Blizzard of 2016: The Second Biggest Snowstorm on Record for NYC

A massive winter storm slammed the eastern United States this weekend. With some areas getting more than two feet of snow, records fell across the region.

Here in New York City, a whopping 26.8 inches of snow was measured in Central Park – the city’s second highest storm total since record keeping began in 1869. This storm, according to the NWS, was only one-tenth of an inch shy of tying the city’s all time record of 26.9 inches set in February 2006.

To put this event into perspective, consider that, on average, NYC normally sees 7 inches of snow during the month of January and 25.8 inches for the entire winter season.

The cause of this historic event involved a few key players.  First, an area of low pressure moved up the east coast funneling in relatively warm and humid air from the southeast. At the same time, an area of high pressure to the north pushed cold air south. When the two air masses met, the warmer air was forced to rise and cool. Since cool air holds less moisture than warm air, the moisture was wrung out of the atmosphere as precipitation – snow, in this case. While developing as a classic nor’easter, this storm gained an extra boost of both energy and moisture from a warmer than normal Atlantic Ocean. Sea surface temperatures off the coast have been running about 5°F to 6°F above average for this time of year.

The pressure differences between the low and high also produced powerful winds. In Central Park, wind gusts peaked at 42 mph.

Dramatically ending the region’s so-called snow drought and impacting tens of millions of people, this storm garnered a great deal of media attention. Known by a few different names – The Blizzard of 2016, Winter Storm Jonas, and Snowzilla – this storm will not be forgotten anytime soon, regardless of its moniker.

Credit: NWS/NOAA

Three of the city’s top five snow producing storms have occurred in the past ten years. Credit: NWS/NOAA