January 2019: A Month of Wild Temperature Swings in NYC

January was another month of wild temperature swings in New York City. It produced two arctic outbreaks and a record cold day on one end of the spectrum and a few days that felt more like early April on the other. Highs ranged from a frigid 14°F to an unseasonably balmy 59°F. In the end, however, these extremes balanced each other out. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 32.5°F, which is only 0.1°F below normal.

In terms of precipitation, January was about average for rainfall. The city received 3.62 inches of rain, which is only .03 inches below normal. Most of that total, however, fell during a single storm.

Snowfall, on the other hand, was scarce. On average, the city gets 7 inches of snow for the month. But this year, only 1.1 inches was measured in Central Park. The cold air and moisture, which were both plentiful in the city in January, just did not coincide to produce a big snowstorm.

Credit: The Weather Gamut

Arctic Blast Brings Record Cold to NYC

After getting off to a relatively slow start, winter has kicked into high gear. For the second time this month, a massive arctic outbreak has sent most of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. into a deep freeze.

Here in New York City, the temperature peaked at just 16°F in Central Park on Thursday, tying the record cold high for the date set in 1935. The low dropped to 2°F, missing the record of -1°F by a few degrees. However, when you factor in the wind chill, it felt like a very memorable -17°F.

As cold as it was on Thursday, it was not the coldest day the Big Apple has ever experienced. That dubious honor, according to the NWS, belongs to February 9, 1934, when the air temperature reached a brutal low of -15°F.

The city’s normal high and low temperatures for this time of year are 39°F and 27°F, respectively.

This week’s unusually frigid conditions were the result of a deep dip in the jet stream and a lobe of the polar vortex reaching southward over much of the eastern part of the country. While a brief warm-up is expected over the next few days, it is still winter so keep those hats and gloves handy.

The temperature topped out at 16°F  in NYC on Thursday, tying the record cold high for the date. Credit: Melissa Fleming

First Arctic Blast of 2019 Sends NYC into a Deep Freeze

After a relatively mild start to the season, winter’s chill has finally arrived in the northeastern United States. An arctic outbreak has sent the region into a deep freeze with many cities dealing with the coldest conditions they have seen since last January.

Here in New York City, the mercury fell to 4°F in Central Park on Monday morning and the high only made it to 14°F. While this type of cold shot is not that uncommon in January, it felt rather jarring after the temperature reached the mid-40s the day before.

The city’s normal high for this time of year is 38°F and the normal low is 27°F.

Produced by a deep dip in the jet stream, these current frigid conditions are not expected to last much longer. After a brief warm-up, however, another shot of arctic air is forecast to hit the city next week. So, keep those coats and gloves handy!

When arctic air invades NYC, the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain in Bryant Park often transforms into an icy sculpture. Credit: @nyclovesnyc

2018: A Year of Weather Extremes in NYC

New York City experienced some noteworthy weather in 2018, especially the swings between extreme cold and extreme heat. However, the warmth won out in the end. The city’s average temperature for the year in Central Park was 55.89°F, which is 0.97°F above normal.

The year started bitterly cold. It was only 9°F when the ball dropped in Times Square for the New Year celebration. Moreover, the arctic weather stuck around for a while. With 14 consecutive days with temperatures below 32°F, it was the city’s third longest sub-freezing cold streak on record.

Then things warmed up dramatically in February. The temperature in Central Park soared to 78°F on February 21, setting not only a new record high for the date but marked the warmest February day ever recorded in the Big Apple. In fact, February 2018 went on to be the warmest February on record for the city.

March was rather turbulent, with four nor’easters hitting the city in just three weeks. Spring, overall, was a bit chilly. In fact, the spring equinox brought the city 8 inches of snow. However, May ushered in another extreme temperature swing. It was the city’s fifth warmest May on record.

The summer brought NYC a number of oppressively hot and humid days, including 18 days with temperatures in the 90s. The hottest day came on July 1, when the mercury soared to 96°F. When humidity was factored in, the heat index, or real feel temperature was in the triple digits. The season also produced a relatively rare tornado for the city. Rated EF-0, it barreled through Queens on August 3.

The autumn remained relatively warm until November rolled around, which was unusually cold. It also produced an early season snowstorm that brought down many trees around the city that still had their leaves. On November 16, Central Park reported 6.4 inches of snow, setting set a new daily record for the date. It was also the earliest 6-inch one-day snowfall on record for the city and the largest one-day November snowfall since 1882. Moreover, that one snow event was enough to make November 2018 the city’s fourth snowiest on record.

Snowfall, overall, was plentiful in 2018. For the calendar year as a whole, the city accumulated 39.6 inches of snow, which is 13.8 inches above average.

The main precipitation story for the year, however, was rain. Several months posted top ten rainfall totals and only four months produced below average precipitation. In the end, NYC received 65.52 inches of rain in Central Park for the entire year. That is a staggering 15.58 inches above normal and makes 2018 the city’s fourth wettest year on record.

Records for the Central Park Climate Station date back to 1873.

 

December 2018: Ninth Wettest on Record for NYC

December 2018 felt like a weather roller coaster in New York City. Highs ranged from a relatively balmy 61°F to a chilly 36°F. But, with 17 out of 31 days posting above average readings, the warmth won out in the end. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 40.1°F, which is 2.6°F above average.

In terms of precipitation, December was a month for the record books. The city received 6.48 inches of rain in Central Park, tying December 1996 as the ninth wettest December on record. Three different days produced rainfall totals greater than one inch. The end of the month saw a soggy New Year’s Eve with 0.99 inches of rain. It was the first time in 24 years that it rained on the revelers at the Times Square ball drop festivities.

Snowfall, however, was scarce. Only a trace amount was reported for the month. New York City, on average, sees 4 inches of rain and 4.8 inches of snow in December.

The Historical Chances for a White Christmas

The Holiday Season is here and many people are dreaming of a White Christmas. The likelihood of seeing those dreams come true, however, are largely dependent on where you live.

According to NOAA, a White Christmas is defined as having at least one inch of snow on the ground on December 25th. In the US, the climatological probability of having snow for Christmas is greatest across the northern tier of the country. Moving south, average temperatures increase and the odds for snow steadily decrease.

Here in New York City, the historical chance of having a White Christmas is about 12%. This low probability is largely due to the city’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and its moderating influence on the temperature.

This year, with temperatures forecast to be in the 40s on the big day, the city’s already minimal chance for snow has largely melted away.

Snow or no snow, The Weather Gamut wishes you a very Happy Holiday!

Source: NOAA

2018: Not Yet Over, But Already Among the Top Ten Wettest in NYC

The northeastern United States has been rather soggy this year. With more than two weeks still left in 2018, many locations have already posted their wettest years on record.

Here in New York City, we have received 59.68 inches of rain to date, which is 12.08 inches above average. That means 2018 now ranks among the top ten wettest years ever recorded in the Big Apple.

Much of this impressive, and still building, total came down during several heavy rain events over the course of the year. Each of these caused street and subway flooding around the five boroughs. For the northeast region as a whole, heavy precipitation events increased 55% between 1958 and 2016, according to the latest National Climate Assessment.

Scientists attribute the increase in both frequency and intensity of heavy rain events to climate change. As greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere, the air is able to “hold” more water vapor. More specifically, according to the Clausius–Clapeyron relation, for every increase of 1°F, the saturation level of the atmosphere increases by about 4%. That means there is more water vapor available in the air to condense and fall as precipitation.

Credit: Climate Matters

November 2018: Seventh Wettest and Fourth Snowiest on Record in NYC

November was unusually cold in New York City this year. Highs ranged from a relatively balmy 72°F to a chilly 28°F. But, with 22 days posting below average readings, the cold won out in the end. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 44.5°F, which is 3.3°F below average.

In terms of precipitation, November was a month for the record books. The city received 7.62 inches of rain in Central Park, making it the seventh wettest November on recordSnowfall was also abundant, despite the fact that it all fell during a single storm. Central Park reported 6.4 inches of snow, setting set a new daily record for the date. It was also the earliest 6-inch one-day snowfall on record for the city and the largest one-day November snowfall since 1882. Moreover, that one snow event was enough to make this November the city’s fourth snowiest on record.

New York City, on average, sees 4.02 inches or rain and 0.3 inches of snow for the entire month of November.

 

Cold and Windy Conditions Expected for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a long-standing holiday tradition in New York City.  For 92 years, it has marched rain or shine. Nevertheless, the weather has been a factor in the event several times over the years.

Famous for its giant character balloons, high winds are the main weather challenge for the parade. According to city guidelines, the multi-story balloons cannot fly if there are sustained winds in excess of 23 mph or gusts higher than 34 mph. These regulations were put in place following a 1997 incident where gusty winds sent the “Cat in the Hat” balloon careening into a light post, which caused debris to fall on and injure spectators.

The only time the balloons were grounded for the entire parade was in 1971, when torrential rain swept across the city. In 1989, a snowstorm brought the Big Apple a white Thanksgiving and the “Snoopy” and “Bugs Bunny” balloons had to be pulled from the parade because of damage from high winds.

This year, the wind could potentially be a problem again. Gusts are forecast to be between 20 and 30 mph during the parade hours. Temperatures are also expected to be a challenge. They are forecast to hover near record cold levels, with readings not getting out of the 20s. When the wind chill is factored  in, it will feel more like the single digits to low teens. This extreme cold will be more than a nuisance for holiday revelers, it will be dangerous. Frostbite is a real threat for anyone with exposed skin. So, bundle up if you are planning to be outside along the parade route.

Marching from West 77th Street to West 34th Street in Manhattan, the 92nd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is scheduled to begin at 9 AM on Thursday morning.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Paddington Bear Balloon floats down 6th Ave in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Credit: Macy’s

First Snow of the Season in NYC Breaks Several Records

New York City saw its first snow of the season on Thursday and it was one for the record books.

According to the NWS, 6.4 inches of snow was measured in Central Park, setting a new daily record for the date. The previous record of 1 inch had been in place since 1906. It was also the earliest 6-inch one-day snowfall on record for the city and the largest one-day November snowfall since 1882.

These superlatives came as a bit of a surprise. The forecast originally called for a wintry mix with only a dusting of snow at the onset. However, the temperature was colder than expected and the snow hung on longer. This was largely the result of an area of high pressure to the north being stronger than forecast and therefore able to funnel air toward the city that was colder than anticipated. Closer to home, evaporative cooling also played a part.  The air near the surface was very dry as the storm moved into the area. This allowed some of the snow to evaporate as it fell, cooling the air even further. As result, the change over to rain was delayed by several hours.

While pretty to see, the snow caused a number of problems around the city. Widespread travel delays and falling trees were reported across the five boroughs. As it is only mid-November, many of the trees still had their leaves. The combination of the heavy, wet, snow piling up on the foliage, weighing down the branches, and high winds was too much to bear for many trees, even the healthily ones. Many fell across streets and sidewalks as well as on top of parked cars. The city’s Parks Department has reported receiving over 2000 service requests for downed trees and dangling limbs.

This storm clearly outperformed expectations and caught the city off-guard. On average, New York City sees 0.3 inches of snow for the entire month of November.

Record breaking November snowfall topples trees in NYC. Credit: Melissa Fleming