Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Late January 2015 Northeast Blizzard-Themed Entry That I Didn't Intend to Post

**Updated 7:08AM 1/27/2015: See below.**

Image by Todd Heisler in this Jan. 26, 2015 online New York Times article. I'm unsure of location or date, although I assume it was taken on Jan. 26th, 2015.

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I think I'm just going to skip any entry tonight except for this weather event-themed one that I swore that I wouldn't write.

Concerning that last point, honestly, I have been keeping an eye on the major nor'easter all day that is forecasted to bring 2 to 3 feet of snow with blowing and drifting and coastal flooding to parts of New England and Long Island and 18 to 24 inches in the New York City area and along parts of the Jersey shore. Here is a comprehensive post with updates from the Capital Weather Gang.

NWS advisories for the northeastern quadrant of the U.S., 11:58PM EST Jan. 26, 2015 with color-coded legend.

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The story of the impending blizzard has been major news headlines all day including the for-profit information / entertainment complex hysterical. Here is a more matter-of-fact but informative New York Times article. All sorts of cancellations, disruptions, and preparations including travel bans have already occurred including the entire State of Connecticut and New York City.

Above: A hysterical Huffington Post compendium of news stories as of 4:19PM EST Jan. 26, 2015.

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To be honest, at this point, I'm not quite seeing how areas around Trenton or into the Philadelphia area get the higher end of the 10 to 16 inches of snow that is still forecasted. These higher end totals seem a stretch. Of course, I could be wrong -- nature will do what it will do, and radar trends alone in these rapidly changing circumstances are not always definitive.

3-hour surface pressure changes from the 2Z Jan 27, 2015 Rapid Update Cycle (RUC). The pressure legend is shown at the bottom and includes the range.

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The coastal low itself is undergoing the forecasted explosive cyclogenesis off the Delmarva coast as a shortwave rounded the base of the now negatively-tilted trough. The rapidly deepening low is spiraling slowly toward the north-northeast. The above RUC pressure change image shows this.

The Fort Dix (DIX) NWS radar in enhanced base reflectivity mode at 11:18PM EST January 26, 2015.

That's one helluva snow squall located just off the coast of Monmouth and Ocean Counties -- including right near where I was this past weekend.

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There is a band of intense snowfall just off the Jersey shore slowly moving westward while much of Long Island and Connecticut, Rhode Island, and southeastern Massachusetts are in their usual howling blizzard mode. I write this despite declarations of how "historic" is this storm notwithstanding -- I've read this book and seen this movie more than once.

The Upton, N.Y. (OKX) NWS radar in enhanced base reflectivity mode at 11:18PM EST January 26, 2015.

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Oddly enough, a convergence band set up well to the west of the "bombing" low with light to occasionally moderate snow bands from central Pennsylvania south into central Maryland and down the axis of the Chesapeake Bay and including the Metro Baltimore and Metro Washington. The result has been roughly 1 to 2 inches so far with here including about 1 inch here in D.C. proper. This convergence band will slowly vanish as the low pulls away and the snow will dissipate.

Our own always-depressing Sterling (LWX) NWS radar in enhanced base mode reflectivity mode at 11:17PM EST January 26, 2015 -- except it actually had more "returns" on it for a longer period than I anticipated for this "event." To be clear, all this means is 1 to 3 inches of snow instead of nothing.

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I should point out that the 0Z NAM and 0Z GFS runs that just came out really have a tight precipitation gradient across New Jersey with much lighter amounts in Trenton and Philadelphia than was shown in some earlier runs. However, the MOS guidance can correct for certain things, and I've not looked at that. As for coastal New England, it's one of your standard whoppers of a sort that have happened there so many times.

Updated 7:08AM 1/27/2015:

It seems quite clear at this point that the forecasted blizzard failed to materialize for quite a few places in New Jersey and even New York City proper where fantastic amounts of snow were predicted -- in the 24 to 36+ inch range -- as recently as yesterday morning, and then in the 18 to 24 inch range in the immediate run-up.

Northeastern CONUS composite radar mosaic at 1118UTC (5:18AM EST) January 27, 2015.

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Snowfall amounts in the NYC area have ranged mostly in the 4 to 8 inch range with 10 inches in the Jamaica section of Queens, at least through 1AM. Higher amounts fell on parts of Long Island. The highest I can find is 14.7 inches at Islip Airport as of 3AM.

Storm and 24-hour snowfall totals and general amounts received in the 12 hours ending 5:45AM January 27, 2015 for the extended New York City metropolitan area. This is taken from the NWS PHI website.

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The blizzard warnings for the immediate NYC area were cancelled around 530AM.

In New Jersey, while parts of Monmouth County near the coast has 6 to 8 inches (again, through the middle of the night), amounts were in the 3 to 6 inches in the northeastern corner of the state and under 2 inches in the southern part of the state. It looks as though the Philadelphia area and parts of southern New Jersey really missed out on the heavy (and in some cases, almost any) snowfall.

Storm and 24-hour snowfall totals and general amounts received in the 12 hours ending 5:45AM January 27, 2015 for southern New Jersey, the Philadelphia area, and northern Delaware.

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The Mount Holly / Philadelphia CWA weather advisories as of 5:59AM EST January 27, 2015.

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Oddly enough, the Baltimore/Washington corridor and west into northern Virginia had as much as parts of New Jersey owing to the convergence band that persisted all night. Amounts ranged from 1 to 3 inches with a few higher spots including reports of 4.5 inches in Germantown, Md., and 4 inches in Fairfax, Co.

Metro D.C. area snowfall totals from the Sterling LWX website updated just before 6AM January 27, 2015 (although some of the totals on this map are older than that).

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It seems as though the low former a bit farther east than forecasted, while our area had the aforementioned convergence zone to concentrate light but persistence snow during the night.

The view from my 5th floor Hampton Courts apartment looking onto the lightly snow-covered world below in the 2000 block of New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, D.C., 7:02AM January 27, 2015.

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So, at the very least I can say the following: Even if the D.C. area only had 1 to 3 inches of snow, it did not bust as badly as other areas in a forecasted major snow event. Live by the models, die by the models.

End of update.

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To clarify on D.C. area totals, KDCA itself will, of course, come in with its usual shit-nothing total. Through 4PM, the three regional airport totals were: KDCA: Trace: KBWI: 0.6 inches; KIAD: 0.1 inches. These should bump up into the 1 to 2 inch range by midnight.

Updated Jan. 26, 2015 totals:
KDCA: 0.5 inches
KBWI: 1.0 inches
KIAD: 1.7 inches


I'll post the final totals for these three spots when the event is over.

Just for historical reference, the Weather Channel -- with its hype-and-hysteria-minded winter storm naming convention -- has dubbed this storm "Juno," although not many folks are calling it that, least of all the National Weather Service.

As for what New York City might get, below is a list of the current top 10 biggest snowstorms as measured at the Central Park climate station, which has an unbroken record back to 1869 (which is even earlier than the general 1871 establishment of weather records by the U.S. Government and years earlier than most of the original set of climate stations started recording snow). The legendary blizzard of March 1888 "officially" ranks "only" 3rd at 21.0 inches, although its effects were disastrous and much more fell in other areas.

Top 10 individual snowfalls as measured at Central Park, New York City.

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Note that five of the top 10 biggest snowstorms in NYC have been since 2000.

About that fact, there is a really good analysis by Nate Silver of the 538 site that analyzes major snowfalls at Central Park. Nate concludes that the frequency of these blockbuster events in the past 15 years is probably a signal of climate change. Here is the piece (link embedded): Big Blizzards Have Become More Common In New York.

I wish he had used the NWS's 30 year average updated every 10 years, but he did not. Still, it is an excellent piece. Two of the resulting charts that Nate made are posted directly below ...

The long-term snow total at Central Park measured in 5-year increments. This shows no trend.

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Long-term average number of days with greater than a trace (i.e., 0.05") of snow at Central Park, NYC, as measured in 5 year increments. This shows a distinct downward trend.

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It really isn't possible to do such a long-term analysis in our immediate Baltimore / Washington area stretching all the way back to the start of official snow-keeping records, specifically, 1883 in Baltimore and 1888 in Washington, D.C. because the KBWI and KDCA airport climate stations have been in existence only since 1950 and 1945-ish, respectively, with the earlier locations likely having noticeably different snowfall patterns. At the very least, the correction factors that would have to be applied would render the analysis problematic.

Also, as for KDCA, it just sucks as a spot representative of anything except itself, and, if anything, its "blockbuster" events are more or less non-existent simply because it is too warm. As for Dulles Airport, it is too far out to be representative. The best you could do is a 65-year analysis on the KBWI spot, which is quite representative for "suburban Maryland."

All that aside, I just want this frickin' storm to pass so that the meteorologist in me can go back into dull weather period hibernation and I can post my New Jersey weekend entry. To be clear, I do not intend to post any entry about the snow totals / aftermath unless something really exceptional / newsworthy happens.

New York City on a snowy day, Jan. 26, 2015.

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As a micro-update I went to the gym again tonight for an OK three-part workout. I will be skipping tomorrow night and going either Wednesday or Thursday night (and not the other, nor Friday, but certainly on Saturday).

Oh, yes, walking back from the gym, while crossing 15th Street at New Hampshire Ave, there was a lull in the traffic, and in the silent snowfall, I could hear a just-under-two-mile distant train whistle carried by the northeast breeze and focused by the large apartment building facing W Street and Meridian Hill Park. It reminded me of being in Long Branch, N.J., where you hear the New Jersey Transit train whistles all the time.

--Regulus

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