How the Rocky Mountains play a role in weather model forecasts

How the Rocky Mountains are playing a role in Saturday’s storm

Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Brett Collar describes the importance of weather models — and difficulties that arise — in forecasting snow systems.

“Weather models help us forecast what the future holds for the Miami Valley, and geography plays a big role in that process,” Collar said.

Get your county-by-county forecast

One of the factors in how well a weather model performs is the terrain.

The storm that could bring snow to the Miami Valley Saturday spent the first half of Friday in the Rocky Mountains, leading to continued disagreement within various models as to where exactly the storm would go,” Collar said.

Disruptions in terrain — such as hills, mountains and water — often result in disruptions in how well weather models perform.

These computer models like flat, consistent ground. Areas like the plains and even most of the eastern half of the United States is where weather models tend to be more accurate,” Collar said.

Winter Storm Watch for southwest Miami Valley early Saturday; accumulation likely

This uncertainty also leads to uncertainty as to how much snow we could see, if any at all. Once this storm moves off the Rocky Mountains, we expect models to come into better agreement as to what will happen. This has been the case the majority of the time in the past.

UPDATE @ 3:15 p.m. from Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell:

The storm for Saturday is expected to take a more southern track, now that the storm has crossed the Rocky Mountains and a clearer picture of the storm’s path is available from weather models. 

“The storm will clip the far southern Miami Valley but the heaviest snow looks to stay south at this time,” Elwell said.

 While some light snow is possible in this area Saturday, the heavy snow looks to set up between Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

“If you are traveling toward the Cincinnati area, you should use extreme caution as heavy snow will be possible near the Ohio River,” Elwell said, adding the chance for the storm to turn north is low.

Snow totals for the Dayton metro may be around 1 inch or less. 

Little or no snow is expected north of Dayton. However, several inches of snow will be possible in southern Butler, Warren and Clinton counties. 

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