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.
Today is National Weatherperson’s Day in the United States. While not an official federal holiday, it is a day to recognize the work of all individuals involved in the field of meteorology – not just prognosticating groundhogs.
According to the NWS, today’s designation honors the birthday of Dr. John Jeffries who was one of America’s first weather observers. Born in 1744, this Boston-based physician had a deep interest in weather and kept detailed records of daily conditions from 1774 to 1816. He also took the first known upper air observations from a hot air balloon in 1784.
Since the 18th century, the weather industry has grown by leaps and bounds. Utilizing radar, satellites, and computer models, meteorologists today provide forecasts and warnings to the public in an effort to protect lives and property. But in the end, weatherpersons, like Dr. Jeffries, are fascinated by weather and are always seeking to improve their understanding of its complex processes.
Dr. John Jeffries taking weather measurements from a hot air balloon. Source: Wonderful Balloon Ascents.
Today is Groundhog Day, the midpoint of the winter season.
On this day, according to folklore, the weather conditions for the second half of winter can be predicted by the behavior of a prognosticating groundhog. If the groundhog sees its shadow after emerging from its burrow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it does not see its shadow, then spring will arrive early.
The practice of using animal behavior to predict future weather conditions goes back to ancient times. The particular custom that we are familiar with in the United States grew out of the old world tradition of Candlemas that German settlers brought to Pennsylvania in the 1880s. Today, many communities across the U.S. and Canada continue this age-old ritual with their own special groundhogs.
The most famous of these furry forecasters is Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania – he was portrayed in the 1993 film, “Groundhog Day”. Here in New York City, our local weather-groundhog is Charles G. Hogg. A resident of the Staten Island Zoo, he is more popularly known as “Staten Island Chuck”. This year, the two groundhogs had a difference of opinion. Phil predicts six more weeks of winter and Chuck is calling for an early spring.
Long-range forecasts can be a tricky business, so we will have to wait and see what actually happens. Either way, the spring equinox is 46 days away.
January was another month of wild temperature swings in New York City. We had highs that ranged from a chilly 23°F to a record breaking 66°F. But with 20 out of 31 days posting above average readings, the warmth won out in the end. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 38°F, which is a whopping 5.4°F above our long-term norm. That makes January 2017 the Big Apple’s 19th consecutive month with an above-average temperature, its longest streak on record.
In terms of precipitation, January was unusually wet. In all, we received 4.83 inches of rain, which is 1.18 inches above normal. The majority of this plentiful total fell during the nor’easter at the end of the month. Snowfall, on the other hand, was about average with 7.9 inches measured in Central Park. All of this precipitation put a dent in the region’s extended drought. The city, according to the latest report from the US Drought Monitor (1/26), improved from moderate drought conditions last month to abnormally dry.
January 2017 was NYC’s 19th consecutive month with an above-average temperature. Credit: The Weather Gamut