Snowstorm Kills 21, Drops 2' of Snow; January U.S. Temperatures Near Average
The latest blow from the Eastern United States' endless winter of 2013 - 2014 is winding down, as Winter Storm Pax scoots northeastward into Canada. Pax was the biggest Nor'easter of the winter so far, and dumped more than two feet of snow in the higher elevations of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and New York. Snowfall rates as high as 6" per hour were observed in an intense band that accompanied the storm over portions of New Jersey and New York. As of 9 am EST Friday, over a foot of snow (12.5") had fallen in New York City's Central Park, 12.3" in Baltimore, 11.9" at Newark, 9.8" at Philadelphia, and 6" in Washington D.C. at Reagan Airport. The storm dumped 5.8" on Knoxville, Tennessee--the city's first 5"+ snowfall since Jan. 17, 1996. Columbia SC recorded snow for the third day in a row on Thursday, marking the first time since January 1940 that had occurred.
From the 10 am EST Friday NWS storm report, here are the top snowfall totals by state from Pax:
Virginia: 28.5", Pilot
West Virginia: 27.5", Mount Storm
Maryland: 26", Glyndon
New York: 25.8", Jewett
Pennsylvania: 22.5", Glencoe
North Carolina: 21", Boones Hill
Vermont: 20", Mt. Holly
New Jersey: 19.2", Highland Lakes
Massachusetts: 16", Ludlow
Delaware: 14.4", Greenville
Maine: 14", Farmington
Connecticut: 14", Fairfield
Kentucky: 14", Jenkins
New Hamshire: 11.6", Washington
Tennessee: 11.3", Jonesborough
Alabama: 10", Cullman, Hunstville
Georgia: 10", Batesville
South Carolina: 10", Clover
Rhode Island: 9.6", West Glocester
Figure 1. Can you find the car? Image taken on Thursday, February 13, 2014 from Frostburg, Maryland, where 21.5" of snow fell. Image credit: wunderphotographer ftaccino1.
Twenty-one Deaths, 400,000 Without Power
At least 21 deaths are being blamed on the storm, including three people who died of heart attacks while shoveling heavy snow in Maryland on Thursday. As of 9 am EST on Friday, approximately 400,000 customers were without power, almost entirely in the states that received the worst freezing rain: Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. At the ice storm's peak on Thursday, about 700,000 customers were without power.
Figure 2. Historical temperature ranking for the U.S. for January 2014. A persistent trough of low pressure over the East brought a top-ten coldest January on record to eight states, but an equally strong ridge of high pressure over the West Coast brought a top-ten warmest January on record to California, Arizona, and Nevada. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).
A slightly cooler than average January for the U.S.
January of 2014 saw the most severe cold in twenty years over much of the Eastern half of the U.S., but no states had their coldest January on record, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in their latest State of the Climate report. A persistent trough of low pressure over the East brought a top-ten coldest January on record to eight states, but an equally strong ridge of high pressure over the West Coast brought a top-ten warmest January on record to California, Arizona, and Nevada. As a result, the January temperature over the entire contiguous U.S. was only slightly cooler than average, ranking as the 53rd coolest January in the past 120 years. According to the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, January snow cover extent across the contiguous U.S. was the 16th smallest in the 48-year period of record. Above-average snow cover was observed across the Northern Plains, Midwest, and Northeast where numerous winter storms brought heavy snowfall during the month, but below-average snow cover was observed for most of the West and Southern Rockies.
According to NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI), which tracks the percentage area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% and bottom-10% extremes in temperature, precipitation, and drought, January extremes were below average, with 12% of the nation experiencing top-10% extreme conditions, compared to an average of 18%.
Figure 3. Drought conditions in California in January 2014 were the most severe ever observed in January, dating back to 1895. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.
Dry in the west
January was a very dry month, ranking as the fifth driest January on record for the contiguous U.S., with eight states having a top-ten driest January. New Mexico had its driest January on record, with just 0.03" of precipitation, averaged over the entire state. The 0.02" of precipitation for Arizona ranked as their 2nd driest January on record. Drought conditions in California in January 2014 were the most severe ever observed in January, dating back to 1895. California had its driest 3rd driest January. It was the state's driest December-January on record, with 0.94 inch of precipitation, 7.35 inches below average. The previous record dry December-January occurred in 1975/76, when the two-month precipitation total was 1.32 inches. The December-February period is typically the wettest three months for California, and is an important time for the state's water resources. Winter precipitation is vital to replenish reservoirs and builds mountain snowpack that melts during the spring and summer. Last week's "Pineapple Express" storm over Northern California helped reduce the area of California in extreme drought from 67% to 61%, but the drought situation remains dire.
Warm again in Sochi
Friday was the warmest day yet of the Winter Olympics in sunny Sochi, Russia, where the temperature rose to 64° at 12:30 pm local time. We can expect continued issues with excessive warmth as high temperatures rise into the low 60s again on Saturday, before cooling off to more seasonable highs in the low 50s on Sunday. Temperatures at the mountain venues are typically 10 - 20° cooler than in Sochi, but have still been well above freezing during the daytime hours. According to an article in the USA Today, more than 100 winter Olympians have signed a petition urging world leaders to fight climate change. "The once-consistent winters that I saw as a young kid are no more, especially near my home in Vermont," U.S. cross country skier Andrew Newell, 30, says in a statement seeking support. At least 105 Olympians from 10 countries have signed on, including 85 Americans. They're asking countries to reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, embrace "clean energy" and prepare for a global agreement at the United Nations' climate convention in Paris next year.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather
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