Nor'easter

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  • Predicted snowfall amount (in cm) between 00:00 UTC Thursday 21st January and 00:00 UTC on Sunday 24th January.

    Expected track of the developing low pressure area (white arrow) bringing the Nor'easter, and the the air flows around it, showing the contrasting warmer and colder winds.

    Satellite image of a Nor'easter in early 2015 (NASA)

  • Nor'easter
    21.01.2016 16:40

    A Nor’easter storm is the name given to a particular vigorous type of low pressure development close to the east coast of the USA. They are responsible for many of the eastern USA’s most widespread and heavy snowfalls. Short for ‘north-easter’, it gets its name from the direction which winds blow during the storm. Nor’easters are most vigorous and occur most frequently between September and April.

    The normal series of events for the development of a Nor’easter, is for an existing low pressure area moving eastwards close to northern Gulf of Mexico, Texas and Mississippi to become engaged by a strong jet stream from the north-west. The low is steered out over the east coast, often near to the states of Carolina and Virginia, where it undergoes rapid development over the warm Atlantic sea waters. This fuels the rapid development of extensive cloud and heavy rain/snow along a frontal boundary between the mild Atlantic air and much colder air to the west and north of the storm centre. The frontal zone will often stall over several eastern states for 12-36 hours, while the centre of the low pressure tends to remain offshore.

    This Friday and into the weekend, meteorologists at MeteoGroup are closely watching the potential for the next Nor’easter to develop. It promises to bring 50-60mph winds and widespread heavy snowfall and blizzards. It seems like states such as Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, Washington D.C., portions of North Carolina, and perhaps also southern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, are likely to be worst affected.  1-2 feet of snow is expected to fall between Friday and Saturday, locally 3 feet in some areas, combined with severe drifting. This would lead to severe disruption to transport and infrastructure, with the possibility that some villages and towns may become cut off. Currently, it looks like the heaviest snow will pass to the south of New York, but stay tuned to our WeatherPro app and WeatherCast website for the latest updates.

    Meanwhile, over the UK, we are saying goodbye to our recent cold spell by this Friday and the weekend. Instead we will see a return to a weather pattern very similar to the one we experienced (or endured!) in December, with spells of wind and rain sweeping across most areas from the west. The north and west will be worst affected, while the southern and eastern half of the UK will have a better chance of some longer drier spells. Overnight frost becomes less likely, and we will be able to turn down our central heating a bit!

    By: Matt Dobson