A low-pressure system spreading wintry conditions across the interior United States will begin reaching the Mid-Atlantic region during the day on Sunday, December 1, ushering in the area’s first significant flakes. As of 12:00 p.m., November 30, models indicate a messy, unpredictable snowfall scenario for North Jersey, particularly in eastern Passaic, Bergen, and Essex counties.

As the low descends on the region Sunday morning, it will fuel the development of a nor’easter along the coast. Previously, models kept the developing nor’easter about 150 miles offshore. This scenario allowed the storm to wrap in cold, continental air along its western flank, increasing snowfall totals across the region. However, the latest forecasts suggest the storm will tightly parallel the coast, which will allow it to drive warm, marine air into shore. The result will be a strong gradient in snowfall across North Jersey. Areas east of the Ramapo Mountains will receive mixed/sleety precipitation throughout Sunday into Monday, while areas at higher elevation will experience more consistent episodes of snowfall.  

In terms of timing, eastern Passaic, Bergen, and Essex counties should expect an initial round of wet snow and sleet (1 to 3 inches or less) on Sunday morning, gradually transitioning to rain or frozen rain. Rain, maybe with occasional rounds of sleet, should continue until Monday morning, transitioning back to sustained snow and sleet around 10 a.m. This should result in an additional coating to 3 inches, accumulating into the early evening hours.

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Despite the storm being just 24 hours out, models are unusually divergent in terms of final snowfall totals for eastern Passaic County. Presently, the American GFS model favors almost no accumulation, while the European model spreads 6 inches of snow from Paterson to Paramus. The trend over the last day has been towards a more northwesterly storm track, which favors decreasing snow totals—although last minute adjustments cannot be ruled out. A track shift of just 15 miles, well within the margin of error for global forecast models, would significantly alter outcomes.

Regardless of snowfall totals, readers are advised to use caution during the Monday commute, especially if morning snow begins earlier than anticipated. As of Friday evening, the National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a winter storm watch for areas north and west of Interstate 287, while areas south and east have been issued a hazardous weather outlook. These are likely to be revised through Sunday morning.

As usual, readers are referred to NWS products for the latest updates and advisories. This is an informal forecast discussion, and official products should be consulted before making any weather-related decisions.

Dr. Daniel J. Ciarletta is a recent graduate from the Environmental Science and Management program at Montclair State University. He has more than a passing interest in the geology, geography, and history of New Jersey, and is also an avid hiker.

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