Early spring is in full swing in Maine and this week will be a good reminder that Spring is a battle between warm and cold. In the beginning, cold wins. Slowly but steadily, the warm air wins out but it will take many messy battles before that happens. For now, the advantage is with the cold. We’ll see that in full swing in the next few days as a powerful Colorado low which is currently bringing every type of weather under the sun from Colorado/Nebraska blizzards to Texas tornadoes. The storm will be significantly weaker by the time it gets to us but will still be potent enough to cause some issues tomorrow into Friday.
The Setup: This Evening
A cold front is moving through the area currently (blue line on map) and winds behind it are out of the north which is bringing in cold air. Canadian high pressure is diving SE across Eastern Canada and will continue to supply this cold air through most of the event. Low pressure is moving across the Western plains and will be moving NE towards our area tonight into tomorrow. A warm front extends out ahead of this storm and is linked to the cold front bringing us the cold air this evening. This warm front will try to push north tomorrow and Friday but cold, dry air in place will impede its progress significantly.
Round One: Snow Tonight Into Tomorrow Morning
Precip starts late tonight and tomorrow morning in the form of snowfall. Initially, everyone is snow and very light accumulations are likely for everyone by the morning commute. Snow will be light though and major issues are not expected. That tapers off tomorrow morning leaving mid-day tomorrow mainly dry but cool. The main system can be seen at the very end of the loop spreading into western PA/NY.
Round Two: Main Storm: Surface Edition Friday
The warm front mentioned in the setup section will attempt to move north overnight tomorrow into Friday. It will hit a brick wall at around route 1 which will let temps rise above freezing at the immediate coastline but will keep inland areas below freezing. This pattern should continue through mid afternoon Friday before the low passes overhead and the trailing cold front busts up the inversions holding the low level cold in place. This is the surface pattern that is known far and wide for not changing. Guidance says most of the region goes over to rain by 9 AM. I think it will be 3 or 4 in the afternoon before temps rise above freezing in inland/mountain areas.
Round Two: Main Storm: Upper Air Edition Friday
Aloft, a much different story will play out. There is no Canadian high above 3-4 thousand feet. Therefore, there is no source of cold air. Warm air blasting north will have no trouble pushing the cold air in place out of the way. This will result in a classic mixed precip setup where snow forms in the cold layer really high up before melting in the warm mid levels of the atmosphere. It then refreezes close to the surface resulting in sleet and freezing rain depending on the depth of the cold at the surface. With the cold Canadian high just to our north, there will be a continuous feed of cold dry air being funneled down the east side of the mountains. This is a classic Cold Air Damming setup and CAD always lasts longer than you think even if you think it will last longer than you think. That tongue twister boils down to the fact that cold air moves when it’s good and ready too and it’s not usually to motivated to go anywhere.
Round Two: Main Storm: Impact Map Friday
Following the initial snow tomorrow morning, this is what I expect for impacts. Everyone starts out with a little mix but strong SE winds should quickly warm the coast up above freezing resulting in mainly rain there. Despite that, do be prepared for slick conditions everywhere as sleet and freezing rain are a dangerous combo especially with some leftover snow around. Inland, even a few miles, cold air will put up a much mightier fight. Look for snow changing to sleet changing to freezing rain. Sleet and freezing rain look to be the dominant precip types through this event. Snow will quickly change over to a mix as warm air blasts in unimpeded aloft but for most areas away from the coast, the surface high will be enough to keep temps below freezing at the surface for a good long time. In terms of accumulation, in the green area, a trace to a tenth of an inch of ice is expected. In the pink area, a tenth to a quarter inch of ice is expected.
Rounds One And Two Combined Snowfall: Tonight Through Friday
Here is what I expect for snowfall before we change to a mix or rain depending on location. While I have the Penobscot Bay and York County regions missing out on any accumulations, I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see coatings there tomorrow morning. This all basically is gone Friday afternoon as sleet and freezing rain turn the ground into an icy crust. The March sun angle is still a factor here despite cloudy conditions and sleet/freezing rain could have a hard time accumulating on pavement. However, please use caution especially Friday as any untreated roads will likely be slick. This snowfall map includes precip tonight and into tomorrow morning.
Round Three: Possible Storm: Early Next Week
Following this storm, we have a nice early Spring weekend to look forward too with cool temps and sunny skies. However, tranquil patterns rarely last long in March in Maine and by early next week, another storm threatens. As you can see here, guidance is converging on the idea we see some sort of precip. How much/what type is still yet to be determined. Snow, mixed precip, and rain are all on the table as well as no storm at all though that is becoming less likely. While it is too early to offer details, I just wanted to put that out there as something to watch in the coming days.