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Metro Detroit weather: Monitoring next week's storm

Computer models suggest interesting trend for Tuesday's storm

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DETROIT – Friday's computer models are showing some interesting trends with respect to Tuesday’s storm. I’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s talk about our weekend weather.

The very cold air that has been over us Thursday and Friday will slide off to the east this weekend, but not before we have another very cold night.

Mostly clear skies and lighter wind than in recent nights will allow temperatures to fall into the low teens (-11 degrees Celsius) and perhaps to around 8 or 9 degrees (-13 degrees Celsius) in rural areas. Even though wind will be light, the southwest wind at 4 to 8 mph will create wind chills between 0 and 5 degrees (-18 to -15 degrees Celsius) by dawn Saturday.

Mostly sunny skies Saturday morning will make for a great, albeit cold, start to the day, but clouds will increase during the afternoon. Milder temperatures that should reach 30 degrees (-1 degree Celsius) will make it a fine winter day, if you can handle the 20-degree (-8 degrees Celsius) wind chill generated by the south-southwest wind at 8 to 13 mph.

Saturday’s sunrise is at 7:43 a.m., and Saturday’s sunset is at 5:52 p.m.

Light snow is possible Saturday night, but I don’t expect much (if any) impact. The best chance for a dusting to accumulate is farther north in our area. Temperatures should remain steady in the upper 20s (-2 degrees Celsius) throughout the night.

Any light snowflakes early Sunday morning should end during the morning, with mostly cloudy skies the rest of the day. There will be no weather problems getting to and from Super Bowl parties. Highs will be in the upper 30s (3 to 4 degrees Celsius).

It will be mostly cloudy Sunday night, with lows in the mid 20s (-5 degrees Celsius).

Monday will be mostly cloudy, with highs again in the upper 30s (3 to 4 degrees Celsius). It will be cloudy Monday night, with lows near 30 degrees (-1 degree Celsius).

Tuesday storm

As I mentioned Thursday, and have many times in the past with regard to other storms, meteorologists won’t get completely confident about the storm until the upper air disturbance, which is now still out over the Pacific, crosses the coast over our continent. Then, the National Weather Service weather balloon network will be able to acquire data about its characteristics and put that data into the computer models.

There are some encouraging trends being suggested by Friday’s models. First, let’s take a look at Friday’s GFS and ECMWF models, which are centered on 6 p.m. Tuesday:

Friday's computer models:

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Now, let’s compare them to Thursday's same two models, which I showed you then:

Thursday's computer models:

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First, take a look at the GFS model. Notice that there isn’t much change between Thursday’s and Friday’s models. That is huge news. Meteorologists love day-to-day consistency in computer models, which gives us added confidence.

Now, take a look at the ECMWF model. Notice that the Friday model run is farther north than the Thursday model run. Meteorologists generally don’t like inconsistencies such as this, except for one thing in this case: The ECMWF has trended toward a solution pretty close to what the GFS is showing. Meteorologists love when models start converging upon a common solution.

By the way, I use the term "solution" as a math analogy: Consider the forecast as a math problem, and the computer models as offering various solutions to the problem.

There are still some differences, however, that have meaningful effects on what kind of weather we get. The ECMWF shift to the north and the GFS maintaining its farther-north solution does suggest that we won’t see an extended period of snow or ice as the storm approaches.

I’m not saying that we won’t see any snow or ice, just that the storm shouldn’t become a big snowstorm or ice storm for us. Based on this, I think it’s still possible to see some freezing rain develop sometime Tuesday morning, especially the farther north you are, but then change to rain after a couple or three hours.

Much more of our Tuesday should be plain rain than freezing rain, based on Friday's models. Keep in mind that even though the two models are in much more agreement Friday than they were Thursday, there still can be some changes this weekend, as that upper-level disturbance finally crosses the coast and the models get a better handle on it.

Also note that this should become a major winter storm for northern Michigan, so be aware that significant travel difficulties might develop if you are heading up north next week. I will update this once the details become clearer. As I mentioned on Thursday, I will tweet you this weekend if there are any important changes. You can follow me at @PGLocal4.

Temperatures late Tuesday into Tuesday night should rise into at least the low 40s (6 degrees Celsius).

Then comes Wednesday. Once the system passes to our east and its associated potent cold front blows through, temperatures will plummet throughout the day Wednesday, and it will become very windy, perhaps even blustery enough to warrant a wind advisory. Stay tuned.

Snow squalls are likely, as well, so let me put you on notice right now that next Wednesday will be a very nasty winter day.

Response to a reader's email

On Thursday, I received the following email in response to my afternoon weather article:

"From Paul Gross: 'My science does not allow specificity in situations like this five days in advance."'Yet he can spout his global warming nonsense, what a joke! Can't be certain about weather 5 days in advance, but knows for certain there is global warming, a joke and a travesty.

Weather and climate are very, very different. Weather is specific atmospheric events that occur on time scales of minutes to days. Climate is the long-term average of various types of weather, over time scales of decades to centuries to millennia.

Forecasting individual weather events involves very careful analysis of highly specific thermodynamic data and, in the case of severe weather outbreaks and winter storms in which precipitation type will be changing, those small-scale thermodynamic details generally cannot be determined many days in advance.

Climate, on the other hand, is a long-term average, and we generally don’t deal with the "noise" that arises from small-scale details.

The best analogy I can give you utilizes the Detroit Tigers’ great Miguel Cabrera. If, on a Thursday during the season, you asked me to predict exactly how many hits he would have -- including what types of hits -- in the following Tuesday’s game. I would have a lot of questions involving who the opposing pitcher would be and if a nagging injury would get worse between now and then and affect his play. There would be a lot of possibilities as to what kind of offensive game he would have based upon these variables, or if he would even play at all.

If I waited until a day or two before that game, I’d have a much better idea. That’s what weather is.

But if you asked me to predict what kind of entire season Miguel Cabrera will have, I would tell you that I think he’ll have 32 home runs, bat .320 and knock in 100 RBI. Barring a serious injury, I feel pretty confident that he’ll be in the general vicinity of these long-term numbers. That’s climate.

I have reported responsibly about climate change and global warming since I interviewed my first climate scientist back in the early 1990s. I’m one of the first broadcast meteorologists to start taking this issue seriously and report on it. I only report to you rigorously reviewed scientific research, and you should know that some research back in the mid-1990s had me very skeptical at that time about the entire concept of the planet warming.

Since then, however, an overwhelming balance of scientific research has pretty much settled this question. Over 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists and climate research published in the scientific journals agree with this.

The bottom line is, forecasting next week’s storm and assessing how changing the composition of our planet’s atmosphere -- yes, humans have actually changed our planet’s atmosphere over the past 150 years -- will affect our planet’s future climate should not be equated.

While there is a lot of uncertainty about next week’s storm, there is large-scale agreement on our planet’s future climate.

If you want an education on the subject from a nationally acclaimed source, check out my most recent climate change webcast right here. You’ll learn a lot.

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