For a second consecutive year, winter on the northern Cumberland Plateau has been very mild and very wet, with little to no snow to speak of. It is quickly turning into one of the biggest “snow droughts” this region has seen in decades, in fact. But with snowflakes in the forecast for this weekend, is there any chance that this could change?
The short answer: not likely.
Colder air will filter into the region beginning Thursday, and rain may change over to snow at times on Friday and again Saturday night and early Monday. But accumulations currently look very doubtful, with temperature profiles that simply aren’t very supportive of appreciable snowfall.
The cold air mass that is going to move southeast for the weekend will deliver only a glancing blow to the Cumberland Plateau region. Currently, it looks like high temperatures will be well above freezing each day — and quickly rebound to near 60 degrees by Monday. The current forecast for Oneida from the National Weather Service is for a high of 40 on Friday, a high of 44 on Saturday, and a high of 48 on Sunday. With low temperatures only getting to or just below freezing each night, those are hardly temperatures that are supportive of snow accumulation, even if snowflakes are flying.
It’s worth noting that some models are showing accumulating snow for our area on Friday and again later in the weekend. But I wouldn’t take them to the bank at this point. The temperature profiles simply don’t line up.
That’s hardly what you want to hear if you’re a snow-lover, but in the words of Alabama football coach Nick Saban: It is what it is.
The broader atmospheric setup across the northern hemisphere just isn’t conducive for snow or sustained cold air in our neck of the woods. It hasn’t been for much of the winter, and it doesn’t appear that is going to change anytime soon. The Arctic Oscillation (which helps unleash cold air from the arctics into the Lower 48) is headed into near-record positive territory; it generally needs to be negative for conditions to be prime for winter in our area. The Pacific North American ridge index (which helps funnel that cold air into the eastern U.S. by building heights along the West Coast) is headed into negative territory; it generally needs to be positive to fuel winter weather in our area. The North Atlantic Oscillation (which helps lock in cold air and push it further south by slowing down the counter-clockwise movement of storm systems and air masses) is still in positive territory; it generally needs to be negative for the best winter weather chances in our area. Additionally, the Madden-Julian Oscillation remains stuck in unfavorable phases.
In fact, this weekend’s quick (and weak) cold air mass looks to be the only cold air that we’re going to experience during at least the first half of February, and there are no compelling signs of a pattern change as we get into the latter part of the month.
The biggest story, by far, is rain — and we’re going to get lots of it. The latest run of the GFS model is currently progging a whopping 8 inches of rain for the northern Cumberland Plateau region over the next two weeks. A good bit of that rain will fall between now and Thursday, with the heaviest rain coming late Wednesday. Flooding could become a concern if the heaviest bands of rain set up over our area.
The NWS forecast reads like a horror story: 100% chance of rain today, 90% chance of rain tonight, 90% chance of rain Wednesday, 90% chance of rain Wednesday night, 80% chance of rain Thursday, 70% chance of rain Thursday night, and continued rain chances each day through the weekend.