After a mostly mild winter in the northeast, a late season snowstorm blasted the region on Tuesday. In New York City, the storm was less intense than originally forecast but still packed a punch.
According to the NWS, 7.6 inches of snow was measured in Central Park setting a new daily record. The previous record of 4.1 inches had been in place since 1958. Strong winds were also part of the storm with gusts reported up to 38mph. The criteria for blizzard conditions, however, were not met in the Big Apple.
Developing from two different systems that merged off the southeast coast, this nor’easter intensified as it moved northward. In weather lingo, it underwent bombogenesis. The storm’s central pressure dropped from 1007mb on Monday night to 974mb on Tuesday afternoon.
While the storm’s precipitation was plentiful, it was more of a wintry mix than a full on snow event in NYC and other cities along the I-95 corridor. This was because the storm was an “inside runner”. It tracked west of the 40/70 benchmark and pulled warmer marine air onshore. More specifically, a shallow zone of air with a temperature warmer than 32°F was wedged between zones of subfreezing air around 5000 feet above the surface. This set-up allowed the snow to melt then refreeze as sleet before hitting the ground.
For areas further inland, to the north and west, the storm lived up to its hype. Numerous communities across eight states received more than 20 inches of snow. Hartwick, NY reported an impressive 48.4 inches, the highest snow total from the storm.
NYC went from 70°F to 7.6 inches of snow in just two weeks. Credit: Melissa Fleming
The spring equinox is still a few weeks away, but meteorological winter (December, January, and February) has officially ended and it was the sixth warmest on record in New York City.
The season, with daily highs ranging from 23°F to 70°F, felt like a temperature roller coaster. But in the end, the warmth came out on top. The city’s average temperature for the season, according to the NWS, was 39.3°F. That is an incredible 4.2°F above normal.
In all, fifty-three days posted above average readings and every month was warmer than its long-term norm. In fact, February 2017 was the city’s warmest February on record.
In terms of snowfall, the city received 20.5 inches in Central Park, which is only 0.5 inches below average. Of this total, 9.4 inches fell during February’s single, quick hitting nor’easter when conditions were briefly cold enough to support snow.
This winter’s pattern of prolonged warm spells separated by a few short-lived blasts of cold air was largely driven by the North Atlantic Oscillation’s positive phase occurring more often and lasting longer than its negative phase.
The city’s warmest winter on record was the 2001-2002 season when the average temperature soared to 41.5°F. Central Park weather records date back to 1869.
February 2017 was New York City’s warmest February on record. Its mean temperature of 41.6°F was a staggering 6.3°F above the long-term norm. Moreover, February was the city’s 20th consecutive month with an above-average temperature.
Overall, we had nineteen out of twenty-eight days that were warmer than normal. Seven of those produced readings in the 60s and one even hit 70°F, marking the first time the city has seen that type of heat in February in twenty years. Two record warm minimum temperatures were also set during the month. On February 19th and 24th, the Big Apple only cooled down to 53°F and 58°F respectively. The average low for those dates is 30°F.
While a few warm days in February are not uncommon, this extended pattern of sustained warmth was very unusual. Driven largely by a persistent positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation, warm southern air was funneled northward almost continuously throughout the month.
February is usually the city’s snowiest month on the calendar, and this year, despite the unseasonable warmth, it did not disappoint. Central Park received 9.4 inches of snow, which is 0.2 inches above average. All of it fell during a single, quick hitting nor’easter when the air was briefly cold enough to support frozen precipitation.
Rainfall, on the other hand, was not as abundant. Only 2.48 inches was reported, which is 0.61 inches below normal. The city, according to the latest report from the US drought monitor (2/23) remains abnormally dry.
New York City weather records date back to 1869.
Feb 2017 was NYC’s warmest Feb on record and 20th straight month with an above average temperature. Credit: The Weather Gamut.
It is only February, but it felt more like May in New York City on Friday. The temperature in Central Park soared to 70°F, which is a whopping 26°F above average.
According to the NWS, this was the first time in twenty years that the city had a reading in the 70s during the month of February. However, it was not a record breaker. That honor belongs to February 24, 1985 when the mercury hit 75°F.
The primary driver of these balmy conditions is a strong Bermuda High off the east coast of the US that is funneling warm southern air into the region.
Many New Yorkers got out to enjoy this early spring preview and described it as “amazing” or “unbelievable”. Personally, it felt a little surreal to see rowboats out in Central Park during a month when sledding and ice-skating are usually the norm.
That said, a chilly change will be in the air later this weekend when temperatures are expected to return to more seasonable levels.
Rowboats on The Lake in Central Park on Feb 24, 2017 when the temperature hit 70°F in NYC. Credit: Melissa Fleming
Between picnics in the park and overflowing crowds at local ice cream shops, it felt more like late April than mid-February in New York City this holiday weekend.
The temperature in Central Park soared to 63°F on Saturday and 65°F on Sunday. Both days missed setting a new record high by only a few degrees. Overnight lows were also unusually mild. According to the NWS, a new record warm minimum temperature was set on Sunday with a reading of 53°F. The previous record of 49°F was established in 1997.
The city’s normal high for this time of year is 43°F. Its normal low is 30°F.
Any snow that was left over from the storm earlier this month was no match for these spring-like temperatures. More abnormally warm conditions are expected later this week, so keep that frisbee handy.
Not much snow left in NYC after a weekend with temperatures in the 60s. Credit: Melissa Fleming
Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday when images of cupid and hearts abound. But for me, it is George Bellows’ Love of Winter that always comes to mind as we mark the mid-point of what is usually New York City’s snowiest month of the year.
A longtime personal favorite, this 1914 painting captures the spirit of those who embrace the season. Filled with the blurred movement of skaters on a frozen pond and accented with spots of bright color that pop against the snow, it conveys the joy of being out in nature on a cold winter day.
While Bellows is better known for depicting scenes of boxing matches and urban life, art historians say he enjoyed the challenge of painting the varied lighting conditions produced by a snow-covered landscape. In fact, he wrote a letter to a friend in January 1914 complaining about the lack of snow in NYC that winter. He said, “There has been none of my favorite snow. I must paint the snow at least once a year.” Then, about a month later, his wish for snow was granted and this picture was created.
Love of Winter is part of the Friends of American Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.
“Love of Winter”, 1914 by George Bellows. Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago
The first major winter storm of the season rolled through New York City on Thursday. The powerful, but quick hitting, system brought strong winds and heavy snow to the area.
According to the NWS, 9.4 inches of snow was measured in Central Park. The city, on average, gets 9.2 inches of snow for the entire month of February.
This classic nor’easter intensified quickly as it moved up the coast, drawing energy from both the clash of different air masses and the relative warmth of the Atlantic Ocean. Its unusually strong convection was reflected in the high number of thundersnow reports across the region.
As powerful as this storm was, it could have produced even higher snow totals if there was an area of high pressure to the north to block or hold it in place longer.
Nonetheless, this event has secured its place in NYC weather history. Never before has the city experienced a major snowstorm ( >6 inches) less than 24 hours after setting a new record warm temperature. This was a case of extreme weather whiplash!
More than 9 inches of snow blanketed Central Park, NYC on Feb 9, 2017. Credit: Melissa Fleming.
Walking around New York City on Wednesday, it was difficult to remember that it was still February. The temperature soared to 62°F in Central Park, setting a new record high for the date. The previous record of 61°F had been in place since 1965.
This was the second time this winter that a daily high-temperature record was broken in the Big Apple. The city’s normal high for this time of year is 40°F.
Venturing out without coats and enjoying lunch alfresco, many New Yorkers took full advantage of the unseasonable warmth. These spring-like conditions, however, will be short-lived. The city’s first major snowstorm of the season is expected to hit early Thursday morning. Get ready for weather whiplash!
Temperatures soared to record levels in NYC on Feb 8th. Credit: The Weather Gamut
It was both an honor and a thrill to be asked back to The Weather Channel’s WUTV show on Monday night. As a New York City-based contributor to their PWS network, we discussed the temperature roller coaster that the city has been riding this winter and its impact on local snow cover.
The show, which dives into the science behind different weather events, airs weeknights from 6 to 8 PM EST on The Weather Channel.
Weather Gamut writer, Melissa Fleming, talks with Alex Wilson and Mike Bettes on WUTV. February 6, 2017. Credit: TWC and Melissa Fleming.
January was another month of wild temperature swings in New York City. We had highs that ranged from a chilly 23°F to a record breaking 66°F. But with 20 out of 31 days posting above average readings, the warmth won out in the end. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 38°F, which is a whopping 5.4°F above our long-term norm. That makes January 2017 the Big Apple’s 19th consecutive month with an above-average temperature, its longest streak on record.
In terms of precipitation, January was unusually wet. In all, we received 4.83 inches of rain, which is 1.18 inches above normal. The majority of this plentiful total fell during the nor’easter at the end of the month. Snowfall, on the other hand, was about average with 7.9 inches measured in Central Park. All of this precipitation put a dent in the region’s extended drought. The city, according to the latest report from the US Drought Monitor (1/26), improved from moderate drought conditions last month to abnormally dry.
January 2017 was NYC’s 19th consecutive month with an above-average temperature. Credit: The Weather Gamut