Wednesday, 15 December 2010 15:17

According to Dundalk-based Foot’s Forecast, this winter should feature only one storm with the potential to produce scenes like this one from December 2009.    photo by Roland Dorsey

by Bill Gates

One year ago this week, Dundalk was frozen in the grip of a surprise blizzard that dumped around 18 inches of snow on the area.
    That turned out to a mere overture for a winter that saw two more major storms roar through in February and leave over three feet of snow in their wake.
    The December event was considered a “surprise” storm because the National Weather Service predicted an accumulation of five-to-10 inches.
    Foot’s Forecast, on the other hand, called for 20 or more inches of snow.
    The team of student forecasters led by Jackson Road resident Richard Foot, a former earth sciences teacher at Dundalk High, also accurately predicted the other snowstorms last winter, both major and minor.
    In fact, they knew going in that last winter would be paradise for those whose perfect winters include a beautiful white blanket covering the landscape.
    (Disclaimer: there are those who take a dimmer view of snow. Spoilsports).
    “When we were getting all that rain back in the fall [of 2009], I was telling people, ‘The atmosphere is primed and ready to go. All we need is for the climate to get colder and we are going to be clobbered,’” Foot said in a February story in The Eagle. “The moisture patterns were all there, waiting to go.”
    The fall of 2010 wasn’t nearly as wet. And the winter of 2010-11 won’t be nearly as interesting.
    According to Aaron Salter, the Maryland Team Administrator for Foot’s Forecast, the projected snowfall for the Baltimore area this winter is 22 inches.
    When the curtain finally closed on last winter, the area registered nearly 100 inches of snowfall.
    The forecast team, which includes Yorkway resident Ryan Krimm, a junior at Sparrows Point, expects winter in the eastern United States to be “bookended” by two cold periods, with a long period of above-normal temperatures for much of January and some of February.
    Which means rain.
    C’mon, what’s better: dark, dreary grey days of rain, or bright, brisk, invigorating days of snow?
    Late February and early March should see a return to cold and snowy conditions.
    “Snowfall will be infrequent, but when it does occur, there may be several significant, high-impact storms which produce the vast majority of snow for the season in that location,” the team said in its 2010-11 winter forecast.
    But, with the projected snow accumulation for the Baltimore area being about what one of the three major storms left last winter, this area likely won’t see as many “high-impact” storms — in fact, the forecast summary predicts one “major event” for the mid-Atlantic states.
    December through early January will be cold (as anyone coming in from the outside can tell right now), with one major snow event possible this month. Maybe even as early as this weekend.   
    A major storm is projected to come up the coast on Sunday. Some models show it going out to sea, others show it hitting Baltimore head-on.
    Ironically, the very cold air currently sitting over Baltimore could block the storm from moving north.
    If it does hit the Baltimore area, however, it will arrive at nearly the same time as last December’s storm: Dec. 19.
    Sparrows Point High athletic director Russ Lingner, who also enjoys weather forecasting, joked: “I keep telling people this is the same storm that hit us last December. It travelled around the world and now it’s back.”
    So, that’s the scoop for this winter: really cold, then warming, then cold again, not nearly as much snow as last year.