2018: Fourth Warmest Year on Record for Planet

Its official, 2018 was the fourth warmest year ever recorded on this planet. Only 2015, 2016, and 2017 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 58.42°F. That is 1.42°F above the 20th-century average.

2018 also marked the 42nd consecutive year with a global temperature above its long-term norm. That means every year since 1976 has posted a warmer than average annual temperature.

While heat dominated most of the planet last year, some places were particularly warm. Record heat was measured across much of Europe and the Middle East. Here in the contiguous US, it was the fourteenth warmest year on NOAA’s books. Alaska, however, was even warmer with its second warmest year ever recorded.

The exceptional warmth of 2018 is largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. While El Niño conditions helped influence record heat in the past, 2018 saw the cooling effects of La Niña in the beginning of the year with ENSO neutral conditions prevailing after April.

Looking at the bigger picture, nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 2005, with the last five years ranking as the five warmest on record.  The only year from the 20th century included on the top ten list is 1998, which is tied with 2009 as the planet’s ninth warmest year on record.

As greenhouse gases – the main driver 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.

2018 was Earth’s  4th warmest year on record. Credit: NOAA

January 2019: A Month of Wild Temperature Swings in NYC

January was another month of wild temperature swings in New York City. It produced two arctic outbreaks and a record cold day on one end of the spectrum and a few days that felt more like early April on the other. Highs ranged from a frigid 14°F to an unseasonably balmy 59°F. In the end, however, these extremes balanced each other out. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 32.5°F, which is only 0.1°F below normal.

In terms of precipitation, January was about average for rainfall. The city received 3.62 inches of rain, which is only .03 inches below normal. Most of that total, however, fell during a single storm.

Snowfall, on the other hand, was scarce. On average, the city gets 7 inches of snow for the month. But this year, only 1.1 inches was measured in Central Park. The cold air and moisture, which were both plentiful in the city in January, just did not coincide to produce a big snowstorm.

Credit: The Weather Gamut

2018: A Year of Weather Extremes in NYC

New York City experienced some noteworthy weather in 2018, especially the swings between extreme cold and extreme heat. However, the warmth won out in the end. The city’s average temperature for the year in Central Park was 55.89°F, which is 0.97°F above normal.

The year started bitterly cold. It was only 9°F when the ball dropped in Times Square for the New Year celebration. Moreover, the arctic weather stuck around for a while. With 14 consecutive days with temperatures below 32°F, it was the city’s third longest sub-freezing cold streak on record.

Then things warmed up dramatically in February. The temperature in Central Park soared to 78°F on February 21, setting not only a new record high for the date but marked the warmest February day ever recorded in the Big Apple. In fact, February 2018 went on to be the warmest February on record for the city.

March was rather turbulent, with four nor’easters hitting the city in just three weeks. Spring, overall, was a bit chilly. In fact, the spring equinox brought the city 8 inches of snow. However, May ushered in another extreme temperature swing. It was the city’s fifth warmest May on record.

The summer brought NYC a number of oppressively hot and humid days, including 18 days with temperatures in the 90s. The hottest day came on July 1, when the mercury soared to 96°F. When humidity was factored in, the heat index, or real feel temperature was in the triple digits. The season also produced a relatively rare tornado for the city. Rated EF-0, it barreled through Queens on August 3.

The autumn remained relatively warm until November rolled around, which was unusually cold. It also produced an early season snowstorm that brought down many trees around the city that still had their leaves. On November 16, Central Park reported 6.4 inches of snow, setting set a new daily record for the date. It was also the earliest 6-inch one-day snowfall on record for the city and the largest one-day November snowfall since 1882. Moreover, that one snow event was enough to make November 2018 the city’s fourth snowiest on record.

Snowfall, overall, was plentiful in 2018. For the calendar year as a whole, the city accumulated 39.6 inches of snow, which is 13.8 inches above average.

The main precipitation story for the year, however, was rain. Several months posted top ten rainfall totals and only four months produced below average precipitation. In the end, NYC received 65.52 inches of rain in Central Park for the entire year. That is a staggering 15.58 inches above normal and makes 2018 the city’s fourth wettest year on record.

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

 

December 2018: Ninth Wettest on Record for NYC

December 2018 felt like a weather roller coaster in New York City. Highs ranged from a relatively balmy 61°F to a chilly 36°F. But, with 17 out of 31 days posting above average readings, the warmth won out in the end. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 40.1°F, which is 2.6°F above average.

In terms of precipitation, December was a month for the record books. The city received 6.48 inches of rain in Central Park, tying December 1996 as the ninth wettest December on record. Three different days produced rainfall totals greater than one inch. The end of the month saw a soggy New Year’s Eve with 0.99 inches of rain. It was the first time in 24 years that it rained on the revelers at the Times Square ball drop festivities.

Snowfall, however, was scarce. Only a trace amount was reported for the month. New York City, on average, sees 4 inches of rain and 4.8 inches of snow in December.

November 2018: Earth’s Fifth Warmest November on Record

Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month. November 2018 not only tied 2004 and 2016 as the fifth warmest November on record, but it also closed out the planet’s second warmest September to November season – a period known as meteorological autumn in the northern hemisphere.

According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for November – over both land and sea surfaces – was 56.55°F, which is 1.35°F above the 20th-century average. This November also marked the 407th 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.

Globally, the collective period of September, October, and November was also unusually warm. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 1.44°F above the 20th century average of 57.1°F. That makes it the second warmest such period on record. Only 2015 was warmer.

While heat dominated most of the planet during this three-month stretch, some places were particularly warm, including parts of Europe, Scandinavia, Alaska, and eastern Russia. For the contiguous US as a whole, the season was only slightly above average. To put this disparity into context, consider that the mainland United States constitutes less than 2% of the total surface of the Earth. This detail highlights the fact that climate change is a complex global phenomenon that involves much more than the short-term weather that is happening in our own backyards.

These soaring temperatures are largely attributed to the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. ENSO-neutral conditions prevailed in November, which means there was neither a warm El Niño nor a cool La Niña in the Pacific to influence global weather patterns.

Year to date, the first eleven months of 2018 were the fourth warmest such period of any year on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.

Credit: NOAA

2018: Not Yet Over, But Already Among the Top Ten Wettest in NYC

The northeastern United States has been rather soggy this year. With more than two weeks still left in 2018, many locations have already posted their wettest years on record.

Here in New York City, we have received 59.68 inches of rain to date, which is 12.08 inches above average. That means 2018 now ranks among the top ten wettest years ever recorded in the Big Apple.

Much of this impressive, and still building, total came down during several heavy rain events over the course of the year. Each of these caused street and subway flooding around the five boroughs. For the northeast region as a whole, heavy precipitation events increased 55% between 1958 and 2016, according to the latest National Climate Assessment.

Scientists attribute the increase in both frequency and intensity of heavy rain events to climate change. As greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere, the air is able to “hold” more water vapor. More specifically, according to the Clausius–Clapeyron relation, for every increase of 1°F, the saturation level of the atmosphere increases by about 4%. That means there is more water vapor available in the air to condense and fall as precipitation.

Credit: Climate Matters

The Snowiest Places in the US

Snow is a common occurrence during the winter months for many parts of the US. But, some places tend to get more than others. In fact, there are locations that see triple digit snow totals every year.

In the east, the Great Lakes region is well known for lake effect snow events. With moisture laden snow bands forming down-wind of the massive lakes, it is not uncommon for some communities to see more than 100 inches of snow each season.  For example, Syracuse, NY, on average, gets 123.8 inches of snow annually.

In the west, even more snow is par for the course in the Cascade Range of Washington state. The Paradise Ranger Station in Mount Rainier National Park holds the record for the greatest average annual snowfall in the US. At 5400 feet in elevation, they see 643 inches of snow (53.6 feet) each year.

Storm systems that move in from the Gulf of Alaska run into the Cascade Mountains and are forced upward. As they rise, the moisture in the air cools, condenses, and falls as precipitation. At lower elevations, it comes out as rain, but at higher elevations, where the air is colder, it falls as snow. Standing at 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is the highest peak in the Cascades.

Mount Rainer National Park sees the highest average annual snowfall in the US. Credit: Hemmings

November 2018: Seventh Wettest and Fourth Snowiest on Record in NYC

November was unusually cold in New York City this year. Highs ranged from a relatively balmy 72°F to a chilly 28°F. But, with 22 days posting below average readings, the cold won out in the end. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 44.5°F, which is 3.3°F below average.

In terms of precipitation, November was a month for the record books. The city received 7.62 inches of rain in Central Park, making it the seventh wettest November on recordSnowfall was also abundant, despite the fact that it all fell during a single storm. Central Park reported 6.4 inches of snow, setting set a new daily record for the date. It was also the earliest 6-inch one-day snowfall on record for the city and the largest one-day November snowfall since 1882. Moreover, that one snow event was enough to make this November the city’s fourth snowiest on record.

New York City, on average, sees 4.02 inches or rain and 0.3 inches of snow for the entire month of November.

 

Destructive 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season Comes to a Close

The 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially ends today.  It marked the third year in a row with above average activity.

According to NOAA, there were fifteen named storms this season. Of these, eight developed into hurricanes and two 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 season was the first since 2008 to have four named storms active at the same time – Florence, Helene, Isaac, and Joyce.

Officially running from June 1 to November 30, the season got off to an early start with Tropical Storm Alberto forming in May. This was the fourth consecutive year to see a pre-season storm develop. The biggest names of the season, however, were Florence and Michael.

In September, Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina and dumped a massive amount of rain on the area. Traveling inland, it caused catastrophic flooding in parts of both North and South Carolina. In Elizabethtown, NC, 35.93 inches of rain was reported, making the wettest tropical cyclone on record for the state. For the contiguous US, it ranked as the eighth wettest.

A few weeks later, Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle as a cat-4 storm. With winds measured up to 155mph, it was the strongest storm on record to strike the region and the third strongest storm to make landfall in the continental US. Its powerful winds and storm surge flooding decimated the Panama City area.

Causing so much destruction, both Florence and Michel 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 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.

Overall, the season is reported to have claimed the lives of 154 people and caused an estimated $33 billion in damages. The official tally from NOAA will not be available until early 2019.

Source: NOAA

NYC Monthly Weather Summary: October 2018

October had a split personality in New York City this year. It started off unseasonably warm, but then temperatures plunged dramatically in the middle of the month and remained mostly below average until Halloween. Highs ranged from a balmy 80°F to a brisk 50°F. But in the end, these extremes balanced each other out. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 57.7°F, which is only 0.8°F above average.

In terms of precipitation, the city was fairly dry. Overall, 3.59 inches of rain was measured in Central Park. Of this total, 35% fell in single day during the first nor’easter of the season. On average, the Big Apple gets 4.40 inches of rain for month. This October also marked first month since June that the city received below average rainfall.

Credit: The Weather Gamut