a lot of time and a lot of room for the storm system's track to "wiggle". I always take "heat" from "haters" for making such wishy-washy forecasts, but that's just how the game of meteorology works. This kind of storm track presents a delicate tightrope walk — and confidence is too low to attempt that walk just yet.
So scribble the chance of a snow storm in the back of your mind, and stay tuned to the forecast. Hopefully we'll have more to say in the next day.