December 2019 felt like a weather roller coaster in New York City. Highs ranged from a relatively balmy 58°F to a frigid 25°F. But in the end, these extremes nearly balanced each other out. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 38.3°F, which is only 0.8°F above average.
Credit: The Weather Gamut
In terms of precipitation, December was a month for the record books. The city received 7.09 inches of rain in Central Park, making it the fifth wettest December on record. It is also interesting to note that two different days produced rainfall totals greater than one inch. Snowfall, however, was below average. Only 2.5 inches was reported in Central Park. New York City, on average, sees 4 inches of rain and 4.8 inches of snow in December.
The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially ended on Saturday. It marked the fourth year in a row with above-average activity.
According to NOAA, there were eighteen named storms this season. Of these, six developed into hurricanes and three were major hurricanes with ratings of category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. It also posted an Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index of 129.8 An average season produces twelve named storms, six hurricanes, three major hurricanes, and an ACE of 106.
Officially running from June 1 to November 30, the season got off to an early start with Subtropical Storm Andrea forming in May. This was the fifth consecutive year to see a pre-season storm develop. The biggest names of the season, however, were Dorian and Lorenzo.
In September,Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas as a category-5 storm with winds measured up to 185mph and a minimum pressure of 910 millibars. It was the strongest storm on record to hit the island nation, claiming the lives of at least 60 people and leaving several billion dollars worth of damage in its wake.
Dorian also marked 2019 as the fourth year in a row to see a category-5 storm develop in the Atlantic basin, a new record.
Out at sea, Hurricane Lorenzo became the second category-5 storm of the season. It was also the easternmost Category-5 storm in the Atlantic on record. As for a possible connection to climate change, it is interesting to note that twenty-eight category-5 storms have developed in the Atlantic since 1950 with fourteen of them occurring since 2003.
For the contiguous United States this season, Tropical Storm Imelda caused the most damage. Moving slowly across Texas and Louisiana, it dumped between 30 and 44 inches of rain on the area over the course of three days. It unleashed catastrophic flooding throughout the region and became the fifth wettest tropical cyclone on record in the continental US.
This active hurricane season, according to NOAA, was largely the result of above-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic, a stronger than normal West African monsoon, and ENSO neutral conditions in the Pacific. In other words, the combination of warm water to fuel storms and reduced wind shear across the Gulf of Mexico allowed for unhindered tropical development in the Atlantic basin.
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.
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.
Steered across the Atlantic by a strong area of high pressure, Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, NC on Friday morning as acategory-1 storm. It peaked at category-4 strength while still over the ocean, but weakened as it moved closer to the US coast.
Despite this downgrade, Florence still packed a powerful punch. Its strong winds, flooding rains, and storm surge forced people to evacuate their homes and caused significant property damage as well as widespread power outages across the region. In the hard hit city of New Bern, NC, at the mouth of the Neuse River, a storm surge of more than ten feet was reported. Local officials there say upward of 4000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed.
Moving as slowly as 2 mph at one point, Florence essentially stalled out over the region, allowing it to unleash massive amounts of precipitation. Preliminary reports show that the storm set new state records for rainfall from a single tropical cyclone in both North and South Carolina. In Elizabethtown, NC, 35.93 inches was reported, crushing the previous record of 24.06 inches set by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. In South Carolina, the town of Loris, about 25 miles north of Myrtle Beach, reported 23.63 inches of rain, eclipsing the old record of 17.45 inches set by Tropical Storm Beryl in 1994.
Measuring 400 miles wide, Florence’s successive bands of heavy rain also caused catastrophic inland flooding as several rivers in the region overflowed their banks and inundated communities. In Fayetteville, NC – nearly 100 miles from the coast – more than 15 inches of rain was reported as of Monday. The Cape Fear River, which runs through the city, is forecast to crest at 61.8 feet on Tuesday, which is more than 25 feet above flood stage.
The death toll from this storm currently stands at 20, with most fatalities being water related. Sadly, as the rivers across the area continue to rise, that number is expected to increase in the coming days.
Hurricane Florence off the coast of the Carolinas. Credit: NOAA