New York City saw its first measurable snowfall of the 2017-2018 season on Saturday. According to the NWS, 4.6 inches of snow was measured in Central Park.
While not a blockbuster event, it was enough to leave the city looking like a winter wonderland. With all the holiday lights and decorations on display, the softly falling flakes added to the festive atmosphere.
The timing of this first snowfall was about normal for the Big Apple. On average, the first flakes of the season are seen by December 14. Our earliest first snow event on record was on October 21, 1952, and our latest was January 29,1973. New York City typically gets 25.3 inches of snow for the entire winter season.
First flakes of the season fly in NYC. Credit: Melissa Fleming
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
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
Just like real estate, weather is all about location. In the northeastern US, a special set of coordinates known as “The Benchmark” (40°N 70°W) can help identify the type of impacts a winter storm will have on the region.
When a low-pressure system travels west of this position, coastal areas will see more rain than snow as the storm pulls relatively warm marine air onshore. Further inland, where the air is colder, snow is more likely.
If a storm tracks east of the benchmark, it is essentially moving away from land and less warm air is pulled onshore. Some light snow will fall along the coast, but usually not very much.
When a system moves directly through the crosshairs of the benchmark, coastal communities in the region can expect a major snow event. This is exactly what happened with the storm on Thursday that dumped heavy snow across the area.
The 40/70 Benchmark. Credit: Wx4cast
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.
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.
December felt like a weather roller coaster in New York City this year. We had highs that ranged from a cold 27°F to a relatively balmy 60°F. The warmth won out in the end, though. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 38.4°F, which is 0.9°F above our long-term norm. That makes December 2016 the Big Apple’s 18th consecutive month with an above average temperature – its longest streak on record.
In terms of precipitation, December was mostly dry. In all, we received 2.89 inches of rain, which is 1.11 inches below normal. Snowfall was also relatively scarce with Central Park reporting 3.2 inches for the month. The city usually receives 4.8 inches of snow in December. As a result of the this paltry precipitation, NYC remains in a moderate drought according the latest report (12/29) from the US Drought Monitor.
Credit: The Weather Gamut
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 decreases.
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 temperature. This year, despite some chilly conditions and accumulating snow earlier in the month, NYC is expecting above average temperatures on the big day. So, the city’s already minimal chance for a White Christmas has largely melted away.
Snow or no snow, The Weather Gamut wishes you a very Happy Holiday!
Let it snow! New York City saw its first measurable snowfall of the 2016-2017 winter season on Sunday with 0.4 inches reported in Central Park.
With the snow sticking only to grassy areas and parked cars, it was really just a dusting. But with holiday lights and decorations up all around the city, the softly falling flakes added to the festive atmosphere.
The timing of this first snowfall was about average for the Big Apple. Our earliest first snow event was on October 21,1952 and our latest was January 29,1973. On average, NYC gets 25.3 inches of snow for the entire winter season.
After further review, it turns out that the Blizzard of January 2016 – also known as Winter Storm Jonas – was a record breaker for New York City.
According to the NWS, the storm dumped 27.5 inches of snow in Central Park and not the previously reported 26.8 inches. That makes it the city’s biggest snowstorm on record. The previous reading was a tenth of an inch shy of the now old record that was set in February 2006.
The error was found during an investigation launched in the wake of the historic storm. Snow measurement techniques at eight different sights along the east coast were questioned, as storm totals seemed too high in some places and too low in others. In a statement, NWS Director, Louis Uccellini, said, “Snow measurements are extremely difficult to take because precipitation is inherently variable, a problem compounded by strong winds and compaction during a long duration event.”
In NYC, the mistake stemmed from a communication issue rather than a problem with measurement technique. The Central Park Conservancy, the group responsible for measuring snowfall in Central Park, called their numbers into the NWS office by phone and one of the measurements was written down incorrectly.
In the grand scheme of this massive storm, an extra 0.7 inches of snow may not sound like a lot, but every fraction counts when it comes to records.
New Yorkers enjoy the record 27.5 inches of snow dumped on the city by the Blizzard of 2016. Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park, NYC. Credit: Melissa Fleming