Winter Storm “Neptune” & Beyond

By: - Saturday, Feb 14, 2015 - 10:13pm

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Juno. Linus. Marcus. Now “Neptune.” Either Mother Nature’s cheating on Boston with those people, or currently living life vicariously. Either way, she’s been sketch, and as far as Boston’s concerned, it’s over. Done. Boston would’ve loved to bring her out for a fancy V-Day dinner at Eastern Standard in Kenmore, but she had to go and work herself into a blizzard.

So here we are going through our fourth major snowstorm in less than month. Mother Nature is clearly not taking this breakup that well. Soon it’s restraining order time, because at this point her wrath could perpetuate until early March.

With yet another snowstorm in the works, The Boston Calendar (TBC) caught up Operational Scientist Michael Ventrice of WSI Energy Weather (the professional division of The Weather Channel) to gather some information about the this weekend’s blizzard, the deal with this unusual pattern of weather, and what might come of … Wednesday’s snowstorm!

TBC: As of 2pm EST Saturday (2/14), how much how much snow do you think Boston will get? Also, how windy do you expect to to get, and will winds exceed those experienced in Blizzard Nemo and/or Juno?

Ventrice: It’s going to come down to localized mesoscale features associated with the storm itself for an accurate forecast. My best guess would be 4-8″ for Boston, with locally higher amounts possible over the Cape. Projected sustained wind speeds are forecast to be around 30mph with gusts in the 40-60mph range. This is comparable to a tropical storm or low-grade category 1 hurricane, which would result in less intense winds than both Nemo (80+mph) and Juno (70+mph).

Current snow accumulation forecast via NOAA.

How concerned should Bostonians be about losing electricity as part of the Valentine’s Weekend Blizzard?

Ventrice: While any storm capable of producing wind speeds equivalent to a tropical storm is worrisome, the fact that it will be so cold outside during the peak of the snow and wind makes this aspect slightly less of a concern. Sub-30F temperatures will yield more powdery snow, which will have less of a chance to plaster onto tree branches that then can fall down onto power lines.

TBC: Is there is any truth behind the below statement, which theorizes that jet streams are getting “stuck” in place as a result of climate change, making major winter storms more common?

The prevailing theory seems to be that changing conditions in the Arctic are causing a weakening or destabilization of the jet streams. The jet streams suddenly have a weird propensity to get stuck. These type of snow events could become more common in the near future. Alternatively, we could also see a winter in the near future with average high temperatures in the mid 40s. [Source]

Ventrice: While we still don’t understand the dynamics of climate change and this year is far from over, we do know that we have had comparable winters in the past. The question is then deferred to if we are observing true anthropogenically forced alterations in circulation, or rather it is just part of a naturally varying cycle forced by slow changes in ocean currents that have been well documented in literature.

TBC: What can you say about Wednesday, February 18th’s potential storm? Could it be as powerfully as the current one?

Ventrice: While there is still room to change in our computer weather models regarding the Wednesday storm, at this point in time there is a chance that this storm will have equal to our possibly higher snowfall totals across the Greater Boston region when compared to our upcoming blizzard this Valentine’s Day weekend. This being said, the potential Wednesday storm will likely lack the wind component to be comparable to the Winter Storm Neptune.

TBC: Finally, granted all the snow that’s already fallen this season, is there anything that specifically concerns you about yet another snowstorm in such a short period of time? And/or do you have any advice for Bostonians as they prepare for the storm?

Ventrice: I wish I could give some good news here but unfortunately there are signs in our computer models for another possible snowfall event later next week (sometime between Sunday, February 22 and Monday, February 23). With the current jet stream pattern looking to stay locked in through potentially early March, there are risks for future snow storm events in the Greater Boston area through the remainder of February. My advice to us Bostononians is to help each other and remain civil under such harsh winter conditions. We are in this all together and we will pull through together. Keep up to date with what’s going on with the weather as there will be full coverage available to you by the Weather Channel and or your local new station.

At this rate, Boston will look like this until March (photo taken post Nemo)