Snow Map for January 9th...

By: Zachary Labe , 9:18 PM GMT on December 30, 2010

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"The One Hundred Year Storm"


(Fig 1- The aftermath of a nearly 30in snowdepth, February 12, 2010 here 10mi northeast of Harrisburg, PA)

Throughout the past few centuries, large swirling masses of low pressure have consistently rolled up along the East Coast during the winter solstice months leaving a trail of burried landscapes in their wake. These snowstorms have been the setting for countless stories and traditions passed on from generation to generation. The 'when I was your age' stories continue to dominate holiday dinner conversations. Over the past ten years, many meteorologists have concluded a large increase in the number of significant nor'easters affecting parts of the east coast. While some decades featured more significant snowstorms than others due to ENSO factors, it does appear there is a linear trend for increasing strength and frequency of these low pressures along the east coast. This entry will take a look at several case studies of this concept along with posing potential reasons for the subject matter.

A recent study proposed by Matthew E. Hirsch in "An East Coast Winter Storm Climatology" defines a ECWS as....

Storm must:

1) Have a closed circulation

2) Be located within the quadrilateral bounded at 45N by 65W and 70W and at 30N by 85W and 75W.

3) Show general movement from the south-southwest to the north-northeast

4) Contain winds greater than 23 mph.

These conditions must persist for at least a 12 hour period.


(Fig. 2- This graph courtesy of the Northeast Regional Climate Center shows a strong linear increase in the average strong east coast winter storm)

Red Solid Line- Strong ECWS with winds exceeding 52 mph
Red Dashed Line- Strong ECWS with winds exceeding 52 mph
Blue Solid Line- All ECWS regardless of strength or duration
Blue Dashed Line- High ECWS activity is indicated in seasons exceeding this value

The growing trend by this study indicates a greater number of east coast winter storms per year with an even stronger correlation in the number of strong east coast winter storms per year. Looking at the actual data for each decade dating back to 1950... Link

Decade and Number of Strong East Coast Winter Storms-
1950-1959- 78
1960-1969- 90
1970-1979- 86
1980-1989- 76
1990-1999- 103
2000-2009- 99

Since 1990, the study clear shows a great increase in the frequency of strong east coast winter storms. While the actual number of east coast winter storms is not increasing too much, the intensity of these storms systems seems to be on the rise.

In Paul Kocin's and Louis W Uccellini's "Northeast Snowstorms Monograph" they characterize 32 snowstorms from 1950-2003 meeting their requirements to fulfill as a historical east coast winter storm. These KU storms vary in track and intensity but share the common purpose of a large snowstorm impacting a large portion of the population in the Northeast. For our purposes, the KU storms only date to December 2003 and therefore we cannot see any trends for the 2000-2010 decade. But we can look at any trends since 1950 for the frequency of these historic snowstorms.

Date and Number of KU Storms...
1950-1959- 3
1960-1969- 11
1970-1979- 4
1980-1989- 5
1990-1999- 5
2000-2003- 4

With limited data, there is essentially no conclusion or trend based on the statistics above. We though are able to note the anomaly of the 1960-1969 decade with 11 KU storms. I will come back to this important statistic later. But another interesting note can be derived. From 2000-2003, that short time period already featured 4 KU storms. That frequency in those three years is much higher than any of the other decades which average 1.26 KU storms per three years (I threw out the 1960-1969 anomaly which skews the data). As we have already seen, several other storms in this past decade would have given a large frequency of KU storms had data been reported post 2003.

The NESIS (Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale) rating developed by Paul Kocin and Louis W Uccellini is a similar concept as to rating hurricanes or tornadoes. Link. The general rating from one to five is based on the amount of snow vs. the density of the population impacted. Therefore a 12in snowfall impacting all of the major cities from DCA-BWI-PHL-NYC-BOS would have a higher rating than a small 32in snowfall only impacting the state of New Jersey for instance. The blizzards of 1993 and 1996 are the only two storms out of 79 rated by the NESIS scale to fall under the extreme category 5. Looking at the NESIS scale, nine additional snowstorms would fall under as KU storms post December 2003. This would give a grand total of 13 KU storms in the past decade surpassing the 11 KU storms from 196-1969.

Now that we taken a quick glance at actual statistics for east coast winter storms, some data does support the hypothesis of an increasing frequency in major snowstorms. The past ten years have featured what many would consider 'One Hundred Year Storms' from the President's Day snowstorm to the Valentine's Day Snowstorm to last winter's surplus of blizzards. The widespread one hundred year snowstorm seems to be becoming more common. But look at actual scientific evidence, while the frequency does appear to be increasing, there may be a better answer. Yes a warming atmosphere will support stronger storms with more moisture content. It is as simple as basic meteorology; warmer air holds more moisture. But the 1960-1969 decade is critical to note for several reasons. The decade featured a greater than normal number of east coast snowstorms. This partly was lead by a solar minimum in the sunspot cycles and the decadal trend of a negative NAO for those ten or so years.


(Fig. 3- Courtesy of NOAA)

We are in a deep solar minimum. And while in October a few sunspots were found, the sun has once again gone blank. Astronomers correlate sunspot cycle 23 to perhaps be the lowest since the maunder minimum. This minimum occured from 1645-1715 and correlated with below normal temperatures globally. While there are many scientists quick to argue of the little effects of sunspots on global temperature patterns, I do believe there is a weak correlation. The 2009-2010 period has been affected by a dominate negative NAO. In fact in some regards, this has been the lowest NAO on record during several periods. A negative NAO often correlates to a favorable time period for east coast cyclogenesis. While many argue the NAO is subject to yearly trends, I believe a more broad decadal trend can be noted.


(Fig. 4- NAO means for January, February, and March from 1950)

Looking at the graph above we see a minimum in the NAO around the 1960-1969 period. Also since 1990, the linear trend supports a lowering NAO to the current 2010 negative NAO anomaly. And then if you go even farther looking at the sunspot cycle chart, you will note a minimum during the 1960-1969 period. While not near as severe as the current solar minimum, it does support the concept the low solar activity correlates to upstream blocking. And simply put, more upstream blocking correlates to a higher than climatology threat of a strong east coast winter storm. The NAO is such an important driving factor, that it can even skew over the ENSO wavelengths. In fact despite a high end moderate La Nina currently, global weather patterns are very anti-Nina. Looking at the solar-blocking theory, one could argue that the increase in east coast winter storms is not linear, but more in a wave like pattern with minimum and maximum ten year periods or so.

In another perspective, the warming climate would support more storms capable of a higher moisture content. Also a warming climate supports warmer than normal sea surface temperatures therefore fueling these coastal storms. With higher than normal SSTs, there is more 'potential energy' acting as the catalyst for storm development. Yes global warming will likely lead to more snow.

Whatever be the answer, it appears strong east coast winter storms are on the rise with a greater frequency per year than before. Keep in mind solid snowstorm data only dates back to 1950. One more interesting point, while the number of nor'easters is increasing, the average snowfall for locations across the Northeast is remaining steady or slightly declining. But I will leave that topic for another day.

An East Coast Winter Storm Climatology
Matthew E. Hirsch, Arthur T. DeGaetano, Stephen J. Colucci
Journal of Climate 2001 14:5, 882-899

Kocin, P. J. and L. W. Uccellini, 2004: A Snowfall Impact Scale Derived From Northeast Storm Snowfall Distributions. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 85, 177-194

"Here northeast of Harrisburg 2010-2011 winter statistics"
(Snow Stats)
Current Snow Cover- 3.0in
Monthly Total (November)- Trace
Monthly Total (December)- 0.6in
Monthly Total (January)- 3.25
Seasonal Total- 3.85
Winter Weather Advisories- 2
Winter Storm Warnings- 0
Ice Storm Warnings- 0
Blizzard Warnings- 0
Freezing Rain Advisories- 1
Winter Storm Watches- 1

(Temperature Stats)
Lowest High Temperature- 24.1F
Lowest Low Temperature- 12.8F
Wind Chill Advisories- 0
Wind Chill Warnings- 0

(Snow Storms Stats)
First accumulating snow - December 10 - 0.50in
Clipper light snow - January 7-8 - 2.25in then another 1in

"Snow Map; January 6-8"

*Keep in mind a majority of the snow accumulation will be accompanied by a band of snow making accumulations hit or miss with some areas seeing more or less than others.

"Snow Map; January 8-9"


"Local Harrisburg Radar"

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coating +.   Humidity varied from .68-.78 and temps rose above 32 deg early this morning.
forgot to remove the funnel and graduated cylinder from the rain gage prior to the last snow storm 
retrieved it today and found 0.26 in fluid.  
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting originalLT:
What's your temp. F1Man? I am at 34.5F


I'm not sure Lt sorry :(
I really should buy a thermometer
Member Since: February 23, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 685
5.5" on the ground and still snowing pretty heavy.
Member Since: February 28, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 340
Bliz what you thinking for timing and amounts tomorrow morning?
Member Since: January 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 1003
For next week...It's interesting how the GGEM is trying to stretch out the influence of the upper high near Alaska and create more separation between the PV and a piece of energy that splits off from it and closes off near the coast of British Columbia. The area of separation allows for more ridging along the west coast and thus a more amplified trough downstream over the midwest and enough energy for a developing closed low. That upper low then pulls the surface low closer to the coast. It's something to keep an eye on. The new EC seems to be trying to do this now as well but to a lesser extent.

Member Since: June 20, 2010 Posts: 112 Comments: 144
Temp never got above freezing here. not as much snow melt as I would have thought. The sun is still somewhat low in the sky
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
18z NAM is further east now, almost out to sea with the system, maybe its just the off run, or maybe it continues the trend further east, we won't know until 00z run.
Member Since: October 21, 2008 Posts: 248 Comments: 3970
Its really clinging on all the trees and branches, looks quite beautiful.
Member Since: January 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 8010
What's your temp. F1Man? I am at 34.5F
Member Since: January 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 8010
Quoting originalLT:
Last area of mod. snow rotating thru my area(Stamford CT), should be out of the area by 4PM. ,then I'll measure. There may have been some compactment of this last bit of heavy wet snow.


Still snowing pretty decent here and it doesn't seem that wet or heavy. The flakes aren't too big.
Member Since: February 23, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 685
Quoting P451:


LOL!

Well, Blizz called it, I think he deserves the checks. Nice little off-campus fund to play with.



I agree of course. Just want some $$$

Blizz could use some pocket change for the extracurricular activities...
Member Since: January 20, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1521
Last area of mod. snow rotating thru my area(Stamford CT), should be out of the area by 4PM. ,then I'll measure. There may have been some compactment of this last bit of heavy wet snow.
Member Since: January 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 8010
CT shoreline just east of new haven
light to moderate right now with no mixing
baro @29.41 and 33.0 f
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
i was referring to the tuesday/wednesday storm. I agree that it looks good but you never know. im not sure storms would be as fun if there was no anticipation or questions surrounding them.

I have to be happy that we have gotten snow out of every storm so far. No near misses like every storm last year. Up here last year the difference between 8" and a dusting was about 15 miles.
Member Since: February 28, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 340
Quoting P451:

Yeah, I think these guys owe us their paychecks on that one.



That would be really useful if you could get me some of that loot. I'm pretty broke at the moment. Plus, you're from Jersey...it just sounds tough.
Member Since: January 20, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1521
are you speaking of the low on Tues, drj? It's looking pretty good at the moment on most models, but things could change. As for the next flakes, well, apparently we could get another round of an inch or two tonight into tomorrow.
Member Since: January 20, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1521
well this was fun....whats next on the storm itinerary? does anyone think we will get anything from the low set to form?
Member Since: February 28, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 340
Yeah, it's possible that last line won't make it to you. Snow just stopped here and the sun is peaking out. Looks like it's still snowing in Manhattan as I can't see the Empire yet.
Member Since: January 20, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1521
Back in Kutztown we have about 2.5-3" here.
Member Since: December 15, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 987
Looks like in my area, another hour or so and we're done, according to radar.
Member Since: January 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 8010
Quoting originalLT:
As of 1:45pm, 4.25" of snow, that heavy snow band put down quite alot in a short period of time. Now down to light snow, occassionally moderate.



In a couple hours you'll probably get this last moderate line that's currently over us, LT. Maybe you'll add another inch to your decent total.
Member Since: January 20, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1521
Also, now is a heavy, wet snow, great packing! temp is up to 34F. Baro. down to 29.34"
Member Since: January 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 8010
ratios had to be pretty terrible here with temps in the mid to upper 30's...
Member Since: January 20, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1521
Still snowing here in the city. I just got back from Manhattan and of course it's not sticking anywhere except on parked cars. Here in Brooklyn it was sticking on pavement all morning but when temps went up to about 38 it melted. We've had 1.5" of visible accumulation, but probably another inch or so that has melted, possibly two.
Member Since: January 20, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1521
As of 1:45pm, 4.25" of snow, that heavy snow band put down quite alot in a short period of time. Now down to light snow, occassionally moderate.
Member Since: January 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 8010
468. zotty
snow lightening up a bit.  What is amazing is almost all the schools in Westchester closed today because of the threat of Mr. Nurlon.  I'm guessing 2-3 inches, and they close school.  Pretty sad, unless your a kid, of course
Member Since: August 19, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 775
I'm in north jersey (wanaque) and have had about 4 inches, It's been snowing steadily most of the day, with only a few lulls. My neighbor is already out with the snow blower!
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the Wu NYC radar show mixing up to almost the northern CT/MASS border but it is snowing pretty good here in New milford CT. No mixing.
Member Since: February 28, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 340
The Norlun Trough has shown up now on current surface maps. Extended from the Atlantic, through eastern Long Island and through Watertown at 1:10pm.
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 796
Looking at the radar and judging at what we have already, I think we will wind up with 4-6" when this stops later today. Not too bad!
Member Since: January 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 8010
Quoting P451:
Snow almost finished here as per Radar.

0.0 Accumulation. Wet roads. Slightest of fresh dusting on existing snowpack.



Wow really? Your proximity to the onshore flow must have cut you down. Around 1 wet inch here. Was just west of here in Newtown & Buckingham, Bucks County PA and they're a solid 2". I think ratios became a problem as you headed east/southeast into New Jersey.
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 796
460. zotty

Quoting originalLT:
Hi Zotty, here in Stamford, we are getting mod. to heavy snow. Visability is way down. Just took a measurement , as of 5 min. ago we had 2.3"
LT, thanks for the info.  i can't really measure around here, but we have had at least two, probably three inches, and it is still coming pretty good...
Member Since: August 19, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 775
Hi Zotty, here in Stamford, we are getting mod. to heavy snow. Visability is way down. Just took a measurement , as of 5 min. ago we had 2.3"
Member Since: January 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 8010
457. zotty
now we are getting moderate snow.  bigger flakes, and sticking everywhere.  white plains, ny
Member Since: August 19, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 775
Thats great, TheF1Man! we are having solid moderate snow here now.Baromter down to 29.39"F.
Member Since: January 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 8010
Hey OriginalLt it started snowing moderately here about an hour ago.
Member Since: February 23, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 685
P451, there will be another coastal low sometime tomorrow developing off of HSE. It will be this low to give you and myself some snow tomorrow through Sunday.

Link

This link will be important to follow tomorrow night into Sunday, determining where the best snowfall will occur as the best pressure falls occur and to the west and northwest of this couplet will determine where our best snows occur.
Member Since: October 21, 2008 Posts: 248 Comments: 3970
I think the trough is becoming apparent from Central Long Island to Albany.

I'm wondering if extreme Southeast PA, Delaware, Del-Mar-Va, southern NJ and Mass through NH and VT will do even better tomorrow.

Northeast Jersey and NYC getting hit pretty good for a while now.

Mount Holly never put out an advisory for Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties in extreme south Jersey. No reports yet, but I think northwestern Cumberland County saw close to 3".
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 796
Snow has become moderate here in Stamford, like Hoynieva says, I think this will be the heaviest we get. 31.5F here Barometer down to 29.43" still falling. Agree with Zotty too, moderate? not light not heavy. It's Snowing!
Member Since: January 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 8010
451. zotty
snowing... in white plains.  moderate?  not heavy, not light.  moderate might be too strong, too.  i'll just call is snowing.
air temp is warming up- cars in the lot have been there for a few hours and the snow is just starting to stick on them.  
Member Since: August 19, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 775
LT - i see that band and your right. It sure is having a tough time getting past the NY/CT border. that band looks like it will be pretty weak up north by me. looks like it will hit you pretty good if it makes it east.

I am supposed to be it bridgeport to play hockey tonight at 10:15. i am hoping for enough snow so i cant get there vs. just enough to make it take 10 hours each way. Have a nice day everyone, good luck on your final totals.
Member Since: February 28, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 340
Quoting Blizzard92:
About 2.25in of snow here. The models continue to indicate a slight vortex of energy moving through with some snow either late tonight or tomorrow. Some areas could receive another C-2in particurily towards Delaware and Philadelphia for the higher amounts.

Models are coming around back to a bigger storm for next week. 0z GGEM showed my thinking for this storm exactly...


Yeah Blizz, I've been pretty patient with this Tue-Wed thing. Obviously, the theme this year is to show a near correct solution a week out, abruptly kick it south and east the next day, then gradually bring it back west as an eastern event nears.
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 796
448. bwi
HPC's Day 4-5 QPF looks quite good: 0.5 inches of water for DC, Baltimore. That's roughly 6" of snow at 12:1, maybe more -- the ratio could be higher than usual this time I'm guessing?

Just scanning the GFS, it looks like it's back to the idea of lower pressure and snow extending back well inland from the main coastal low, and ECMWF latest now has main surface low at about Cape Hatteras(?) which isn't bad. We'll see what the 12z models say, but I'm encouraged.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1407
447. RkTec
2.0" fell here. Heaviest snow fell between 5-7 a.m. (about 1.5" during that 2 hour period)
Member Since: January 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 384

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