Ho ho holy crap, there's going to be a "SantaBomb" next week, according to the hive mind on social media. The term is a nickname for a potentially large and disruptive storm that weather models are suggesting could affect much of the eastern United States and Canada just in time for Christmas next week.
What the heck is a "SantaBomb?"
Much like Snowmageddon and Snowpocalypse, the delightful folks on Twitter came up with the name "SantaBomb" to describe a potentially disruptive storm that's expected to affect much of the eastern United States and Canada towards the middle of next week. The name is a reference to bombogenesis, which is the rapid strengthening of an extratropical cyclone by at least 24 millibars over the course of 24 hours.
The name is equally as ridiculous as anything The Weather Channel pumps out, but I am just a mere blogger and cannot stop the momentum behind people's desire to Fisher Price the weather. As opposed as I am to naming winter storms, I use "SantaBomb" here because the name is spreading so rapidly and people are confused about what it is, exactly. For instance, no, it has nothing to do with the threats by Sony hackers; despite what the Kims would like you to believe, they cannot control the weather.
Let me stop you right there. The government's servers that host the GFS and GFS Parallel weather models wet the bed this morning (because this is a PG-13 sub-blog), so we don't really have a good look at the 12z (7:00 AM) run of the models. All of the data in this post is from the 06z (1:00 AM) run of the GFS and GFS Parallel. I'll update with fresher info as the weather gods sort out the mess. The next run of the models (18z/1:00 PM) starts posting online around 4:30 PM.
Interrupting is rude. Anyway, what's going on?
A robust jet stream will spread over the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada on Tuesday and Wednesday. The deep troughing and favorable placement of jet streaks—areas of enhanced winds within the larger stream—will foster the rapid development of a low pressure system over the Great Lakes region on Wednesday morning.
The models generally agree that a major storm will develop, but the exact placement and timing is a little iffy. What will likely occur is that a low pressure will form over the Ohio Valley and rapidly move towards the Great Lakes during the day on Wednesday, before undergoing explosive strengthening on Wednesday night and into Thursday. After deepening, it will move farther north into Ontario.
Here's the 06z GFS (American) model, showing a deep 977 millibar low sitting over the Ontario shore of Lake Huron at 7:00 AM on Thursday:
Here's a look at the storm from the upgraded GFS model, called the GFS Parallel for now. This is valid for 1:00 PM on Thursday:
This morning's run of the European model—if I were legally allowed to show it to you, that is—shows a similar situation, with a very deep 966 millibar low over Lake Huron at 7:00 AM on Thursday, moving north into Ontario throughout the day on Christmas.
There is astounding model agreement that this storm will come to fruition, but remember that this storm is five to six days away. That's an eternity in weather years, but with this much agreement, it's unlikely that something so dramatic will occur that the storm doesn't happen. The timing, strength, and location will likely shift as we get closer to the event, but as of now, it's likely that it will happen.
What are the possible impacts?
It's too early to make a call on specifics like accumulations and exactly who will see what, but the Appalachian Mountains and Great Lakes states are the likely winners when it comes to snow falling on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Check back on Sunday or later for more specifics on this.
Rain will be an issue along the East Coast, especially along the powerful cold front that will accompany a low pressure system like this. The location of the low favors the transport of warm, moist air from the south, likely giving many spots some warmer-than-average temperatures for a day or two next week. We have a hard enough time seeing snow when a coastal low comes through—it's very unlikely with this system, unless it dramatically shifts east, that the major cities along I-95 will see anything but rain.
Oh, and when I say "East Coast," I mean the entire East Coast, with the GFS painting rain associated with the system from Florida straight up through Maine and into Atlantic Canada.
With such a strong system with a tight pressure gradient, wind will be a big issue. Gusty winds may cause flight delays at airports like DTW or CLE, and with a roaring jet stream, people flying anywhere along or across the East Coast can expect some turbulence at flight level.
If strong winds coincide with snow, some areas in the Great Lakes or Canada could see blizzard conditions at times. Blizzard conditions exist when sustained winds of 35 MPH cause blowing snow that drops visibility to 0.25 miles for at least three hours.
It looks as if we will see a major storm impacting much of the eastern United States and Canada during one of the busiest travel days of the year. If the storm forms as the models are suggesting today, the resulting snow, wind, and rain could severely impact air travel in particular, let alone your drive over the hill and through the wood to grandma's house. Keep an eye on the forecast through the weekend, and hope that the ridiculously-named "SantaBomb" doesn't come to fruition. Or hope it does, if you're desperate for a white Christmas.