Weekend nor'easter mainly rain for New York, Boston; Heavy snow for Northern New England

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Potential Nor'easter to Bring Rain, Some Snow

BY: WEATHER CHANNEL STAFF

A nor'easter will develop off the East Coast Saturday, but it appears unlikely to deliver a wintry blow to the major coastal cities of the Northeast despite coming at what is typically the coldest time of year.

A nor'easter is an East Coast storm named due to its predominant northeast wind direction preceding the storm. Mention the word "nor'easter" in January, and you're liable to induce some anxiety and dread. A record snow season fueled by several nor'easters in 2014-2015 is still fresh in the minds of many in parts of New England.

The National Weather Service has issued winter storm watches for parts of northern New England.

(INTERACTIVE: Winter Alerts)

But before you stock up at the grocery store and cancel weekend plans, this nor'easter isn't nearly the same animal as last January's Winter Storm Juno.

(MORE: Winter Storm Central)

Also see these recent severe winter storms from across the globe:

17 PHOTOS
Severe winter weather across the globe
See Gallery
Weekend nor'easter mainly rain for New York, Boston; Heavy snow for Northern New England
Spectators attend the ladies 12,5 kilometer mass start competition at the Biathlon World Cup during heavy snow fall on January 16, 2016 in Ruhpolding, southern Germany. Czech Gabriela Soukalova won the competition, German Franziska Hildebrand placed second and German Laura Dahlmeier placed third. / AFP / Christof STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Snow covers the landscape near Braunschweig, central Germany, on January 18, 2016. / AFP / dpa / Julian Stratenschulte / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read JULIAN STRATENSCHULTE/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A man walks at the Poklonnaya Gora War Memorial Park after heavy snowfall in Moscow on January 13, 2016. AFP PHOTO / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV / AFP / DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV (Photo credit should read DMITRY SEREBRYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
HAKKARI, TURKEY - JANUARY 1: A man clears snow off his parked car in Hakkari, Turkey on January 1, 2016. Snow has covered parts of Hakkari overnight, causing major road closures as wild weather continues across the city. (Photo by Gokhan Gucukluoglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HAKKARI, TURKEY - JANUARY 1: A man pulls his vehicle during the snowfall in Hakkari, Turkey on January 1, 2016. Snow has covered parts of Hakkari overnight, causing major road closures as wild weather continues across the city. (Photo by Gokhan Gucukluoglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Kurdish boy protects himself against the cold as heavy snow fall hits the city of Sirnak, southeastern Turkey, on January 1, 2016. Tensions are running high throughout Turkey's restive southeast as security forces impose curfews in several towns including Cizre in a bid to root out Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels from urban centres. / AFP / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
VAN, TURKEY - JANUARY 13: A man carries straws for sheeps People with a donkey carry straws for sheeps after snowfall during the winter season at Caldiran town in Van, eastern province of Turkey, on January 13, 2016. (Photo by Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A woman takes a walk at river Spree on a cold winter day in Berlin on January 6, 2016. / AFP / TOBIAS SCHWARZ (Photo credit should read TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images)
ERZURUM, TURKEY - JANUARY 14: People walk down on a snow-covered street in Turkey's eastern province Erzurum, on January 14, 2016. (Photo by Yunus Okur/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WHITBY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Snow covered sheep stand on moorland after snowfall over night on January 14, 2016 in Whitby, England. Overnight snowfall in North Yorkshire and areas of Cleveland caused disruption in some areas this morning as temperatures continue to drop. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
VAN, TURKEY - JANUARY 13: A man carries straws for sheeps People with a donkey carry straws for sheeps after snowfall during the winter season at Caldiran town in Van, eastern province of Turkey, on January 13, 2016. (Photo by Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JANUARY 12: Snowstorm in Moscow brings traffic to a standstill on January 12, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. A strong atmospheric front swept through Moscow bringing a large amount of snow to the city. (Photo by Kristina Kormilitsyna/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images)
ALTAY, CHINA - JANUARY 12: (CHINA OUT) Icicles hang down from the eaves of a row of houses, which formed when snow melted in the daytime and freezed overnight on January 12, 2016 in Altay Prefecture, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. Affected by El Nino Phenomenon, Altay Prefecture seems to be a warm winter this year compared with previous winters. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
A woman sweeps away the snow on her car on January 12, 2016, in Minsk, as snow cyclone Daniella hits Belarus. / AFP / MAXIM MALINOVSKY (Photo credit should read MAXIM MALINOVSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman turns off her umbrella during a walk in a snow-covered park on January 12, 2016, in Minsk, as the Daniella snow cyclone hits Belarus, according to local media. / AFP / SERGEI GAPON (Photo credit should read SERGEI GAPON/AFP/Getty Images)
JILIN, CHINA - JANUARY 10: (CHINA OUT) Tourists come to look at the rime scenery on an island along the Songhua River on January 10, 2016 in Jilin City, Jilin Province of China. The first rime in 2016 attracted visitors in Jilin. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
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The Setup

Low pressure is expected to develop quickly off the East Coast Friday night into Saturday, tracking from near the eastern Carolinas to off the New England coast.

European Model Nor'easter Forecast

This is one model forecast of the location of the nor'easter Saturday. This forecast may change as we near the event.

In fact, the low-pressure system may strengthen fast enough to satisfy the criteria for bombogenesis, namely a drop in central pressure of at least 24 millibars in 24 hours or less.

(MORE: What is Bombogenesis?)

But that doesn't mean this will necessarily be an impactful East Coast storm for two main reasons:

1) Lack of Cold Air

Despite a recent cold front, temperatures are expected to moderate ahead of this system.

"It's a strange system from the point of view of the western low," said winter weather expert, Tom Niziol, referring to a second area of low pressure over the Great Lakes Friday that will help pump warmer air into the Northeast ahead of the developing offshore low.

Niziol says, that western low almost blocks the flow of colder air southward from eastern Canada to New England.

"That is a big part of the ingredients for big Northeast snowstorms," says Niziol.

(MAPS: 10-day Forecast Highs/Lows)

2) A Fast-Mover


This system will also likely be a fast-mover, tracking from near the eastern Carolinas Friday evening to off the Nova Scotia coast 24 hours later.

Even if the air mass were cold enough, that fast track wouldn't allow for prolonged periods of heavy snowfall in the Northeast, with one potential exception, parts of northern New England.

Current Forecast

Given all that, here is our latest forecast for Friday and Saturday.

Friday Night

  • Rain moves up the I-95 corridor from the Carolinas to southern New England.
  • Some patchy freezing drizzle, freezing rain or sleet is possible in parts of the interior Northeast and New England.
  • Pockets of snow, mainly light, in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.

Friday Night Forecast

Forecast low temperatures and precipitation for Friday night.

Saturday

  • Mainly rain, possibly ending as a brief period of wet snow along the Boston-New York corridor.
  • Snow, possibly heavy, in parts of northern New England and Upstate New York. Precipitation may start as rain or freezing rain in some locations, before changing over to snow.
  • Bands of lingering lake-effect snow in the Great Lakes snowbelts to the central Appalachians.

Saturday's Forecast

Forecast high temperatures and precipitation for Saturday.

At this time, the forecast calls for virtually no snow for the Northeast Megalopolis, more in the interior, but not much by January standards. The best chance for at least 6 inches of snow from this system, outside of lake-effect snowbelts, will be in parts of Maine and New Hampshire.

Snowfall Forecast

Depending on the exact track of the offshore low, some strong winds are possible near the coast, and some high surf, coastal flooding and beach erosion are also possible from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to New England.

However, the system's rapid movement should keep coastal impacts relatively limited.

Incidentally, the "Big Apple" is still looking for its first measurable snow of the season.

The record latest season's first snow at New York's Central Park was January 29, 1973, coincidentally also during a strong El Niño.

(MORE: Does El Niño Impact Seasonal Snow?)

The 1972-1973 season was also Central Park's least snowy season, with only 2.8 inches of snow that entire season.

"Right" Snow Track, Wrong Result?

Meteorologists refer to the 40/70 benchmark when watching for impactful Northeast snowstorms.

Namely, a meteorologist's rule-of-thumb is many major Northeast snowstorms track near 40 degrees North latitude and 70 degrees West longitude, about 90 miles south of Nantucket Island.

Despite the expectation that this weekend's low will pass close to this benchmark, significant snow is unlikely for the urban corridor from New York to Boston.

Location of 40 degrees north latitude, 70 degrees west longitude, the "40/70 benchmark" used by meteorologists as a rule-of-thumb for forecasting Northeast snowstorms.

As mentioned earlier, a lack of cold air with this setup is driven in part by another area of low pressure passing well inland, west of New York State.

So, despite this January nor'easter taking a "classic" snowy track, there simply will not be cold enough conditions to support widespread snow across the Northeast.

Related: See coverage of 2015 winter storms:

21 PHOTOS
Snow, winter weather 2015-2016 season across the U.S.
See Gallery
Weekend nor'easter mainly rain for New York, Boston; Heavy snow for Northern New England
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - DECEMBER 27: A highway worker tries to shield himself while walking to his truck on December 27, 2015 in Lubbock, Texas. Coming on the heels of several strong tornadoes, some northern parts of Texas are experiencing blizzard conditions with wind gusts up to 50 mph and as much as 13 inches of snow forecast. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
NEDERLAND, CO - DECEMBER 15: Steve Hauser plows snow in the Caribou Shopping Center in Nederland, Colorado on December 15, 2015. Snow is expected to continue throughout the day. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
NEDERLAND, CO - DECEMBER 15: A yellow lab waits patiently in his owner's snowy old truck along East 1st Street in Nederland, Colorado on December 15, 2015. Snow is expected to continue throughout the day. The dog looked warm and didn't wait long in the car as his owner returned shortly after an errand in the town. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - DEC. 15: Anna Renton, 7, right, relaxes while neighbor Graham Langner, 7, has a snow fight with his nanny, Ashely Kish.The Denver metro area received more snow than expected overnight, closing schools across the city with some areas measuring a foot of snow by the early morning. (Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - DECEMBER 15: Crut Liles clears snow from his walkways outside his home in Lakewood, December, 15, 2015. Many schools in the area are closed due to the snow storm. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - DEC. 15: A CDOT crew runs their plow truck southbound on Colorado Blvd. near E. 13th Ave. in Denver. The Denver metro area received more snow than expected overnight, closing schools across the city with some areas measuring a foot of snow by the early morning. (Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Al Frelk walks his dog, Shiba, 10, in Lords Park in Elgin, Ill., on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. Asked about the snow, Frelk said, 'It's beautiful, but can be tough to drive in. Though Shiba has been waiting 9 months for this.' The first winter storm of the season dropped more than 10 inches of snow at numerous Chicagoland locations. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17: Snow hit the Denver metro area having an impact on air travel at Denver International Airport. They were clearing out from the snow on Tuesday, November 17, 2015. Raul Hernandez shovels snow in the economy lot. Hernandez and his crew had worked all night to clear snow. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - NOVEMBER 11: Brandon Nelli, a student at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, shovels snow during a Veteran's Day snow storm the moved into the area overnight, November, 11, 2015. Lakewood got almost 3 inches in some areas form the storm. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 11: A blanket of white snow covers Fort Logan National Cemetery during a Veteran's Day snow storm the moved into the area overnight, November, 11, 2015. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
MONUMENT, CO. - November 17: Bob Swift clearing his driveway of a deep drift of snow in Monument, CO. November 17, 2015 Monument, CO (Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
An above-average amount of snow covers a small cabin near where the first snow survey of winter conducted by the California Department of Water Resources in Phillips, California December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
Cameron Shonnard backflips a jump at Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley, California, December 5, 2015. An El Nino is forecasted for California, and regular precipitation has been welcomed after years of drought. REUTERS/Max Whittaker TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Fresh snow clings to trees near Big Bend, California, December 4, 2015. An El Nino is forecasted for California, and regular precipitation has been welcomed after years of drought. Picture taken December 4. REUTERS/Max Whittaker
The U.S. Capitol dome can be seen behind piles of snow removed from parking areas and walkways around the Capitol grounds in Washington January 26, 2016. The snowbound Washington area was resuming partial business on Tuesday as trains and buses restarted near-normal service, while federal offices remained closed following a massive blizzard that hammered the U.S. East Coast. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Floodwaters cover Green Avenue after a winter storm in Manasquan, New Jersey, January 24, 2016. A morning high tide surge of 2 feet followed snowfall of about 2 feet in the first major storm of the season. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter
A couple poses for a photo on a snow pile during a snow storm in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York, January 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, UNITED STATES - 2016/02/15: Snow is once again falling across Washington, D.C on Monday, 15 February 2016. The bitter cold was replaced by snow, sleet and rain Monday in the mid-Atlantic states and the South, but many residents were able to hunker down at home with federal offices and many businesses closed for Washington's Birthday. (Photo by Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A barn painted with the U.S. flag is seen in the snow covered field in Kanawha, Iowa, United States, January 16, 2016. Iowa will be the first state to hold its primary, with both Democratic and Republican events being held February 1, 2016. Picture taken January 16, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Police officers gather outside the Montgomery County Courthouse, where actor and comedian Bill Cosby will arrive for a preliminary hearing on sexual assault charges, in Norristown, Pennsylvania February 2, 2016. Cosby has been charged with the 2004 sexual assault of Andrea Constand, a former women's basketball team manager at Temple University in Philadelphia, Cosby's alma mater. REUTERS/Mark Makela REUTERS/Mark Makela
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