New Year’s Eve 2017 was one for the record books in New York City.
The midnight temperature in Central Park was a mere 9°F, marking the city’s second coldest New Year’s Eve on record. The coldest was in 1917 when the temperature was only 1°F. The normal low for this time of year is 28°F.
These unusually frigid conditions are the result of a deep dip in the jet stream and a lobe of the polar vortex reaching southward over much of the eastern US. They are expected to remain in place for the near future.
The Holidays are here and many people are dreaming of a White Christmas. The likelihood of seeing those dreams come true, however, is largely dependent on where you live.
According to NOAA, a White Christmas is defined as having at least one inch of snow on the ground on December 25th. In the US, the climatological probability of having snow for Christmas is greatest across the northern tier of the country. Moving south, average temperatures increase and the odds for snow steadily decrease.
Here in New York City, the historical chance of having a White Christmas is about 12%. This low probability is largely due to the city’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, which has a moderating influence on the temperature. This year, with an area of low-pressure developing off the coast and cold arctic air moving in from the northwest, snow is a possibility for the Big Apple. It all depends on the track of the low. If it stays close to the coast, NYC will see rain or a wintry mix while inland areas will get snow. If the low moves further off-shore, the cold air will be able to push eastward and NYC will get snow for Christmas.
Snow or no snow, The Weather Gamut wishes you a very Happy Holiday!
The historical chances for a White Christmas across the continental US. Image Credit: NOAA
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a long-standing holiday tradition in New York City. For 91 years, it has marched rain or shine. Nevertheless, the weather has been a factor in the event several times over the years.
Famous for its giant character balloons, high winds are the main weather challenge for the parade. According to city guidelines, the multi-story balloons cannot fly if there are sustained winds in excess of 23 mph or gusts higher than 34 mph. These regulations were put in place following a 1997 incident where gusty winds sent the “Cat in the Hat” balloon careening into a light post, which caused debris to fall on spectators.
The only time the balloons were grounded for the entire parade was in 1971 when torrential rain swept across the city. In 1989, a snowstorm brought the Big Apple a white Thanksgiving with 4.7 inches of snow measured in Central Park. The parade marched on that year but without the “Snoopy” and “Bugs Bunny” balloons as they were damaged by high winds earlier that morning.
This year, the wind is not expected to be a problem. Temperatures, however, are forecast to be a bit chilly – mostly in the 30s during the parade hours. So, bundle up if you are planning to be outside along the route.
Marching from West 77th Street to West 34th Street in Manhattan, the 91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is scheduled to begin at 9 AM on Thursday morning.
Paddington Bear Balloon floats down 6th Ave in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Credit: Macy’s
Thomas Jefferson is well known as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, but he was also an astute and systematic weather observer.
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, 1805. Credit: NYHS
In the summer of 1776, Jefferson was in Philadelphia, PA to sign the Declaration of Independence. While there, he purchased a thermometer and a barometer – new and expensive weather equipment at that time. For the next 50 years, he kept a meticulous weather journal. He recorded daily temperature data wherever he was – at home in Virginia or while traveling.
On July 4, 1776, Jefferson noted that the weather conditions in Philadelphia were cloudy with a high temperature of 76°F.
In an effort to understand the bigger picture of climate in America, Jefferson established a small network of fellow observers around Virginia as well as contacts in a few other states. According to records at Monticello, he hoped to establish a national network for weather observations. While this plan did not come to fruition during his lifetime, today’s National Weather Service considers him the “father of weather observers.”
Happy Independence Day!
An excerpt from Thomas Jefferson’s Weather Journal, July 1776. Credit: NCDC
Every day is Earth Day, as the saying goes. But, today marks the official celebration.
The first Earth Day – spearheaded by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin – was held on April 22, 1970. An estimated 20 million people attended rallies across the US to protest against rampant industrial pollution and the deterioration of the nation’s natural environment. Raising public awareness and shifting the political tide, these events helped put environmental issues on the national agenda. They led to the creation of the EPA and the passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
This year, with the rise of “alternative facts” and the Trump Administration’s rollback of US climate change policies, the date is more significant than ever. In the spirit of the original event, concerned citizens across the US are gathering for marches in support of science and fact-based environmental policies.
Blue Marble 2012. Credit: NASA
The calendar said Easter, but it felt more like the Fourth of July in New York City on Sunday. The temperature in Central Park soared to a sweltering 87°F, which is a staggering 25°F above average.
According to the NWS, this was the second hottest Easter on record for the Big Apple. The warmest was April 18, 1976, when the temperature hit 96°F. Unlike Christmas, Easter falls on a slightly different date every year. It is the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs after the spring equinox.
While the heat was not ideal for the holiday’s famous chocolate eggs, the city’s parks were filled with people enjoying the warm weather. However, if you are not quite ready for summer, fear not. More spring–like conditions are expected to return this week.
According to Irish folklore, a pot of gold can be found at the end of a rainbow. In reality, however, it is impossible to locate the terminus of this optical phenomenon.
For a rainbow to form, rain has to be falling in one part of the sky while the sun is out in another. The water droplets in the air act like prisms that refract and reflect the sunlight, revealing the colors of the visible spectrum. Red is refracted the least and is always on the top of the bow while blue is on the bottom. Since we only see one color from each drop, it takes a countless number to produce a rainbow.
That said, these colorful arcs are not physical entities that can be approached. No matter how close they appear to be, they are always tantalizingly out of reach. Nevertheless, most people consider seeing one to be a treasure with no gold required.
With a little luck, you can spot a rainbow if you face a moisture source – rain or mist from a waterfall – while the sun is at your back.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
Rainbow after a rainstorm in Bermuda. Credit: Melissa Fleming
Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday when images of cupid and 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 NYC 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 picture 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
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.