Why winter weather forecasting can be a challenge in Middle Tennessee

Special Reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — When snow and ice are in the forecast, people take note. There’s a good reason for this. Winter weather can have a big impact. Not only can it make difficult to drive and get around, but it also typically means school closings and a host of other issues. Winter weather, especially early on in the season, can be a big challenge to forecast here in Middle Tennessee and there are a few different reasons why that is the case. 

The first reason is even a small amount of snow or ice can mean major issues. Though the accumulations may be minor, they can quickly lead to deteriorating road conditions and school and business closings. Small changes to the forecast can have an impact on whether or not schools and businesses stay closed or open or whether or not roads are passable or impassable.

Second, we often see multiple types of precipitation during one winter event. In the north where there is colder air, snow is the predominant winter precipitation. In Middle Tennessee, the type of precipitation we see is dependent on the temperature profile. The question is, will it be cold enough through the atmosphere for snow to fall or will we see other types of precipitation? Winter storms in Middle Tennessee often mean we see rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow, or a wintry mix. Slight changes in the temperature profile can have big impacts on the forecast.

Third, slight changes in the track of the low or where the cold air is located can have a huge impact. A slight movement of a low to the north or the south can make a difference between rain, ice, a wintry mix, or snow. Whether or not cold air is fast enough to catch up with the precipitation can also make winter weather forecasting difficult.

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