After digging around, I figured out that the GFS was initializing with bad data. As with any computer model, if you put bad data in... bad data comes out. The GFS was using the Air Force Snow Depth Analysis to initialize it's model run. That data is bad in a heavy sleet and freezing rain event! Kate Howard at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) said:
"We currently use the AFWA (USAF) snow data in the GFS and NAM. Both model teams are aware of the current issues with the AFWA dataset and are looking into solutions for our respective forecast systems."
So, we found the problem! But why is the USAF data wrong? Why does it take a heavy sleet and freezing rain event and make it look like a huge snow storm? Well, remember that sleet accumulates much differently than snow. 1.00" of sleet can be like 8-10" of snow! Here's how the AFWA comes up with it's snow depth:
"Snow depth is estimated daily by the Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA) by merging satellite-derived snow cover data with daily snow depth reports from ground stations. Snow depth reports are updated by additional snowfall data or decreased by calculated snow melt. If no new snow depth or accumulation information is available, surface temperature data is used to calculate a possible snow melt for temperatures above 32-degree Fahrenheit. The merged product estimates daily snow depth in centimeters."
In other words, it logs all of our sleet as snowfall. If you look at how the GFS initialized today, you can see that the snow depth that it initialized on was dead wrong.... This evening, it looks like NCEP tried to manually adjust it, but still puts too much snowfall in our area:
So how does this impact temperature data? Take a look at the projected overnight lows from the GFS for tonight. The data on the left is from the GFS model around lunchtime. The image on the right is from this evening, when it appears that NCEP may have made some adjustments. I'm not positive on that, but surely the model does not think that much snow melted today:
I've been forecasting this week by looking at temperatures aloft. It's the only way to go... for now.
Stay tuned as we iron out this temperature forecasting issue,
EDIT: Read the comments section. Great information that I did not know from NOAA.