Spring Preview Brings NYC Warmest February Day Ever Recorded

The calendar says February, but it felt more like May in New York City on Wednesday. The temperature in Central Park soared to 78°F, setting not only a new record high for the date but marked the warmest February day ever recorded in the Big Apple.

Records are usually broken by fractions of a degree, but these were shattered. According to the NWS, the previous daily record, which was set in 1930, was 68°F and the former record monthly high that had been in place since February 24, 1985, was of 75°F. The city’s normal high this time of year is 43°F.

The primary driver of these unusually balmy conditions is a strong Bermuda High off the east coast of the US. Spinning clockwise, it is funneling warm southern air into the region.

Venturing out without coats and enjoying lunch alfresco, many New Yorkers took full advantage of this early spring preview. Personally, however, it felt a little surreal. February is typically the snowiest month of the year in NYC – a time when sledding and ice-skating are more common than ice-cream trucks and frisbees.

That said, these spring-like conditions will be short-lived. Temperatures are expected to return to more seasonable levels tomorrow. Get ready for weather whiplash!

Temperatures soared to record levels in NYC on Feb 21. Credit: The Weather Gamut

January 2018: Earth’s Fifth Warmest on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with January 2018 marking the fifth warmest January ever recorded on this planet. The last four Januarys now rank among the five warmest on record.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the month – over both land and sea surfaces – was 54.88°F. That is 1.28°F above the 20th-century average. January was also the 397th consecutive month with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any month posted a below average reading was December 1984.

While heat dominated most of the planet this January, some places were particularly warm, including the western half of the United States and most of Europe. For the contiguous US as a whole, January ranked among warmest third of the nation’s 124-year period of record.

Coming on the heels of 2017 – Earth’s third warmest year on record and warmest year without an El Niño – these soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. In fact, La Niña conditions – the cool counterpart of El Niño – were present in the Pacific during January.

Global temperature records date back to 1880.

January 2018 was the planet’s 5th warmest January on record. Credit: NOAA

2017: Third Warmest Year on Record for Planet and the Warmest Year Without an El Niño

It is official, 2017 was the third warmest year ever recorded on this planet. Only 2015 and 2016 were warmer.

According to a report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for the year – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.51°F. That is a staggering 1.51°F above the 20th-century average.

2017 also marked the 41st consecutive year with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means the last time any year posted a below average reading was 1976.

While heat dominated the planet last year, some places were particularly warm. Here in the contiguous US, it was our third warmest year on record.

The exceptional warmth of 2017 is largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. While El Niño conditions helped influence record heat in the past, 2017 was the warmest year on record without an El Niño being present in the Pacific. In fact, ENSO neutral conditions prevailed for most of the year and La Niña – the cool counterpart of El Niño – developed in the autumn.

Looking at the bigger picture, nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of the 21st century. Three of those years – 2014, 2015, and 2016 – were back-to-back record breakers. As greenhouse gases – the main drivers of global warming – continue to spew into the atmosphere, temperatures will continue to rise and records will likely continue to fall.

Global temperature records date back to 1880.

2017 was the third warmest year on record for our planet. Credit: NOAA

Credit: NOAA

2017: Third Warmest Year on Record in US

2017 was the third-warmest year ever recorded in the continental United States. Only 2012 and 2016 were warmer.

The average annual temperature of the lower 48 states, according to a report by NOAA’s National Centers of Environmental Information, was 54.6°F. That is 2.6°F above the 20th-century average. 2017 also marked the 21st consecutive year that the annual average temperature for the contiguous US was above its long-term norm. That means the last time the US had a normal to below normal annual temperature was 1996.

From coast to coast, for the third year in a row, every state posted an above-average annual temperature. Five states – Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Carolina – had their warmest year on record. This was despite the unusually cold conditions that dominated the eastern part of the country in December.

The year was also notable for its unusual number of weather and climate disasters that each totaled more than $1 billion in damages. In all, sixteen such events collectively caused $306 billion in direct costs – a new US record. Sadly, they also claimed the lives of at least 362 people across the country. These incidents included drought, wildfire, floods, severe storms, and three major landfalling hurricanes.

The exceptional warmth of 2017 was independent of El Niño. In fact, ENSO neutral conditions prevailed for most of the year and La Niña – the cool counterpart of El Niño – developed in the autumn.

Weather records for the contiguous United States date back to 1895.

Credit: NOAA

Credit: NOAA

NYC Sub-Freezing Cold Streak: Third Longest on Record

The extended cold wave that has been gripping New York City earned a place in the record books as it came to an end on Tuesday when the temperature climbed above freezing for the first time since Christmas.

Brutally cold temperatures dominated the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018 in NYC. Credit: Melissa Fleming

In all, the city experienced fourteen consecutive days with temperatures below 32°F. That, according to the NWS, is the third longest sub-freezing cold streak ever recorded in Central Park. The coldest day came on January 6, when the mercury only made it to 13°F. The wind chill made it feel even colder.

These 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 US. While a brief warm-up is expected over the next few days, it is still January so keep those hats and gloves handy.

Credit: NWS

Massive Winter Storm Sets New Daily Snowfall Record in NYC

A massive winter storm – known by some as Grayson – slammed the eastern US on Thursday. Producing heavy snow and strong winds, its impact was felt from northern Florida to New England.

Here in NYC, the storm dumped 9.8 inches of snow in Central Park, setting a new daily snowfall record for the date. The previous record of 4 inches was in place since 1988. The city, on average, gets 7 inches of snow for the entire month of January.

Developing as a classic nor’easter, this storm became an over-achiever as it rapidly intensified over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. It underwent a process called Bombogenesis, the threshold for which is a drop in pressure of 24mb in 24 hours. This storm dropped 59mb in 24 hours, producing very powerful winds. At JFK airport, wind gusts up to 55mph were reported.

The snow left behind by this storm will not be going anywhere anytime soon. A re-enforcing shot of cold arctic air moved in behind the storm and dangerously cold temperatures are expected to remain in place through the weekend. Bundle up!

The first big winter storm of 2018 brought NYC 9.8 inches of snow. Credit: Melissa Fleming

2017 Ties for 10th Warmest Year on Record in NYC

New York City experienced some noteworthy weather in 2017, especially the swings between record cold and record heat. However, the warmth won out in the end. The city’s average temperature for the year in Central Park was 56.3°F, which is 1.3°F above normal. That means 2017 tied 2001 for NYC’s tenth warmest year on record!

At the beginning of the year, the city experienced its sixth warmest winter ever recorded, including a record warm February. The temperature on February 24 hit 70°F – marking the first time the city has seen that type of heat in February in twenty years.

Spring was also unusually mild. It included the city’s second warmest April and second warmest Easter on record. It also produced an early heat wave in May.

The summer brought the city a number of oppressively hot and humid days, including thirteen days with temperatures in the 90s. The hottest day came on July 20 when the mercury soared to 94°F. When humidity was factored in, the heat index or real feel temperature was in the triple digits.

Autumn ranked as the city’s fourth warmest on record. It was highlighted by a record warm October.

The end of 2017, on the other hand, was marked by an extended arctic blast that produced the coldest readings of the year. On December 28, the high temperature only made it to 18°F and on December 31 the low was a bone-chilling 9°F – the second coldest New Year’s Eve in NYC history.

Precipitation for the year was somewhat erratic. Despite a few heavy rain events, including some that broke daily rainfall records such as the 3.02 inches that fell on May 5, the city was mostly dry. In fact, only four months of 2017 produced average to above average rainfall. Overall, NYC received 45.04 inches of rain in Central Park for the entire year. That is 4.9 inches below normal. This dearth of rain, according to the US Drought Monitor, caused abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions across the city for part of the year.

Snowfall, despite the warm winter, was abundant. During the year’s few arctic outbreaks, enough moisture was also in place to produce snow. For the calendar year as a whole, the city accumulated 34.7 inches of snow, which is 8.9 inches above average.

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

Credit: The Weather Gamut

Credit: The Weather Gamut

New Year’s Eve 2017: Second Coldest on Record for NYC

New Year’s Eve 2017 was one for the record books in New York City.

The midnight temperature in Central Park was a mere 9°F, marking the city’s second coldest New Year’s Eve on record. The coldest was in 1917 when the temperature was only 1°F. The normal low for this time of year is 28°F.

These unusually frigid conditions are the result of a deep dip in the jet stream and a lobe of the polar vortex reaching southward over much of the eastern US. They are expected to remain in place for the near future.

Source: NWS

Report Finds Hurricane Harvey’s Record Rainfall Linked to Climate Change

Hurricane Harvey – one of the big names of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season – unleashed catastrophic flooding in southeast Texas at the end of August. Now, after months of reviewing the data, scientists say the storm was exacerbated by climate change.

According to a peer-reviewed report by World Weather Attribution (WWA), an international coalition of scientists, human-caused climate change made Harvey’s devastating rainfall three times more likely to occur and fifteen percent more intense. Using historical rainfall data and high-resolution climate models to compare conditions in a pre-warming world to those at the time of the storm, the WWA team was able to separate the climate signal from natural variability. They found that the deluge caused by Harvey would have been a 1-in-2400-year event in the absence of global warming, but is now a 1-in-800-year event and becoming more likely.

Heavy rainfall events, in general, are becoming more frequent in many different places, because as the atmosphere warms it can hold more moisture. In fact, it can hold four percent more moisture for every 1°F of warming. This means there is more water vapor available in the air that can fall as precipitation.

After rapidly intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a category-4 storm in the Texas Coastal Bend region on August 25. It then stalled over the area for several days, unleashing massive amounts of rainfall. Cedar Bayou, outside of Houston, reported a staggering 51.88 inches of rain, setting a new record for the continental US. The storm claimed the lives of 80 people and more than 120,000 residents across the area had to be rescued from their homes. The economic impacts of the deluge are still being tallied, but it is expected to be one of the most expensive in US history.

The WWA study only analyzed the impact of climate change on Harvey’s rainfall, not its role in the storm’s formation or strength.  Those connections remain an active area of research.

Climate change made Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall worse. Credit: Climate Central. (World Weather Attribution is led by Climate Central, a non-profit research group.)

Extremely Active 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Comes to a Close

The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially ends today.  Not only was it above average, as predicted, it was the basin’s fifth most active season on record.

According to NOAA, there were seventeen named storms this season. Of these, ten developed into hurricanes and six were major hurricanes with ratings of category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. An average season produces twelve named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. It is also interesting to note that this year’s ten hurricanes developed consecutively over the course of ten weeks, marking the largest number of hurricanes to form in a row in the satellite era.

This season’s Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE), which measures the intensity and duration of storms, was also exceptionally high. On average, a season will post an ACE of 104 in the Atlantic. This year, according to researchers at Colorado State University, it was 226 – the seventh highest in the historical record.

Officially running from June 1 to November 30, the season got off to an early start this year. Tropical Storm Arlene was a rare pre-season storm that developed in April. Another interesting outlier was Hurricane Ophelia in October. It was the easternmost major hurricane ever observed in the Atlantic Basin and the strongest storm on record to hit the Republic of Ireland. The biggest names of the season, however, were Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

In August, Harvey made landfall in Texas as category-4 hurricane. It was the first major hurricane to hit the United States since Wilma in 2005. It was also the wettest storm on record, dumping more than 50 inches of rain in southeastern Texas. This extreme precipitation caused catastrophic flooding in the Houston area.

Hurricane Irma maintained category-5 strength winds for 37 hours before making landfall as a category-4 storm in the Florida Keys. Measuring about 425 miles in diameter, Irma was wider than the Florida peninsula and its effects were felt across the entire Sunshine state in early September.

Just two weeks later, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. It was the third category-four hurricane to hit the US, or one of its territories, in less than a month. In 166 years of record keeping, that never happened before.

Causing so much destruction, Harvey, Irma, and Maria will likely be retired from the World Meteorological Organization’s list of storm names.

This active hurricane season was largely the result of above-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic and ENSO neutral to cool La Niña conditions in the Pacific. With warm water to fuel storms coupled with reduced wind shear across the Gulf of Mexico, tropical development in the Atlantic basin was essentially unhindered.

In terms of economic impact, ENKI Operations, a private research firm, estimates the property damage, clean up costs, and lost business productivity from this year’s storms to be $206 billion. That would make 2017 the costliest hurricane season on record for the US. The official tally from NOAA will not be available until early 2018.

Data: NOAA