Happy New Year!
PLINKO IS THE NAME OF THE GAME
We all remember Plinko from The Price Is Right, don’t we? And now there’s a new show, ‘The Wall’, that’s basically high-tech Plinko. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a gif to refresh your memory. A contestant drops a chip from the top of the peg board and it randomly bobbles back and forth, down the board until it lands in money slot. As you can see $0 is very close to $10K!
So what does this have to do with the weather? Well, using numerical modeling to predict the weather isn’t as easy as numbers in–answer out. There are a bunch of factors: the basic mathematics in the billions of equations being solved, the accuracy of the initial conditions assigned, rounding and truncation errors, and the sensitivity of a particular fluid dynamic setup to chaos. To mitigate the impact of all these potential pitfalls, modern numerical weather prediction relies heavily on ensemble forecasting. (Here’s where the Plinko comes in…individual model runs in highly dynamic scenarios is like dropping Plinko chips and getting a different answer each time.) So… we don’t use any one run of a particular model. Instead, we look at dozens of variations of the same model to ascertain the veracity of the operational or deterministic run of a model. i.e. if the spread is small among all the runs, you’re confident in the outcome. If it’s all over the place, then you have to tread with caution.
This weekend’s potential snow for the Southeast feels more like a random Plinko board at this point, although some focus is beginning to come.
WHAT OUR PLINKO BOARD LOOKS LIKE
As with all winter weather events, it will be fun to see how this turns out, versus what things looked like from a week out. If, in fact, NC receives a major snowfall, it must be said that the GFS American model had it first…in both it’s operational and ensembles…altho the run to run variability has been rather Plinko-like. Over the past couple cycles, the Euro has come on board with the American and Canadian to heighten the threat. And even as there appears a significant threat for the late Fri thru Sat, things are far from certain and the range of solutions continues to be wide. It is conceivable for central NC to get a flurry or a dusting, and it’s also quite possible to get a foot. As with life, the answer maybe falls in the middle…but with the climatology of NC not in our favor…perhaps the answer will fall toward the lower end.
So, here’s an example of what our Plinko board looks like today…some $10K, some $0, some $100. This graphic shows accumulated snow (and note that these plots show all frozen precip to include sleet and freezing rain in addition to snow) from each of the control and ensemble members of the American suite. No doubt, there are some exciting possibilities, and yet there are disappointing outcomes too. (This graphic is courtesy of the good people of WeatherBELL.)
Central/ Eastern NC has the potential for significant snowfall this weekend. Perhaps begin planning what you might do differently, particularly on Saturday. Don’t clean out the grocery stores just yet, though. Also, be aware of the potential for some sprinkles, flurries or snow showers overnight Thursday that will proceed the more significant weekend system.