Mother Nature has repeatedly teased us since we turned the calendar to 2015. Cold air has dominated the country east of the Rocky Mountains with one arctic blast after another coming south, and an active storm track that has many in the eastern U.S. ready to cry "uncle". The main ingredient - cold air - to bring one or more snow events to the Deep South has been on the table all along, and what have we seen in and around Columbus? Not a flake!
Winter may be about ready for a big climax as we get set to close out February, our last winter month (in a climatological sense). A wave in the upper westerlies will spawn a surface low in the Gulf, tracking east with moisture available and lingering cold air lurking just north of us. A perfect setup for a southern snowstorm!
And forecasters are thinking just that, despite conflicting data from the forecast models. The biggest question with this system is how cold will the temperatures at the surface be? If they can stay a degree or two above freezing or colder, there's going to be some accumulating (wet) snow, potentially several inches if not even more. If it's too warm the rain may win out, and if the low is too far south those in line for snow could wind up dry. Quite a challenge for forecasters.
The setup is classic, but unfortunately for Columbus snow fanatics it looks like a Birmingham-Atlanta event, extending northward into the north Georgia mountains and Tennessee. If this were January, we might be right in the middle of it, but in late February it's just harder to get enough cold air at all levels to change the rain over to anything frozen. It does happen (see 1993, 2009, 1914, etc.), it's just tougher to have everything come together just right. Bottom line: all (or, almost all) rain for our area.
Still, this is a close enough call that we'll have to watch developments closely, with a bit of nowcasting involved. Right now it looks like the best Columbus can hope for is a quick changeover from rain to snow as the rain moves out, and that would happen early Thursday morning when most would be asleep. It doesn't always work that way - sometimes the rain ends too soon.
Winter Storm Watches are posted for large areas of Georgia and Alabama just north of our News3 coverage area, and it's quite possible they will be upgraded to warnings by early Wednesday morning.
Still, I'll add this note of caution: the fact that the models still can't agree very well at such a short time range sets off alarm bells, and the potential is there for a major bust. For us, Columbus and surrounding area is in for a good bit of rain Wednesday afternoon through early Thursday. It's an easier call here than it is for Atlanta and Birmingham. We'll have the event (or non-event) covered here at News3 with regular updates on all our weather platforms!