Decoded Science Names Winter Storm Xenia

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This National Weather Service forecast for Wednesday shows Xenia, a powerful storm off the Atlantic coast. Courtesy NOAA.

This National Weather Service forecast for Wednesday shows Xenia, a powerful storm off the Atlantic coast. Courtesy NOAA.

It’s hard to believe it, but when we look back on the winter of 2013-14 this may be the storm we remember.

Sometimes It All Comes Together

The Polar Vortex. The jet stream. The ocean. The temperature gradient. These are all important ingredients in the stew that can become a whirling mass of snow and rain.

Sometimes the ingredients don’t mesh properly and the storm poops out like a sunken soufflé. But sometimes…..

Xenia Could Be The Sometimes.

The polar vortex just won’t quit. Over the weekend, yet another surge of arctic air will invade the eastern United States. The surge will come smack up against the warm humid air from the Gulf of Mexico that will give Dixie a balmy Spring Break.

In the jet stream, there are waves in the Gulf of Mexico and the Upper Midwest. If they combine on the Georgia coast on Tuesday — and this appears increasingly likely — the result will be a whizbanger of a northeaster with winds of hurricane force and heavy precipitation along the coast. New York and Boston could see a foot or more of snow.

The Possible Paths of Xenia

Xenia will form in the Georgia bight (the curve of coastline that runs from Cape Fear, North Carolina, to Cape Canaveral, Florida – Georgia’s coastline forming the center of the region) on Tuesday, and the path will surely take it more or less parallel to the coast. It’s the ‘more or less’ that will decide who gets how much precipitation.

An offshore route will just brush the outer Banks and Cape Cod; but a more western route will bring heavy snow and near-hurricane-force winds to a significant portion of the north Atlantic coast.

Effect of Winter Storm Xenia on the United Kingdom and Europe

The deep trough in the jet stream that has been positioned over the eastern United States for the entire winter has been accompanied by a ridge across the pond. London and Moscow have basked in unprecedented warmth. One of the by-products has been a very rainy winter in England. The deep fold in the jet stream associated with Xenia will undoubtedly result in a ridge over Europe and a continuation of the mild temperatures.

Effect of Xenia on the California Drought

Just as there is a ridge downstream of the eastern U.S. trough, there is a ridge upstream, which has resulted in very warm and dry weather in the American west. This ridge is also anchored by warm water in the Gulf of Alaska. The pattern has become more complex recently, with the northern portion of the ridge closing off to form a separate high pressure area. A branch of the jet stream has broken through at lower latitudes, and California could receive some rain in the next couple of weeks.

Could This Be The Last of the Winter Storms?

The weather pattern this winter has been so persistent that it is hard to bet on a change. Medium range forecasts indicate that a couple more waves in the jet stream will follow Xenia, but neither looks like it will be more than a nuisance. After that, longer range forecasts show the polar vortex flattening out, with the most vigorous portion well north of the U.S.

Despite the fact that we’ve heard this song before, Decoded Science is forecasting that Xenia will be the last named storm of the season. Eat your heart out, Yona.

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