OMG, it's a winter wonderland! OK, not really. Our overnight storm system was generally well-behaved. Snow, sleet, and freezing rain in northern and parts of central New Jersey have created some icy spots. But hats off to our road crews out in the middle of the night salting the major roads, keeping them passable for the morning commute!

Our weather forecast over the next week can be broken down into three parts: a few showers, a big cooldown, and a potential winter storm. Let's dive in!

A Few Showers

The main band of wintry mix and rain showers is about halfway out of the Garden State as of this writing (5:30 a.m.) It appears some rain showers will linger along the Jersey Shore through mid-morning Tuesday.

Our Winter Weather Advisory has been pared away from South Jersey, but remains in effect for the following counties until the following times:
--Until 7 a.m... Northwestern Burlington, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren counties.
--Until 10 a.m... Western Bergen, western Essex, Passaic, and western Union counties.

The threat for widespread accumulation or hazardous travel conditions will be limited going forward as temperatures rise. I'll keep a few more rain showers and sprinkles in the forecast through the rest of the morning and early afternoon hours.

While your Tuesday will probably feel generally damp and mostly cloudy, it's not all bad news. There will be periods of dry weather. There should be hints of sunshine. And temperatures will end up on the mild side for one more day, peaking in the upper 40s to around 50 degrees — almost 10 degrees above-normal for early January.

It looks like this weak atmospheric disturbance will drive one more round of showers into New Jersey Tuesday night. Light and mostly rain, although some light snow will be possible to the far north. Thermometers will stay above-freezing across most of the state overnight, with most lows between 35 and 40 degrees.

A Big Cooldown

You want January to feel more like January? You got it!

The door to the arctic will open early Wednesday morning. A brisk westerly wind will kick up, gusting as high as 40 mph throughout the day.

High temperatures will technically be above-normal for another day, in the mid 40s or so. However, thermometers will peak in the morning and fall through Wednesday afternoon. It is going to be quite the blustery day.

Meanwhile, skies will feature a mix of sun and clouds. A quick snow shower or snow squall will drift into northern New Jersey at some point. No organized storm system involved here — while I'm not worried about accumulation, a sudden decrease in visibility could make driving difficult.

High temperatures on Thursday will only reach the mid 30s, with a continuing brisk breeze. And Friday looks frigid, with morning lows in the teens and afternoon highs around 30 degrees — we might get stuck below-freezing all day.

A Potential Winter Storm

With the reintroduction of cold air, the scene will be set for snow potential from any future storm system. And, what do you know, we just might have a winter storm brewing for the Garden State this weekend.

The target time frame would be Saturday evening through Sunday, possibly lingering into Monday morning. This one is going to be an epic battle between 1.) the big mass of cold, dry, stable air and 2.) a strong coastal low pressure.

With over 4 days to go until first flakes, this remains a volatile "coin flip" forecast. Our two main long-range models paint the two very different scenarios perfectly:
--The European model continues to show the cold air winning out, keeping the storm system both weaker and well southeast of us. New Jersey could see up to an inch or two of snow accumulation given this storm track. That's it.
--The GFS model continues to show the storm system vanquishing the cold air mass, with New Jersey firmly ending up in the heaviest precipitation bands and the coldest sector of the storm. The morning run is pretty close to a worst-case scenario, as we get buried by widespread double-digit snowfall possible. That's a lot.

So which solution do I prefer at this time, getting buried or getting spared? Eh, flip a coin. Seriously, with over 4 days to go until first flakes, this remains a highly volatile forecast. I just do not have enough evidence (in the form of model consensus) to make a confident call one way or the other. That should not be a surprise in the wintertime — it is excessively rare that anyone can make an accurate snowfall forecast more than 48 to 72 hours beforehand.

Having said that, I have read rumors that the GFS software in particular is suffering a cascade of issues caused largely by the partial government shutdown. Fewer data points due to limited weather balloon launches. Lower quality forecasts due to lack of staff to calibrate, adjust, and verify the model output. If true, that's an awful and potentially catastrophic situation — it's almost like we're flying blind with the weather forecast.

Does that mean I'm leaning toward the calmer, less snowy Euro scenario? Meh, only slightly. All options remain on the table right now.

If the forecast does lean toward a snowy situation for the weekend (or not), we'll start adding details on timing and potential totals around Thursday morning. Not before.

Until then, I'll just say we're expecting 0 to 18 inches of snow in New Jersey from Saturday night to Sunday. That will get the trolls riled up! (In other words, stay tuned!)

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter for the latest forecast and realtime weather updates.

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