Winter Storm Titan Affects U.S. Coast to Coast


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The forecast for Sunday, March 2. Freezing rain and snow will fall north of the front that stretches from Austin to Boston.

The forecast for Sunday, March 2. Freezing rain and snow will fall north of the front that stretches from Austin to Boston.

What a winter! Polar vortex, coastal storms, lake effect snow, Alberta clippers, and ice — lots of ice.

All the ingredients are in place for Titan to produce another gourmet meal of ice, snow, rain, thunder, mudslides, and wind. A meteorological feast.

Second Try to Break the Omega Block

An omega block has persisted most of the winter in the jet stream over the eastern Pacific and west coast. Storms have been blocked from entering California and the state is in serious drought.

A couple of weeks ago, winter storm Nika plowed through the block and brought some rain and snow to California, hopped the mountains, and re-formed in the central plains.

Titan is forecast to follow roughly the same path, but there are indications that this could be a historic storm.

The Setup For Titan

Last week the omega block was well established in the west and the polar vortex sagged south over the central and eastern U.S.; the warm, humid air was pushed out to sea.

This week, the marine air is moving northward again from the Gulf of Mexico and will meet another advance of arctic air in the middle of the country.

After Titan brings welcome precipitation to California and crosses the mountains, it will re-generate in the plains. The spin associated with the trough in the jet stream and low pressure at the surface will provide enough lift to cause a lot of precipitation.

Precipitation forecast for Feb. 28 through Mar. 3. Courtesy of NWS.

Precipitation forecast for Feb. 28 through Mar. 3. Courtesy of NWS.

Titan Affects California First

Heavy rain is now falling as far south as Los Angeles. This may help relieve the drought, though it certainly will not end it. And in some places it will be too much of a good thing, as the extra rain will result in mudslides in hilly terrain, especially where last summer’s wildfires denuded the ground of soil-protecting plants.

Titan Moves on to the Desert

Many storms dump rain on the west coast, but by the time they reach Arizona the moisture is so depleted that the precipitation is minimal. Titan has the energy and moisture to bring heavy downpours to the desert;  flooding could occur in cities like Phoenix that are not equipped with drainage systems  common in areas more accustomed to heavy rain.

Who Will Get Snow? Ice? Thunder? Wind?

In the central and eastern U.S., the warm air can only make so much progress northward. The cold air is reinforced by a massive high pressure center in central Canada.

After Titan hops over the Rockies, the first battleground will be Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas, and the combat moves east over the weekend and into Monday. There is sure to be a band of freezing rain and one of heavy snow. Exactly where depends on the location of the thirty-two degree temperature line.

Current forecasts show the heavy snow through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and eastward from there, probably to include Philadelphia and New York. The freezing rain will be south of the heavy snow and could impact a swath from Little Rock to Washington.

Thunder is possible in the warm air, and if the storm develops a deep low pressure center, winds will pick up as it approaches the coast.

Will There Be More Winter Storms? Ulysses? Vicky? Wiley? Xenia?

With the omega block broken and a low latitude zonal (west to east) flow established for the jet stream, a parade of storms could be on tap. But current forecasts foresee the cold air pushing well into the Gulf of Mexico behind Titan, so the next storms may not have much moisture to work with.

Looking further ahead, computer models suggest that the omega block will try to make yet another comeback. If that happens, it will be a late spring from Montana to Texas and eastward to Georgia and Washington, DC. March may come in like a lion and go out like a lamb — but they’ll both be shivering.

Most long-range forecasts for April predict a continuation of below normal temperatures for the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. Normally such far-in-the-future prognostications are mostly hot — or in this case cold — air. However, this year’s omega block and polar vortex have been remarkably persistent, so don’t put away the winter apparel for a while.

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