A spring snowstorm slammed the northeastern United States on Monday. Coming on the heels of a mild Easter weekend, it felt like weather whiplash across the region.
Here in New York City, the storm dumped 5.5 inches of snow in Central Park, setting a new daily snowfall record for the date. The previous record of 2 inches had been in place since 1871. The storm also marked the snowiest April day the city has seen in 36 years.
Despite the ground being relatively warm, the heavy, wet snow was able to accumulate because it came down very quickly. La Guardia Airport reported a snowfall rate of 2 inches per hour.
The city, on average, gets 0.6 inches of snow for the entire month of April.
The calendar says spring, but it felt more like winter in New York City on Wednesday as the fourth nor’easter of the month slammed the region.
According to the NWS, the storm dumped 8.4 inches of heavy, wet snow in Central Park, setting a new daily snowfall record for the date. The previous record of 7.1 inches had been in place since 1958. The city, on average, gets 3.9 inches of snow for the entire month of March.
This storm was the fourth nor’easter to affect the city and region in less than three weeks. The others were on March 2, March 7, and March 13. This one, however, was by far the snowiest. It was also the first time since 1992 that the city saw at least 6 inches of snow from a spring storm.
The reason for the plethora of nor’easters this month involves something called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Stuck in its negative phase for weeks, it has caused the jet stream to dip south over the eastern US and steer storms toward the northeastern seaboard.
View of the fourth nor’easter to hit the east coast this March. Credit: RAMMB/CIRA/CSU
For the second time in less than a week, a nor’easter slammed New York City.
The storm intensified quickly and brought heavy snow, strong winds, and even thundersnow to the area. It downed trees and caused a number of travel disruptions, including nearly 2000 flight cancelations and the temporary suspension of all NYC Ferry service.
While the snow fell quickly, the surface temperature hovered just above freezing and did not allow much to accumulate. Only 3.2 inches of snow was reported in Central Park, according to the NWS. Areas north and west of the city received much higher storm totals.
GOES-16 image of nor’easter on March 7, 2018. Credit: NOAA
The winter season can produce a number of different types of storms. One of these is a nor’easter.
These intense systems generally affect the east coast of the United States from the mid-Atlantic to New England. They traditionally develop when a strong area of low pressure to the south moves up the coast and meets cold air pushing down from Canada. With a plentiful supply of moisture from the Atlantic, these storms are notorious for producing copious amount of precipitation. The exact type – rain or snow – depends on the temperature at the time of the storm. They are also known for their strong onshore winds that can cause coastal flooding and beach erosion.
Spinning counterclockwise, these storms take their name from the steady northeasterly wind they produce.
Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday when chocolate treats and images 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 the New York City area 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 painting 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 winter season can produce various types of precipitation – rain, freezing rain, sleet, or snow. It depends on the temperature profile of the lower atmosphere.
All precipitation starts out as snow up in the clouds. But, as it falls toward the Earth, it can pass through one or more layers of air with different temperatures. When the snow passes through a thick layer of warm air – above 32°F – it melts into rain. If the warm air layer extends all the way to the ground, rain will fall at the surface. However, if there is a thin layer of cold air – below 32°F – near the ground, the rain becomes super-cooled and freezes upon impact with anything that has a temperature at or below 32°F. This is known as freezing rain. It is one of the most dangerous types of winter precipitation, as it forms a glaze of ice on almost everything it encounters, including roads, tree branches, and power lines.
Sleet is a frozen type precipitation that takes the form of ice-pellets. Passing through a thick layer of sub-freezing air near the surface, liquid raindrops are given enough time to re-freeze before reaching the ground. Sleet often bounces when it hits a surface, but does not stick to anything. It can, however, accumulate.
Snow is another type of frozen precipitation. It takes the shape of six-sided ice crystals, often called flakes. Snow will fall at the surface when the air temperature is below freezing all the way from the cloud-level down to the ground. In order for the snow to stick and accumulate, surface temperatures must also be at or below freezing.
When two or more of these precipitation types fall during a single storm, it is called a wintry mix.
Precipitation type depends on the temperature profile of the atmosphere. Credit: NOAA
January was another month of wild temperature swings in New York City. It produced part of the city’s third longest sub-freezing cold streak on record and a significant January Thaw. Overall, highs ranged from a frigid 13°F to an unseasonably balmy 61°F. In the end, however, these extremes just about balanced each other out. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 31.7°F, which is only 0.9°F below normal.
In terms of precipitation, January was unusually dry. In all, the city received 2.18 inches of rain, which is 1.47 inches below average. Snowfall, on the other hand, was abundant with 11.2 inches measured in Central Park. Of this total, 9.8 inches fell during a single storm on January 4 and set a new daily snowfall record for the date. The city, on average, gets 7 inches of snow for the entire month of January. Nonetheless, NYC is listed as “abnormally dry” in the latest report (Feb 1) from the US Drought Monitor.
Credit: The Weather Gamut
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
If you enjoy winter and a good snow day, here are some fun facts about snow to ponder when the flakes fall:
- All snowflakes, regardless of shape, have six sides.
- Snow crystals are translucent, not white. The white color we see is caused by sunlight that is reflected off the crystals.
- Most snowflakes fall at a speed of two to five feet per second. That is roughly the same speed as a person walking casually.
Enjoy the snow!
Snowflakes come in a variety of shapes, but all have six sides or points. Credit: Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley
December 2017 felt like another temperature roller coaster in New York City. Highs ranged from an unseasonably warm 61°F to a frigid 18°F. But with eighteen out of thirty-one days posting below average readings, including the second coldest New Year’s Eve on record, the chill won out in the end. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 35°F, which is 2.5°F below average.
On the precipitation side of things, the city received 2.21 inches of rain. That is 1.79 inches below normal. December is now the sixth month in a row to deliver below average rainfall in NYC. As a result, the latest report from the US Drought Monitor (12/28) now lists the city as “abnormally dry.” Snowfall, on the other hand, was abundant. The month produced four separate snow events, including the city’s first snowfall of the season. In all, 7.7 inches of snow was measured in Central Park. On average, the city gets 4.8 inches of snow in December.
Credit: The Weather Gamut