Understanding the Coastal Low-Pressure Transfer Process

| November 27, 2018 @ 2:30 pm


DISCUSSION: During a given Winter season, there can sometimes be a substantial threat for high-impact winter storms along the East Coast of the United States. This often occurs as a result of there being an offshore to semi-coastal temperature gradient in place which acts to “fuel” the development of coastal low-pressure systems during the Winter-time months. The fundamental component which is most often responsible for the development of such Winter-time low-pressure systems are the climatological development of a weak low-pressure system in the vicinity of the Gulf Coast region of the United States.

As the typical weak low-pressure systems which develop in the vicinity of the Gulf Coast region “skip” across the peninsula of the state of Florida and “ride up” along usually a good portion of the U.S. East Coast, this is around the time at which the classical winter storm stage is set. This is the conventional situation in which a classical Nor’easter is identified most often. As shown in the animated radar imagery above, you can see how this was not quite the scenario described above since this system developed in the vicinity of the southern Great Lakes before travelling eastward. Thus, this is the type of coastal winter storm development which is most often referred to as “coastal secondary low-pressure transfer.” This recent winter storm perfectly exemplified this type of scenario which still ended in a substantial accumulating snowfall event across a good portion of the Northeast.

You can see how with this storm, there was heavy rain, snow, and ice on the east side of the winter storm (i.e., within the warm sector of the low-pressure system). This still led to a good portion of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and beyond receiving a high-impact winter weather event. It just goes to show how it does not necessarily need to be the heart of Winter to experience an all-out winter storm along the East Coast of the United States. 

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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz

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