Mighty Post-Christmas Nor'easter wallops the Northeast U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:07 PM GMT on December 27, 2010

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A major blizzard continues to pound New England with heavy snow and winds gusting to near hurricane force as the 976 mb low tracks slowly northeastward into the Gulf of Maine. The snow has mostly ended across New York City and the mid-Atlantic, where snowfall rates as high as 3 - 4 inches per hour occurred during "thundersnow" snow squalls at the peak of the storm late last night and early this morning. At the height of the storm, blizzard warnings were in effect for the entire U.S. coast from Maryland to Maine. The heaviest snows fell about 50 miles to the west and north of New York City. Lyndhurst, New Jersey, located about 15 miles northwest of New York City, got 29 inches, and several nearby towns also reported snows in excess of 24 inches. Though the snow has mostly ended in these regions, strong winds will continue through the early afternoon, creating blizzard conditions in blowing snow.


Figure 1. Satellite image from 8am EST December 27 of the Post-Christmas Blizzard of 2010 over New England. Image credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

The blizzard is in full swing across much of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine, where snowfall rates of 1 - 2 inches per hours are common in heavy snow bands, with high winds creating blizzard conditions. The strongest wind gust from the mighty blizzard was 80mph, measured at Wellfleet on Cape Cod at 10:52pm last night. Wind gusts of 50 - 60 mph have been common along most of the coast of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Southeast Massachusetts. The storm's strong northeast winds whipped up a storm surge of 2 - 3 feet that affected the coast just north of Boston, and in Central Long Island Sound, during the high tide cycle at 3am this morning. Moderate flooding that shut many roads occurred, and some damage to buildings probably resulted. The flooding danger for Massachusetts and Long Island Sound is now past, as the storm moves into Maine and Canada.

Snowfall amounts at major cities for the December 26-27, 2010 storm, as of 8am EST:

Newark, NJ 20.0"
Atlantic City, NJ 19.0"
East Boston, MA 16.5"
Ocean City, MD 13.5"
NYC Central Park, NY 13.0"
Philadelphia, PA 12.4"
East Providence, RI 12.0"
Danbury, CT 11.1"
Augusta, ME 10.0"
Woodstock, VT 10.0"
Bridgeport, CT 8.0"
Boston, MA 6.5"
Wilmington, DE 3.4"

An unusual Nor'easter for a La Niña year
This winter, we are experiencing La Niña conditions in the Equatorial Eastern Pacific, meaning that cold waters have upwelled from the depths off the coast of South America, cooling a huge region of Pacific waters to below-average levels. In most winters, the presence of La Niña acts to deflect the jet stream in such a way the the predominant storm track takes winter storms into the Pacific Northwest, then down through the Upper Midwest and Ohio Valley. According to Dr. David A. Robinson, the New Jersey State Climatologist and Chairman of the Department of Geography at Rutgers University, this sort of flow pattern keeps New England safe from Nor'easters, as storms tend to move from the Ohio Valley northeastwards into Canada, keeping New England in a warm southwesterly flow of air. However, today's storm defied climatology, and gave the mid-Atlantic and New England one of their worst poundings on record for a La Niña Nor'easter. It was the first storm in at least ten La Niña winters, dating back to 1970, to bring 10" of more of snow to New Jersey, according to Dr. Robinson. In Philadelphia, which got 12.4" from this storm, the National Weather Service stated that only one La Niña winter in the past century has had a storm that dumped more than 10" of snow on city--a December 1909 Nor'easter. The reason for the unusual Nor'easter this year is that it happened to get started right when the atmosphere was transitioning from one major flow pattern to another. Since late November, we have been locked into a pattern featuring very weak low pressure over Iceland, and weak high pressure over the Azores--a strongly negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and Arctic Oscillation (AO). This pattern, which has allowed a lot of cold air to spill out of the Arctic and into the Eastern U.S. and Western Europe, is now breaking down and transitioning to a very different winter pattern. This new pattern will feature a more typical configuration for winter, with the Icelandic Low and Azores High close to their usual strengths. Today's Nor'easter managed to sneak in just as the atmosphere was transitioning from one major flow pattern to a new one, resulting in the rare La Niña snowstorm for New England. The new winter flow pattern looks to stay in place for at least the first two weeks of January, resulting in warmer than average winter weather for both the U.S. East Coast and Western Europe.

Jeff Masters

()
Holly Jolly Christmas (GeorgiaPeach)
Snowy berries in our yard on Christmas day.
Holly Jolly Christmas
Out In The Cold (teach50)
Out In The Cold
Blizzard 12-27-2010 New Jersey (xrs21crppn)
My Jeep and husband truck
Blizzard 12-27-2010 New Jersey

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Quoting Grothar:
I think when the blog is slow, we should post our own ....."100 Years Ago Today" blog. It would be nice to know what some of you were doing then.


A sort of "family album". Nice!
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:




Good evening, Gro! How was your Christmas?


To paraphrase Dr. Masters a little.. it was either the 1st or 3rd best since record keeping began. Hope you all had a good one, too!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Next hurricane season(2011)looks bad for the U.S.I'm not liking it one bit....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I think when the blog is slow, we should post our own ....."100 Years Ago Today" blog. It would be nice to know what some of you were doing then.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Nice song.




Good evening, Gro! How was your Christmas?
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Nice song.
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


LOL, that looks like someone (the guitar tech?) on his knees. Note guitar necks behind him..


It kinda reminded me of the jail house scene in Will Smith's movie Hancock. Or Jim Cary in alley scene in the movie Bruce Almighty.



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11265
Quoting Neapolitan:

Yeah, me too: 2008's. I'll start working on 2009's sometime around mid-August.


I'm still on 2001s.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24167
Quoting caneswatch:


I'm not too convinced that KC made that decision, considering the crazy wife he had, and what the PI showed.

But yes, he was a very rare and great talent. His songwriting was beyond incredible.



I wasn't going to get into the specifics, but I agree, suspicious.

No doubt about the talent.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
164. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting Orcasystems:


Its going to be a smidge nn the cold side tonight in the Southeast.



In Melbourne, FL it free fell from sunset til about 2 hours ago. I got to 34ºF, now it's 35.4ºF. A slight breeze has kicked up the last hour. Record is 32º for the day. I suspect we will handily break it but shouldn't need to turn the sprinkler on the citrus or anything.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 173 Comments: 38148
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11265
Quoting calusakat:
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
I've always liked this song:



Wow.

Looking at that picture, either that is one huge giant with a guitar or one really small person behind him.




LOL, that looks like someone (the guitar tech?) on his knees. Note guitar necks behind him..
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:



Good post. Very sad that KC chose to leave us. A rare talent. I'll observe a moment of silence.


I'm not too convinced that KC made that decision, considering the crazy wife he had, and what the PI showed.

But yes, he was a very rare and great talent. His songwriting was beyond incredible.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
I've always liked this song:



Wow.

Looking at that picture, either that is one huge giant with a guitar or one really small person behind him.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
I've always liked this song:




Nice, Geoff.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
I've always liked this song:

Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11265
Quoting Neapolitan:
This weekend's event was only the sixth storm since 1869 to drop more then 20" of snow in New York's Central Park. That's remarkable, but what's perhaps more remarkable is that three of those six snowstorms have taken place in just the past five years. An increasing frequency of such extreme weather events is, of course, what's been predicted by climate scientists to happen as the oceans and atmosphere heat up due to increased concentrations of CO2. It definitely makes one wonder what's to happen in the future, no?

Yup.

Chunks of Ice in a cup of hot tea makes for iced tea.

Unless of course the AGW mentality is present and thats when that same concoction makes more hot tea instead.

Yesiree.

Regarding todays weather in the USA...

An other way to look at is Mother Nature is doing her own thing as she always has over the billions of years of her existence. She has the weather covered all on her own.

She is probably more annoyed at our shouting in the oceans and making it hard for the whales to communicate with each other than anything else.



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting caneswatch:


Ok I will. Since i'm wearing this bands t-shirt:




Good post. Very sad that KC chose to leave us. A rare talent. I'll observe a moment of silence.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
Quoting Neapolitan:

Yeah, me too: 2008's. I'll start working on 2009's sometime around mid-August.

Hey, Neo. If you haven't done it by now fuhgetaboutit. That's what New Year's is for, starting all over again!
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11348
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
Just reach freezing in north hillsborough co. Cold night
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Chicklit:

Counting down to 2011 now!
Have already started the New Year's resolutions.

Yeah, me too: 2008's. I'll start working on 2009's sometime around mid-August.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13549
151. Orcasystems
2:13 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting Skyepony:
400 spend frigid night on A train in NYC nightmare


Its going to be a smidge nn the cold side tonight in the Southeast.

Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
150. caneswatch
2:13 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:



Agreed!!

I'm sure you have a good tune waiting, put it out there, please!


Ok I will. Since i'm wearing this bands t-shirt:

Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
149. Skyepony (Mod)
2:05 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
400 spend frigid night on A train in NYC nightmare
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 173 Comments: 38148
148. PSLFLCaneVet
2:03 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


62 here for a high tomorrow.



We got all the way to 52, here. (briefly) I'll be shocked if we hit 60, Tuesday.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
147. Chicklit
2:00 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Evening all, it's 36 degrees in New Smyrna Beach but by Thursday will be 70 and remain that way through the weekend.
Counting down to 2011 now!
Have already started the New Year's resolutions.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11348
146. PSLFLCaneVet
2:00 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting caneswatch:


Thanks. I'm glad i'm on here, as long as there are no trolls around.



Agreed!!

I'm sure you have a good tune waiting, put it out there, please!
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
145. caneswatch
1:57 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:



Agreed.

Dang, you're a youngin' LOL.


No offense. Glad to have you around!





Thanks. I'm glad i'm on here, as long as there are no trolls around.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
144. GeoffreyWPB
1:55 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting caneswatch:


So I hear. It'll warm up here...to 60 LOL


62 here for a high tomorrow.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11265
143. PSLFLCaneVet
1:55 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


You too PSL...All we need now is Grothar!



Thanks,I hear ya. It's always good to have the LHR with us.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
142. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:53 AM GMT on December 28, 2010


low level rtn flow buiding over west gom
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54344
141. GeoffreyWPB
1:52 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:



Hey, canes, Geoffrey, nice to see you on.



You too PSL...All we need now is Grothar!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11265
140. caneswatch
1:52 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Stay warm dude...Nice warm up coming up for the next week.


So I hear. It'll warm up here...to 60 LOL
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
139. PSLFLCaneVet
1:51 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
good a couple of call outs nothing bad had a move in at noon did a ghost run in building same tommorow i got mon and tuse for xmas and boxing day work wed thur then off fri sat sun for new years



Good, glad to hear you get some time off.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
138. PSLFLCaneVet
1:50 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting caneswatch:


I remember when I was 10 or so watching an old tape and it included WPTV's coverage of this storm. It was unbelievable watching it.



Agreed.

Dang, you're a youngin' LOL.


No offense. Glad to have you around!



Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
137. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:49 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Stay warm dude...Nice warm up coming up for the next week.


Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54344
136. Neapolitan
1:49 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
This weekend's event was only the sixth storm since 1869 to drop more then 20" of snow in New York's Central Park. That's remarkable, but what's perhaps more remarkable is that three of those six snowstorms have taken place in just the past five years. An increasing frequency of such extreme weather events is, of course, what's been predicted by climate scientists to happen as the oceans and atmosphere heat up due to increased concentrations of CO2. It definitely makes one wonder what's to happen in the future, no?
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13549
135. caneswatch
1:47 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:



Hey, canes, Geoffrey, nice to see you on.



Same here PSL.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
134. GeoffreyWPB
1:45 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting caneswatch:


Yeah, I saw 28 for a low in RPB. However, it'll be 19 where i'm at in SC. Snow still on the ground from yesterday, some roads are still slick from ice.


Stay warm dude...Nice warm up coming up for the next week.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11265
133. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:43 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
everything back to normal on the 3rd
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54344
132. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:38 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:



Hello, Keep. Merry Christmas. How was your weekend?
good a couple of call outs nothing bad had a move in at noon did a ghost run in building same tommorow i got mon and tuse for xmas and boxing day work wed thur then off fri sat sun for new years
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54344
131. caneswatch
1:38 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:



Superstorm of '93 gave us wind gusts of at least 109 mph, officially. The Treasure Coast lost many old growth trees, some were completely uprooted.


I remember when I was 10 or so watching an old tape and it included WPTV's coverage of this storm. It was unbelievable watching it.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
130. PSLFLCaneVet
1:36 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting caneswatch:


Yeah, I saw 28 for a low in RPB. However, it'll be 19 where i'm at in SC. Snow still on the ground from yesterday, some roads are still slick from ice.



Hey, canes, Geoffrey, nice to see you on.

Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
129. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
1:35 AM GMT on December 28, 2010


there she is going going
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54344
128. PSLFLCaneVet
1:35 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
you don't have a space heater



Hello, Keep. Merry Christmas. How was your weekend?
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
127. caneswatch
1:34 AM GMT on December 28, 2010
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
47 here now...Going to easily break our record low of 38.


Yeah, I saw 28 for a low in RPB. However, it'll be 19 where i'm at in SC. Snow still on the ground from yesterday, some roads are still slick from ice.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553

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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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