The image is being shared all over social media in the southeast. A forecast model showing southeast Saskatchewan could see upwards of 10 inches, or 25 centimetres, of snow on the ground by next Friday as a Colorado low comes through the region.
The image is from one of the many forecast models that are used by meteorologists to make weather forecasts. This particular model is called GFS 6z, and it is often used by storm chasers during the summer months to help determine where the heaviest storms will be.
Brennan Allen is a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. He cautioned about relying solely on one model when it comes to determining what the weather will be like.
“When you’re looking at model solutions about a week in advance, and you’re looking at a deterministic outcome or an outcome of a significant snowfall event, it’s not the appropriate way to be looking at the weather,” Allen explained. “There is a signal there could be a storm, yes, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be significant in our given local, for example, in southeastern Saskatchewan.”
One of the other deterministic models is the ECNWF or the European model, and it shows a significant snowfall run, while the GFS 6z model does not show as much as the European model. Then there are the local models.
“Our own Canadian deterministic models aren’t showing much of the snowfall event at all, just showing a cold air mass with lingering flurries right across the prairies, but no distinct system,” Allen said.
What the meteorologists do is look at an ensemble of models that are run 20-50 times with different initial conditions. Those models will produce an array of solutions and from there, they can make a forecast with a little more accuracy.
“What I can say with that signal for next week, there probably a 30-40 percent chance of there being some snow of significance, and when I say snow of significance, I mean shovelable snow”, Allen clarified. He noted that while there is the signal of a change in weather that will be coming with the cold front next week, it doesn’t mean there will be a large-scale winter storm like what we saw in April of this year.
“Right now, it’s more of a watch and wait-and-see thing,” Allan continued. “Does the signal exist? Yes. Will it occur with absolute certainty? It’s really too early to say.”
The meteorologist did emphasize something many overlook when it comes to probabilities in a forecast, too. While he stated there was a 30-40 percent chance of a significant snowfall, it also means there is a 60-70 percent chance it will likely be nothing that significant.
Allan added that the chatter about the possibility of a storm prevalent on social media brings about another important thing to keep in mind. While it isn’t necessarily worth getting anxious about given the forecast is a week out and could very likely change, it never hurts to stay aware of what the forecast is and keep an eye on the conditions as they start to develop.
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