Near Record Ice Cover on the Great Lakes

Persistent frigid temperatures this winter across the Mid-West and Northeast have caused many rivers and lakes to freeze.  These include the Great Lakes – the largest group of fresh water lakes on the planet.

According to NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, 91.8% of the Great Lakes are currently covered with ice.  That is the second highest percentage on record.  The largest was 94.7% in 1979. On average, peak ice coverage each winter is roughly 51%.

This extensive ice cover has its pluses and minuses.  On one hand, it has reduced the amount of lake effect snow – the heavy precipitation produced when cold air blows across the expansive and relatively warm lake water.  When the lakes are frozen, moisture cannot be evaporated and this process shuts down.  On the other hand, it has slowed shipping traffic, which has economic impacts.  Also, given their massive size, the frozen lakes will likely keep regional temperatures cooler than average this spring.

While this year’s ice cover on the Great Lakes is near record-breaking, researchers say the ice extent varies annually and that there has been an overall decline since the early 1970’s.

Ice covers more than 90% of the Great Lakes. Image Credit: NOAA/Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Ice covers more than 90% of the Great Lakes.                                                                                      Image Credit: NOAA/Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

NYC Monthly Summary: February 2014

February is generally the snowiest month on the calendar for New York City, and this year it was extreme.  With 29 inches of snow accumulating in Central Park, it was the city’s second snowiest February on record.  First place belongs to February 2010, with 36.9 inches.  On average, we typically get 8.8 inches of snow for the entire month.

Rainfall was also abundant in NYC this February. We received 5.48 inches, which is 2.39 inches above average.

In terms of temperature, the Big Apple was unusually cold. Overall, we had 11 days where our high temperature did not get above freezing.  While we also had a few unseasonably warm days, the extended periods of extreme cold brought the city’s average monthly temperature down to 31.7°F.  That is 3.3°F below normal.

Feb_TempsGraph Credit: The Weather Gamut

Another Snowstorm Slams NYC

A massive winter storm walloped the East Coast of the United States yesterday.  The impacts of snow, sleet and freezing rain were felt from Georgia to Maine.

Here in New York City, the storm came in two parts.  The first round brought us 9.5 inches of snow.  Coming down at a rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour, it piled up quickly.  Following a lull in the afternoon, round two produced heavy rain, thunder and lightning, and another 3 inches of snow.  In the end, this classic nor’easter dumped 12.5 inches of heavy, wet snow in the Big Apple.

So far this February, the city has received 25.7 inches of snow.  On average, we usually get 25.1 inches for the entire winter. This season, to date, we have accumulated 54 inches of snow in Central Park, making it our 9th snowiest on record.

More snow is forecast for the weekend.

A Wild Week of Wintry Weather

Coming on the heels of a very snowy January, a series of winter storms slammed the midwest and northeastern U.S. this week.  From snow to sleet to freezing rain, the region saw a bit of everything.

Here in New York City, Monday’s storm dumped 8 inches of heavy, wet snow in Central Park – setting a new daily snowfall record. Only two days later, another weather system brought the Big Apple a wintry mix that included 4 inches of snow topped with about 0.25 inches of ice.

These two storms brought the city’s monthly snowfall total up to 12 inches and it is only the first week of February.  On average, we usually receive 8.8 inches for the entire month. Overall, local snowfall has been running above average this winter season with 40.3 inches of accumulation to date.

While more snow is on deck for the weekend, NYC is not expecting significant accumulation, contrary to earlier reports.

Eighth Snowiest January for NYC

Snow was abundant in New York City this month.  In fact, it was one of our top ten snowiest Januarys ever.

In Central Park, the city received 19.7 inches of snow this month.  That is 12.7 inches above average.  According to the NWS, that makes January 2014 the Big Apple’s 8th snowiest January on record.  It is also a significant departure from last January when the city only accumulated 1.5 inches for the month.

Data Source: NOAA

Data Source: NOAA

2013: Fourth Warmest Year on Record for Planet Earth

Temperatures across most of the United States in 2013 were relatively moderate. Globally, however, it was an exceptionally warm year.

According to NOAA, 2013 is now tied with 2003 as the fourth warmest year ever recorded on this planet. Earth’s combined average temperature for the year – over both land and sea surfaces – was 58.12°F.  That is 1.12°F above the 20th century average.  2013 also marked the 37th consecutive year that our global temperature was above its long-term norm.

While heat dominated most of the planet, Australia was particularly warm. With a mean annual temperature of 71.2°F (2.2°F above average), 2013 was their warmest year on record.  Japan and South Korea also experienced their hottest summers ever.

With records going back to 1880, Earth’s top ten warmest years have all occurred since 1998.  To date, our warmest year was 2010.


Top 10 Warmest Years (1880–2013). *Note: Tie is based on temperature anomaly in °C.          Chart Credit: NOAA

Image Credit: NOAA

Image Credit: NOAA

Drought Update: January 2014

So far this winter, snow has been plentiful across the mid-west and northeastern US. In the western states, however, long-term drought continues to leave much of the region parched.

According to the latest report from the US Drought Monitor, 61% of the West is suffering under conditions of moderate drought.  In California, where 2013 was their driest year on record, the situation has gone from bad to worse. In just this past week, the category of extreme drought jumped from 28% to 63% of the entire state.

These dry conditions are not only lowering reservoir levels and reducing crop production, they are increasing the risk of wildfires.  In fact, a large fire broke out today in the San Gabriel Mountains near Glendora, CA – a heavily populated suburb of Los Angeles.

January is usually the wettest month of the year in southern California, but a persistent ridge of high pressure over the region has pushed the storm track north. Unfortunately, this dry weather pattern is forecast to remain in place for the near future.

Image Credit: US Drought Monitor

Image Credit: US Drought Monitor

A Deep Freeze in NYC

A massive arctic outbreak has sent most of the U.S. into a deep freeze.  From the Mid-West to the Gulf Coast and along the eastern seaboard, many cities are dealing with the coldest temperatures they have seen in nearly two decades.

Here in New York City, the mercury fell to 4°F in Central Park this morning – a new record low for the date.  The previous record of 6°F was set in 1896. Our normal low temperature for this time of year is 27°F.

While it certainly was bitterly cold today, 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 low was a brutal -15°F.

Our current frigid conditions are the product of a weakened polar vortex – the pattern of winds around the North Pole.  As it slowed down, arctic air pushed southward and caused a deep dip in the jet stream. This frosty air is not likely to stick around much longer, though.  As the jet stream retreats northward, temperatures are forecast to rebound to more seasonable, and even above average, levels by the end of week.

Image Credit: Mesonet

Image Credit: Mesonet

NYC 2013: The Year in Review

New York City experienced some noteworthy weather in 2013. We bounced between the extremes of our coldest March in seventeen years and a July with extended heat waves.  In fact, we had 17 days this summer with readings at or above 90°F, which is two above normal.  Despite these superlatives, the city’s average temperature for the year was 55.34°F. That is only 0.5°F above our long-term norm.

Precipitation in the Big Apple this year was erratic. We fluctuated between our second wettest June on record and our third driest October. In the end, though, we were mostly dry. The city received a total of 46.32 inches of rain for the entire year.  That is 3.62 inches below normal.  Snowfall, however, was abundant.  February brought the city a blizzard that dumped 11.4 inches of snow in Central Park.  March and December also delivered above average snow totals.  For the year as a whole, the city accumulated 29.6 inches, which is 4.5 inches above average.

On the storm front, the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane season left NYC unscathed. This was a welcome relief after being hit by major storms two years in a row – Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012.

Moving into 2014, we are off to an active start. A winter storm warning is currently in effect for the city as a nor’easter makes its way up the coast.

Graph Credit: The Weather Gamut

Graph Credit: The Weather Gamut

Record Warm Weekend for NYC

What a difference a week can make!  Last weekend, New York City received five inches of snow.  This weekend, as winter officially arrived, the Big Apple experienced record-breaking warmth.

On Saturday, according to the NWS, the temperature in Central Park reached 65°F – a new record high for the date.  The previous record of 62°F was set in 1923 and tied in 2011.  On Sunday, the mercury continued to soar and the city’s temperature reached a balmy 71°F.  This shattered the old record of 63°F set in 1998. The average high for this time of year in NYC is 41°F.

These unseasonably high temperatures were the result of warm winds moving into the area from the south as the jet stream retreated to the north. The mild weather is not expected to last much longer, though. Colder – even below average – conditions are expected to return tomorrow as a cold front moves into the region.