3 rounds of accumulating snow to keep Northeast feeling wintry

·7 min read

Thanksgiving was barely in the rear-view mirror when the weather took a wintry turn across the Great Lakes and Northeast, and winter weather will persist this week as December and meteorological winter begin. A series of at least three quick-moving storm systems will unleash additional rounds of snow, slippery travel and generally chilly conditions, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.

Even though warmer air is forecast to build and expand over much of the United States this week, forecasters say a stubborn pocket of cold air will stay put from the Upper Midwest to New England and parts of the central Appalachians and mid-Atlantic regions over the next several days. The coldest air may gradually retreat as the week progresses, but it will put up a fight along the way and will linger closest to the Canada border.

This image shows snow reports across the Northeast from Sunday to Monday morning, preceding the clipper that moved into the area from the west on Monday night. Most of the snowfall at these locations was attributed to lake-effect.

A southward dip in the jet stream will keep cold air locked in across the northern tier, and the weather systems, known as Alberta clippers, will ride along the plunge in the jet stream. These often quick-moving systems are named for the Canadian province from which they originate and tend to be moisture-deprived storms that trigger light to moderate snow on their northern and colder side.

One weekend system already paved the way for the upcoming clippers, and it brought accumulating snow to the Great Lakes, Appalachians and from portions of the central Appalachians to New England. In some areas, it was the first measurable snow of the season, and it looked more like a winter wonderland as some college and NFL football teams battled each other and the elements on snow-whitened fields over the weekend.

It continued to trigger snow showers and even mixed snow and rain showers from New York to Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey on Monday. Most of these showers generally did not result in snow accumulations, but a couple of the heavier snow showers coated the ground in some locations.

The next clipper storm in the series produced a moderate snowfall during Monday and Monday night from northeastern Wisconsin to the central and southern portion of Michigan. Abrams, Wisconsin, picked up 4.8 inches with Morley and Menominee, Michigan, receiving 4.5 inches. As much as 7 inches of snow fell on parts of northern Wisconsin.

This radar image shows snow showers (blue) and rain showers (green) over parts of the northeastern United States as of Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 30, 2021. (AccuWeather)

Snowfall was significantly lighter across portions of Pennsylvania and southern New York on Tuesday. Most areas received less than an inch of snow.

Travel problems can occur in areas where snow falls at night or first thing in the morning. That is when road surface temperatures will be the lowest, producing a slippery accumulation of snow, slush and icy spots.

In some cases, the snow showers can last long enough to bring a light coating to non-paved surfaces.

A second clipper is forecast to roll across portions of the Great Lakes and Northeast through Thursday and has the potential to bring up to a few more inches of snow to parts of the interior. However, the air may not be quite as cold as during the prior clipper storm from Monday to Tuesday. The storm may track slightly farther to the north as well.

With a more northward track and more exposure to milder air, not as many areas in southern Michigan, Pennsylvania and southern New York are likely to pick up accumulating snow later this week. The Wednesday to Thursday clipper storm is also likely to weaken as it moves away from the Great Lakes so that any precipitation that reaches the Atlantic coast is likely to be light and spotty in nature.

Slippery travel does not always occur in the form of snow during early December. "There is the risk of spotty freezing drizzle or a little rain that could freeze on untreated surfaces in parts of northern Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York during Wednesday night," AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda said.

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A third clipper storm is forecast to track even farther to the north, perhaps along the U.S. and Canada border from Thursday to Friday. This might limit any accumulating snow at the end of this week to the northern tier such as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northern New York state and northern New England.

With the gradual northward retreat of the clipper systems and the coldest air, the pushes of chilly air and lake-effect snow that follow each storm will tend to be less and less pronounced over time this week.

It may not be until after a fourth storm travels across the southern tier of Canada this weekend that a strong push of cold air returns. But, it will be the magnitude of that cold push and another feature that could set the stage for more wintry trouble in the Northeast early next week.

"It may come down to a matter of timing with the cold push early next week and a disturbance in the southern branch of the jet stream," AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.

"There are multiple scenarios setting up on the weather maps for the period from Sunday, Dec. 5, to Tuesday, Dec. 7, in the Northeast," Rayno said. He added that one idea just has colder air sweeping into the Northeast once again and no big storm, but another idea is that the southern disturbance rolls northeastward as the colder air is coming in and could result in a strengthening storm that will unleash snow across the interior Northeast and perhaps a wintry mix of precipitation to the I-95 corridor.

Parts of the central Appalachians and I-95 zone picked up their first measurable snowfall of the season this past weekend from the leading clipper storm in the pattern. Newark, New Jersey, picked up 0.1 of an inch of snow, while State College, Pennsylvania, received a little over 0.5 of an inch of snow. Albany, New York, picked up two rounds of accumulating snow from Friday through Sunday that totaled 1.4 inches.

The major I-95 cities of Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., will likely have to wait a bit longer for their first snowfall, other than a few snowflakes flying through the air over the next few days. Even without the potential for accumulating snow, Boston, New York City and Philadelphia will feel wintry at times as temperatures will remain 5-10 degrees below normal. Perhaps the storm early next week could be the one to bring a better snow chance, but it's just as possible that it won't at this point. Of course, there is always the next one. A storm could spring up from the southern Plains toward the middle of next week just as cold air is returning.

"The Alberta clipper storm pattern will continue to boost the snowpack [for areas across the interior], which is beginning to grow deep southeast of some of the Great Lakes, as well as in the Adirondacks and mountains of New England," AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda said. He added that the pattern is helping ski resorts in the region kick off what is predicted to be an excellent season in the Northeast with many of the resorts in interior New England are reporting a 1- to 2-foot base of snow.

AccuWeather meteorologists will continue to provide updates on the clipper storms, tricky travel conditions and the potential for a bigger storm and cold blast late in the weekend and early next week.

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