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Winter Storm Warning: Weather terms and snow ratios

An arctic storm will be the most widespread in 3 years
An arctic storm will be the most widespread in 3 years
NWS, Just In Weather

The expected storm for the Mid Atlantic region on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 will be the largest event in 4 years. It was January 26, 2011 when BWI saw 7.6” of snow. That was the year AFTER our 3-Blizzard winter, and the last real player in town. We did have a range of 4-6 inches on January 2-3 this year. This however will have a wide impact from the mountains to the beaches. A Winter Storm Watch was issued for all of Maryland, and expanded from southern Virginia up through metro New York City. That was upgraded to a Warning for areas west of the Chesapeake Bay by NWS Sterling VA. They are just leading the charge this time, but the nearby weather offices will update shortly.

See my winter 2013-2014 Outlook calling for above normal snow.

I could get into all of the details of this event, but I have been covering a lot of that on social media via my Facebook and Twitter pages. For starters I want to cover some terms that will answer some popular questions. Please note I am now covering snow for Mid Atlantic ski areas on You can get access to snow models, slope cams, and more.

Polar Vortex: That is the CORE of the coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere. Some winters it can wobble south and reach the US. We has that on January 7th. This is NOT the case this time, but a revisit is possible at the end of the month.

Alberta Clipper: That is a fast moving storm that comes out of Alberta Canada. It often has light to moderate snow amounts, but rarely brings those accumulating snows east of the mountains.

Miller B Storm: This can be from a clipper type system that either transfers its energy to the coast or reforms along the coast with rapid development. This can be on an polar boundary and quickly produce moderate amounts of snow. Even east of the big cities and to the coast.

Stickage: That is my term I’ve used for over a decade to describe snow falling and NOT MELTING on the ground. Colder temperatures will allow the snow to lay and stay.

Snow Ratios: This is the reference to how much snow will be produced from one inch of liquid equivalent water. Colder temperatures develop a different type of snowflake crystal that we discuss as being dry and fluffy. That is as opposed to heavy wet snow when temperatures are just at the freezing mark.

This is based on the air aloft, but a common reference to surface temperatures can be:

10:1 – Around 30°F 10 inches of snow can be produced from 1 inch of water

15:1 – Around 25°F 15 inches of snow can be produced from 1 inch of water

20:1 – Around and below 20°F, snow is very dry and can fluff up pretty high with 20 inches from the same 1 inch of water.

Kid Weather App

This is a great time to work off the active weather and see the app I made with my son (when he was 6 years old). It won a Parents Choice Award, was listed on's top 10 list of apps to teach kids science, and has been downloaded in 29 countries. We have over 400 items of trivia plus live weather and forecasts for kids. It's available on iTunes and for Android on Google Play and Amazon. See more and links for your device at

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