I know there are mixed reviews of snowfall out there, and it feels like no one is even in the middle on the stuff. Either you really hate snowfall, or you really like it. I am on the side of really liking snowfall, and its not that I like the snow itself as much as I do just merely studying the dynamics behind it.
Whether you like snowfall or not, we can all come to the conclusion that snowfall has either negatively impacted or positively impacted each of our lives at least once (depending on how you see snow). It can disrupt travel, but that gave me so many snow days as a kid. It is cold, but gloves and hats and fireplaces are warm. Growing up in Kentucky, though, I have become used to one thing: a lack of snowfall. To have an excellent winter storm, about 15,000 things have to come together at the right time and they almost never do.
This leads me to this post, as there are a set number of things that almost always go wrong for snowfall here. So here is the anatomy of a KY winter storm.
You have to first start off understanding the 3 H’s of KY winter weather: Hope, Hype and Heartbreak. This is an almost cemented pattern among weather lovers across the state. It is very much a rough life to live, and generally we realize just how badly we really want snowfall by the bias that we favor in our tweets.
We start off by seeing a system gain somewhat consistent run to run promise on the models about 7 days out. The models will typically show something that tracks like this:
This is an ideal path for a winter wonderland of fun. The low would deepen, sometimes rapidly, on the models for 4 or 5 runs, and we would drink the Kool-aid that we made ourselves. This is the major hope that we will use until the VERY last minute. This is key, because without the hope, you don’t have a typical KY winter storm. Our Kool-aid infused hope sets up our ultimate heartbreak in the end.
At some point along the way, we manage to cross into the Hype portion of the 3 H’s. Generally speaking we will look a lot like this with the promising model runs:
This is by far and away the worst for meteorologists to endure. This is where we see things get carried way out of control, and it almost spirals into insanity. You start seeing snowfall forecasts 5 days out like this:
And all we as mets can do is scratch out head and become sad because there is in no way we can win at this point. If it verifies, the people who made the crazy forecast get the credit and become more liable to spread hype again. If it doesn’t, then we are still gonna look bad.
The Hype stage is almost always the stage in which the models go from showing what they had above, to something like this:
This, then brings the Kool-aid Hope back into the picture. We are able to draw from our hope of earlier times to hope that the models shift back to the original forecast, and thus give us a good winter storm.
However, we then get to the last portion of this: heartbreak. Whether it be the low track or warmer air at the mid levels, or a weaker system, or lack of moisture, we are somehow hit. We will be seeing snowfall on radar, but in reality it will just be hitting the snow dome.
This will consistently leave all of us heartbroken. My solution? Just never get excited about it. The 3 H’s are the devil and always win out….