UVA Climatologist Explains Weather Prediction Process

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A climatologist at the University of Virginia spoke with NBC29 to break down the process of predicting a storm, which can be challenging in this part of the country.

With 60-degree temperatures earlier this week, it's hard to believe central Virginia may see snow on Sunday. Climatologist and professor in UVA's environmental science department Robert Davis says things can change from one minute to the next, especially in this area.

"In this part of the country forecasting precipitation type in the winter is really tricky,” he said.

Davis says three things are necessary for it to snow in our area: The air must be below freezing, it has to be moist, and a storm has to be close. And with those factors, timing is crucial.

"Sometimes the cold air won't be there in time. It'll be too warm. Or sometimes we'll have plenty of cold air but the air's not moist enough,” Davis said.

But how far out can you really pinpoint what type of precipitation you will get and how much to expect? Davis says with about 24 hours out predictions can be fine-tuned. And it won't be until you're just hours away from a storm that things can really be pinpointed.

"When you're six to 12 hours out the forecast starts becoming much more accurate in terms of the amounts and the precipitation type,” Davis said.

But even then, things can change at any moment.

"Because where we are geographically we're often times very close to the rain/snow line and that's the hardest thing to forecast is the type of precipitation,” Davis said.

Davis says, leading up to predicted snow, you should check periodically for changes in the forecast.

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