The storm now swirling outside your window could very well set new snowfall records for major cities along the East Coast.

This month has already been given names like "February's Fury" and "Snowmageddon", thanks to the two blockbuster storms that have slammed the region in the last week.

It's hard for us to fathom metro areas like Washington D.C. and Philadelphia having more snowfall amounts during a winter season than our region nestled in the foothills of the Poconos.

The reason for the monster storms is a blocking pattern in the jet stream which flows west to east. When the warm ocean air flows northward, the cold air is pushed from northern Canada into the U.S.

And when that normal flow is dislodged by warm Pacific air, storms can erupt and intensify. The resulting El Nino pattern so far this year has been very strong, leading to the three major blizzards that have socked the mid-Atlantic region.

Another bizarre product of this winter is that while snow has been piling up in the eastern half of the U.S., Southeastern Canada is suffering from a major lack in snow. Strangely, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games set to begin in Vancouver is also suffering from warm, dry conditions as a result.

Weather planners expect the pattern to fade by the end of winter.

But some, like AccuWeather.com's Chief Meteorologist Joe Bastardi, who predicted last July that the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states could expect a cold winter with snowfall well above-average, says not so fast. In his long-range forecast, Bastardi says we can expect this harsh weather pattern to continue, bringing a return to the hard winters of the 1960s and 70s, when many areas experienced one major storm after another.

We can certainly be thankful for the advanced weather forecasting of today, whereby meteorologists can better predict upcoming winter seasons. But what really helps is the fine-tuning of individual storms days in advance, which allows state road crews and municipalities to better prepare.

We've certainly come a long way from the crippling megastorm that punished the East Coast in 1888. That was created by two weather systems colliding, just as is the case of the storm hitting us today. One important factor that made the storm 122 years ago so historic is that the system stalled, causing snow to fall for three days.

During that time, weather forecasting was handled by the Army Signal Corps. In the case of the 1888 storm, The Signal Corps relied on hundreds of people working at ground stations to report their data, which would then be used to build a forecast. Unfortunately, for the general population, the weather station offices closed on Saturday night and that 1888 storm began on Sunday.

Thank God for today's 24/7 weather and news reporting.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]