|HARD TO FORECAST:|
WINTER WEATHER IN THE SOUTH
METEOROLOGIST JEFF HABY
Winter weather can be very difficult to forecast in the south within the United States. Examples of states include Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi,
Alabama, Georgia and several others. Of course, this is a generalization since winter weather as a whole can be difficult to forecast
anywhere. However, there are some reasons why it is particularly difficult to forecast winter weather in the south. This writing will
go over these reasons.
One reason is due to the forecast having to cover a range of different precipitation types. In the north, the precipitation type is often
snow in the winter while in the south the precipitation type is often rain. This is another generalization. However, in the south there
are often difficult situations in which the precipitation type could either be a cold rain, snow, sleet, freezing rain, or a combination
of 2 or more of these. It is difficult enough to forecast if precipitation will occur, predicting the precipitation type adds another
level of complexity to the forecast.
Another reason is because winter precipitation is less common in the south. Forecasters in the north often have more experience with
forecasting snow and other winter weather types. Going further south, these experiences are less. This is another generalization since
a forecaster in the south can be great with winter weather forecasts. On the whole though, having less opportunity to forecast winter
precipitation types for the local area can make it more difficult to forecast winter weather when it does happen.
A third reason is due to public attention. Winter weather forecasts for snow and ice often get more attention in the south than in the north. Big
winter storms can be attention getters in the north also but they can be especially attention getting in the south, even when small
accumulations are expected. Reasons for this include winter precipitation being less common, less road preparations for winter weather
and less overall preparation people have in general. Thus, in the south, the forecast will be monitored very closely. With such a
strong scrutiny, any forecast mistakes on precipitation occurrence, precipitation type and precipitation amount will be strongly
Finally, these forecasts are very sensitive to slight changes in the weather analysis. A small change in temperature can mean the
difference between snow, rain and another precipitation type. A slight change in the low pressure track will change the areas that
are expected to receive a certain precipitation types. A slight change in lifting can mean the difference between precipitation
that produces icing and no precipitation. This sensitivity to many weather variables makes it difficult to pin point a winter
weather precipitation forecast in the south.