This is an open letter to all meteorologists: can we please agree to stop showing snow forecast accumulations more than three days out? Just because you ONLY post it on Facebook, doesn't mean people are going to forgive you when it changes. These forecasts always end up being more false than true, especially a week out.
Everybody is a little bit on edge after the snow and ice that fell from Louisiana through the East Coast this week. We see pictures on TV of gridlock in Birmingham and Atlanta, hear from friends and family about being stuck for hours, and it reminds us that sometimes snow/ice can be more dangerous than pretty.
Fast forward to today where on my Facebook page, a viewer asked me a question about this post, that was shared in their timeline. You can see the picture to the left. The post was titled "Storm Alert: 10 to 12 inches of snow possible next week."
Her message: "Will we get this in West Point, Ms. And if so will it be ice or snow and any accumulation? My hubby drives an 18 wheeler within a 100 mile radioisotope of WP."
The woman has a real reason to be concerned: her husband is exposed to the elements because of his job.
Before you can ask, NO… WE WILL NOT SEE ONE FOOT OF SNOW. We might not see any flakes, even.
The forecast you see was based upon one run, of one model, and has gone viral. That same model, fipped back today with virtually NO SNOWFALL in Mississippi. Why? Snow is a very complicated thing to produce, especially in the south.
Forecasting snow fall in the southern United States a day, much less a week out is difficult because snow forecasting has a lot of moving parts:
First: the air at the surface must be cold enough (below 32°F).
Second: the air must be cold enough aloft, through the entire column the flakes fall (Less than 32°F). The Gulf of Mexico usually adds warm air at some layer of the atmosphere above the surface, subtracting from snow totals.
Third: there must be enough moisture and lift to produce precipitation.
Fourth: the air near the surface must be humid enough that the flakes make it to the ground.
Fifth: the temperature of the ground must be cold enough that the snow doesn't melt.
The short explanation: A LOT that has to be perfectly forecasted for that snowfall forecast to be accurate. A small change in temperature, moisture, or the positioning of the upper-level storm system, and the forecast can prove to be VASTLY DIFFERENT. A week out, and the forecast you were looking at is probably VERY wrong.
Facebook is EXTREMELY powerful. Bad information travels just as fast, if not faster than accurate information. When it comes the snow forecasts, data/information can change very quickly. As a viewer, it's hard to know what to trust and what not to trust, especially when hundreds of your friends have shared the same thing. Growing up, my mom used to say, as yours might have as well: "Don't believe everything you see on TV." From now on, when it comes to snow, maybe she would say: "Don't believe it UNTIL you see it on TV ;)"
There is a reason we don't show snowfall accumulation maps more than 2 days out on WTVA: things change.