March, a month where the seasons transition from winter to spring, can produce some fickle weather. But, it is probably most famous for strong winds, and they were on full display in New York City yesterday.
According to the NWS, sustained winds of 25mph were measured in Central Park and gusts reached as high as 45mph. A wind advisory was issued in the afternoon and remains in effect until later this evening.
Below is a short video of strong winds whipping a tree in a NYC backyard. Even though it is largely protected by buildings, it still moves quite a bit.
After the Big Apple’s second warmest winter in history and a recent stretch of record warm days, many trees and flowers have already started to bloom – early by local standards. But, for the official start of the spring season, temperatures fell and snowflakes filled the sky. While only a trace of accumulation was measured in Central Park, the frosty conditions were a jarring reminder to many New Yorkers, who had acclimated to the warm temperatures, that March is a transitional month known for changeable weather in the northeast.
Today is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. The new season officially began at 4:30 UTC, which is 12:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time.
Our astronomical seasons are a product of the tilt of the Earth’s axis – a 23.5° angle – and the movement of the planet around the sun. Today, as spring begins, the Earth’s axis is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun. This position distributes the sun’s energy equally between the northern and southern hemispheres.
Since the winter solstice in December, the arc of the sun’s apparent daily passage across the sky has been moving northward and daylight hours have been increasing. Today, the sun appears directly overhead at the equator and we have approximately equal hours of day and night. The word “equinox” is derived from Latin and means “equal night”.
Our global temperature continued its upward trend last month with February 2016 marking the warmest February on record and closing out the warmest meteorological winter ever recorded for the entire planet.
According to the State of the Climate report by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, Earth’s combined average temperature for February – over both land and sea surfaces – was 56.08°F, which is a staggering 2.18°F above the 20th century average. This marks the highest departure from average for any month on record, surpassing the previous record set just two months ago in December 2015 by 0.16°F. February 2016 was also the 10th month is a row to break a monthly temperature record.
The three-month period of December, January, and February – known as meteorological winter in the northern hemisphere – was also a record breaker. NOAA reports that Earth’s average temperature for the season was 2.03°F above the 20th century average. That is 0.52°F above the previous record that was set last year.
While heat dominated most of the planet this winter, some places were particularly warm, including much of North America and Europe. Here in the contiguous US, it was our warmest winter on record.
These soaring temperatures, scientists say, were fueled by a combination of the current El Niño – a natural periodic climate phenomenon in the Pacific that boosts global temperatures – and the long-term trend of human-caused climate change. While not to discount the strong influence El Niño has on the climate, it should be noted that no other El Niño event of comparable strength has produced temperature anomalies as large as the ones seen recently. Also, it is important to remember that fifteen of the sixteen warmest years on record have occurred this century and they were not all El Niño years.
Year to date, the first two months of 2016 were the warmest such period on record. Global temperature records date back to 1880.
A longstanding tradition in New York City, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has marched in all types of weather without missing a beat. Below is a look at the weather history for March 17th in the Big Apple.
While the first parade is reported to have taken place in 1762, official weather records for Central Park only date back to 1876. Even without information on the earliest events, the 140 years of data that are available show that the city has experienced a wide range of weather conditions on St Patrick’s Day. But given that March is when the seasons transition from winter to spring, this is not that surprising.
Looking back, rain dampened the parade only 47 times over 140 years and snow was only noted at ten events. Temperatures were above average about 33% of the time, but the overall trend shows warming conditions through the years especially after the 1970s. The city’s average high temperature on St Patrick’s Day is 50°F and the average low is 35°F.
Below are some charts based on NWS data showing the daily records for March 17th and the temperature history for the date in NYC. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Today was another record warm day in New York City. The temperature soared to 79°F in Central Park, which is a staggering 31°F above average. The old record of 74°F was set in 2006.
These late spring-like temperatures have brought many New Yorkers out of their winter hibernation. People are wearing shorts and dining alfresco at sidewalk cafes across the city. But, it is still March – a month known for changeable weather patterns in the northeast.
Looking ahead, above average temperatures are expected to stay in place for a while. That said, the long-term outlook for the month is forecasting a few shots of cold air returning to the area during the second half of the month. So, get out and enjoy the warm weather, but don’t put those sweaters and coats away just yet.
The calendar says March, but it felt more like May in New York City today.
The temperature in Central Park soared to 77°F, setting a new record high for the date. It crushed the old record of 69°F that was set in 2000.
The last time the city saw a temperature in the 70s, oddly enough, was on Christmas Eve. But, that tells you how warm this winter has been. Last year, the first 70°F reading did not show up until April 15th. Our normal high for this time of year is 47°F.
The primary driver of this unseasonable warmth is El Niño. Acting with global warming as a backdrop, it has produced a large ridge in the jet stream over the eastern part of the country that is allowing warm air from the south to flow further north than it normally would in early March.
Cooler conditions are expected to return by the weekend, but temperatures will still be above average for this point in the season.
Its official! Winter 2015-2016 was the warmest ever recorded in the continental US.
The average temperature of the lower 48 states this meteorological winter (Dec-Feb), according to NOAA’s National Centers of Environmental Information, was 36.8°F. That is a whopping 4.6°F above the 20th century average and surpasses the previous record of 36.5°F that was set in the winter of 1999-2000. The considerable warmth in both December 2015 (warmest December on record) and February 2016 (7th warmest February on record) helped boost the season’s overall average.
Across the country, 46 states posted above average seasonal temperatures and no state was cooler than normal. In New England, it was particularly warm with all six states in the region reporting record high temperatures. Alaska – considered separately from the lower 48 by NOAA – saw its second warmest winter on record.
This exceptional warmth, scientists say, was driven by strong El Niño conditions in the Pacific acting on top of continued global warming.
Weather records for the contiguous United States date back to 1895.
When most of us think of winter in Alaska, we think of cold and snowy conditions. But that has not been the case in Anchorage this year, where organizers of the famous Iditarod Dog Sled Race had to ship in snow for the start of the event this weekend.
The frosty cargo was transported by rail from northern parts of the state, some 300 miles away. But, even with this borrowed snow, the ceremonial starting leg of the race had to be shortened from the usual eleven miles to three.
In a typical winter season, the city of Anchorage sees 60 inches of snow. This year, they only had 26.6 inches and their current snow depth is zero. It is also interesting to note that NYC received more snow than Anchorage this winter.
Meteorologists attribute this unseasonably warm winter and its dearth of snow to a persistent ridge of high pressure that sat over the state for most of January and February. In fact, this past February was the fourth warmest February on record in Anchorage.
While warm winters can occasionally occur, this is the third year in a row that a lack of snow disrupted the Iditarod. Last year, the start of the race had to be moved over 225 miles north to Fairbanks. In 2014, large parts of the long trail had no snow cover at all and many participants were injured.
Ending in Nome, AK, the annual race spans 1000 miles of arctic tundra and commemorates the journey made by dogsledders in 1925 to deliver medical supplies for a diphtheria outbreak in that city.
Alaska Railroad ships snow from Fairbanks to Anchorage for Iditarod. Credit: ADN