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 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
Quoting BahaHurican:
Hmmm... just looked at our temp records on WU and it seems this December is the coldest we've had in the last decade. Normally we are averaging 78 / 67 max/min during DEC; JAN is normally our coldest month. I wouldn't be surprised, however, to see tonight's overnight low make a run for the all-time record here.... This kind of cold makes one wish for a space heater...
you don't have a space heater
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54434
Quoting BahaHurican:
Hmmm... just looked at our temp records on WU and it seems this December is the coldest we've had in the last decade. Normally we are averaging 78 / 67 max/min during DEC; JAN is normally our coldest month. I wouldn't be surprised, however, to see tonight's overnight low make a run for the all-time record here.... This kind of cold makes one wish for a space heater...


Which is?
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 585 Comments: 20854
Hmmm... just looked at our temp records on WU and it seems this December is the coldest we've had in the last decade. Normally we are averaging 78 / 67 max/min during DEC; JAN is normally our coldest month. I wouldn't be surprised, however, to see tonight's overnight low make a run for the all-time record here.... This kind of cold makes one wish for a space heater...
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


True, and awesome. Blizzard of the decade, and century, so far.

However, neither it nor '93 beats the Blizzard of '78, pressure-wise - 955.

As for snowfall, I remember it all too well. Boston got 27", with blizzard conditions for around 33 hours (vs. the usual 12-18). Compare that with '93 - 12.8". Today - 19". Not even close, although some areas of NY/NJ did get that much today and some even a bit more.

'93 was much more crippling for the south than the north, and today's was nowhere near as crippling as either '78 or '93.




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.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
Blizzard of 93 left me with 4-5ft snow and 6-8ft snow drifts in my area. Up north from me got more snow and worse drifts. Sad part was it hit on a weekend and we had school the following week.
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Oh boy. Emphasis mine:

From Phoenix AFD:
MUCH COLDER AIR WILL MOVE INTO THE REGION EARLY THURSDAY MORNING
BEHIND THE COLD FRONT. THIS WILL ALLOW SNOW LEVELS TO DROP TO AROUND
3000 FEET ACROSS THE AREA THURSDAY MORNING AND TO AROUND 2000 FEET
LATER IN THE DAY. LINGERING RAIN SHOWERS SHOULD MIX AND CHANGE TO
SNOW ACROSS SOUTHERN GILA COUNTY AS WELL AS THE NORTHERN AND EASTERN
EXTENT OF THE PHOENIX METRO /SCOTTSDALE...CAVE CREEK...EAST
MESA/...ALTHOUGH SOME QUESTIONS REMAIN REGARDING HOW MUCH LINGERING
PRECIPITATION THERE WILL BE ONCE THE COLD AIR ARRIVES. GFS SUGGESTS
A BRIEF CHANGEOVER FOLLOWED BY DRY CONDITIONS...EUROPEAN MODEL
SUGGESTS A MORE PROLONGED SNOW EVENT ESPECIALLY AROUND GLOBE. GIVEN
LAST WEEKS STORM...IT SEEMS THAT THE MODELS HAVE BEEN BRINGING IN
PRECIP TOO FAST AND ENDING IT TOO FAST. THEREFORE I AM INCLINED TO
HOLD ONTO PRECIP CHANCES A BIT LONGER THAN THE GFS AND CONTINUE
SNOWFALL ACROSS SOUTHERN GILA COUNTY THURSDAY NIGHT. I DO NOT HAVE
ACCUMULATING SNOWFALL IN THE FORECAST FOR THE DESERT FLOORS BUT SOME
RIDGE TOPS COULD SEE LIGHT ACCUMS ON THURSDAY. THIS MAY NEED TO BE
RE-ADDRESSED IF IT BECOMES EVIDENT THAT PRECIP WILL BE LINGERING
WELL INTO THURSDAY NIGHT.


Snow in Phoenix?
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Quoting reedzone:


This is the most strongest (extratropical) storm to hit the East Coast of the USA since the Storm of the Century (1993 Superstorm)

If they name it, it should be this..
"The Post-Christmas Day Superstorm of 2010 (Storm of the Decade)"

Remember the pressure on the 1993 Superstorm peaked at 960 mlb.
This Superstorm peaked at 961 mlb earlier today.


True, and awesome. Blizzard of the decade, and century, so far.

However, neither it nor '93 beats the Blizzard of '78, pressure-wise - 955.

As for snowfall, I remember it all too well. Boston got 27", with blizzard conditions for around 33 hours (vs. the usual 12-18). Compare that with '93 - 12.8". Today - 19". Not even close, although some areas of NY/NJ did get that much today and some even a bit more.

'93 was much more crippling for the south than the north, and today's was nowhere near as crippling as either '78 or '93.

Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
118. Skyepony (Mod)
More than 200,000 people have been affected by flooding resulting from heavy rains in Sri Lanka, a disaster management official said Monday. Heavy rains lasted from noon Sunday to about noon on Monday, said A.R. Jayarathne, assistant director of the country's Disaster Management Center. Large tanks in the region, set up to irrigate rice paddy fields, overflowed, forcing authorities to open sluice gates, he said. While no one had been forced from their homes, food waters had entered homes and caused minor damage in numerous locations, he said. At least 532 houses reported partial damage. Some 2,915 people living in Internally Displaced Persons camps were also affected. The camps remain after the nation's opposition Tamil Tiger rebels were militarily defeated in May 2009. A Buddhist temple, Somawathiya, located in the North Central Province capital of Polonnaruwa, was cut off after a nearby river overflowed, Jayarathne said. At least 40 people, including 20 soldiers, were stranded, but were not in danger, he said.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 175 Comments: 38201
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Wow...are you going to break your record low also?


No i don't think so. I believe our record low was 6F. I can't think when it happened though.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


lol thats insanity for me. 81 for a high and 59 for a low is idealish for me


I was talking about the wind.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 585 Comments: 20854

Good Evening All. Monday's Low for Crestview Fl was 18 and tomorrow's low is forecast for 22F. It is Currently 37.7F. High for Tuesday will be 52F. I have had the heater on since November 23 and if I keep it on for three more days, it will surpase last year number of heater days. Normally we run the heater for 14 - 22 days each winter. Yes, I think my wife was a penguin in a past life. ;>)

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Quoting KoritheMan:


Worst? I'd call that ideal.


lol thats insanity for me. 81 for a high and 59 for a low is idealish for me
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24186
Quoting DontAnnoyMe:
This is why it's known for the world's worst weather:

Current Weather Conditions:
Mount Washington, NH, United States

Wind from the NNW (330 degrees) at 55 MPH (48 KT) gusting to 66 MPH (57 KT)
Visibility less than 1 mile
Sky conditions obscured
Weather Light snow Blowing snow Freezing fog
Temperature -9 F (-23 C)
Windchill -45 F (-43 C)
Dew Point -9 F (-23 C)
Relative Humidity 100%


Worst? I'd call that ideal.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 585 Comments: 20854
Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
Thank you. I am back to thinking female. Lack of bib and brownish tinge under wings makes me feel more confidant.


Juvenile's bills are gray or black. This female is more reddish than those around here, though.

Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
Quoting mikester:
I am at 15F with a stiff wind from the west at 10-20mph.


Wow...are you going to break your record low also?
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11278
I am at 15F with a stiff wind from the west at 10-20mph.
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47 here now...Going to easily break our record low of 38.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11278
This is why it's known for the world's worst weather:

Current Weather Conditions:
Mount Washington, NH, United States

Wind from the NNW (330 degrees) at 55 MPH (48 KT) gusting to 66 MPH (57 KT)
Visibility less than 1 mile
Sky conditions obscured
Weather Light snow Blowing snow Freezing fog
Temperature -9 F (-23 C)
Windchill -45 F (-43 C)
Dew Point -9 F (-23 C)
Relative Humidity 100%
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
Quoting BahaHurican:
Is this "immune" like u've had so many of 'em that another one is practically pass?
If that is the case then yes! Overall it seems we get a couple of good 170-180mbs a year, but some of the blizzards especially in like the 20th century were really monsters.
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Is this "immune" like u've had so many of 'em that another one is practically passé?
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Quoting reedzone:


Talking about the East Coast here, not the Midwest. The Midwest is immune to very low pressures, especially Canada. The East Coast of the USA? Not very much so..
The Midwest is "immune"...I think you're off there
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Well...after studying models...kinda looks like the precip in Tx just disappears....
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Yeah just noticed that. Looks fishy to me. Maybe we will get a new years storm worth mentioning.
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Thanks JFLORIDA and mikester.......looks like definately some precip....hopefully just a little rain
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Here a loop:
Link
Here is new years day:
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Anyone have a model to share...what's coming for New Year's Eve and Day in the deep southeast?
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Quoting IceCoast:
Center of the Nor'easter passing very close to this buoy. Pressure as of 4PM EST was 961.39 mb. Will be interesting to see if it drops any further.
Link


Has had a pressure of 961 mlb for more quite sometime. Some people want to underestimate this storm but in reality, this is a Superstorm, and a remarkable one at that to end the year. I understand that the 1993 Superstorm was a much more dangerous storm, but in pressure wise, the Post-Christmas Day Superstorm was and still is 1 mlb. shy of reaching the pressure of the classic 1993 Superstorms 960 mlb. peak.
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


Genuine Resilience Originates While Under Pressure


G.R.O.W. U.P.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11278
Center of the Nor'easter passing very close to this buoy. Pressure as of 4PM EST was 961.39 mb. Will be interesting to see if it drops any further.
Link
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Not even 5:00 p.m. yet as it is 51 degrees down here in West Palm.


Never got to 50 here near St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport. Highest I saw today was 48.
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HERE ARE THE FORECAST LOWS AND RECORD LOWS FOR SOUTH FLORIDA FOR TONIGHT.

CITIES FORECAST LOWS RECORD LOWS
MIAMI 37 37 - 1902
FT. LAUDERDALE 35 38 - 1956
WEST PALM BEACH 29 38 - 1935
NAPLES 31 33 - 1977
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11278
I got nothing worth mentioning as interior nystate bearly got it. Especially around syracuse/binghampton area's. The near forcast has very little snow forcasted and most of the models through the next 2 weeks show very few storms hitting the interior east coast. Most take the storms up the coast like the last one did.
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Not even 5:00 p.m. yet as it is 51 degrees down here in West Palm.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11278
@ P451, some great snow shots u got there... there's one I would call something like... "There's a car in there somewhere!" lol

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Did I mention it was coldddddd out there????

It was 52 degrees when I went out about 2 p.m. Though it's a bit warmer now, I'm hard pressed to remember the last time it was this cold in Nassau during the DAY..... when the HIGH temp was barely 60. I don't think we'll escape going to or below 50 tonight; the sky is quite clear, with little sign of the cloud cover that would be needed to moderate a temperature drop.... I knew it was a good idea to stay in today...
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The Superstorm of 1993 had a different environment to work with.. it had much warmer temps in front of the system, took a track slightly further south across the SE, and iirc, stayed near peak strength for longer.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
My friend in Cape Cod for the holidays said they just had a 67mph wind gust about 15 minutes ago and they have been gusting to near 60 since 11pm last night. Lots of trees down where she is staying and power outages.


This is the most strongest (extratropical) storm to hit the East Coast of the USA since the Storm of the Century (1993 Superstorm)

If they name it, it should be this..
"The Post-Christmas Day Superstorm of 2010 (Storm of the Decade)"

Remember the pressure on the 1993 Superstorm peaked at 960 mlb.
This Superstorm peaked at 961 mlb earlier today.
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Shen - I would have liked your DDD :)
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Quoting lilElla:
Shen - are you calling my precious little donkey UGLY?????? :) so there you have it - Ella is a minature donkey and was about 3 days old when the picture was taken. Now - after a second peak, wouldn't you say that she is just the most beautiful donkey you have ever seen? :) hehehehehe
Now you know how mutant the Shetland was.
"I ain't 'sinuating nothing but you can't fool the little fly."

2 southern good-ol' -boys go to the stock auction. After sitting in the stands for a bit one says to the other: "Damn the flies are fierce today, I can't keep them away from my face."

His buddy replies, "I don't know what you are talking about, the only place I see any flies is around the back end of that horse in the ring down there."

GOB #1 snaps, "What are you insinuating?"
GOB #2 drawls, "I ain't 'situating nothing, but you can't fool the little fly."

One of DDD's favorites
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Quoting JeffMasters:


It's complicated to talk about all these teleconnection patterns, but it is clear from the Arctic Oscillation (AO) forecast from GFS we are in for a major change in the atmospheric flow pattern:

Jeff Masters



Thanks Dr Masters for the additional follow up to your original post. Great stuff. If looking at the AO forecast from the GFS, one must take into consideration the trend over the last 60 days of the model to over develop the positive aspect of the AO. Especially in the longer range.



This is the same with the NAO



But lets put the GFS (which has done very poorly this winter in the long range) aside and look to see if any of the other observations would support a major shift in either of these 2 indicators.

La Nina is still EAST based. (this position has been maintained since early fall and continues to support (along with other factors) the none typical La Nina pattern we have seen)
La Nina is in a gradual weakening phase. So its influence will be felt less on the pattern, and since we are now entering January the clock is running out for a change in La Nina to have any downstream effect before the end of the winter.
MJO %u2013 Continues to meander in Phase 5-7 staying close to natural. (No real change forecasted)

Physically I don%u2019t see much in the way to support a big change to the teleconnections (and thus a pattern shift) To me it appears to be more re-loading of the current pattern after a brief period of trough in the west with a SE ridge in the East.

If the models are right to the extreme plus side on the AO and NAO (which their performance out more then 60 hours is..well D- at best) then somewhere the physics in the atmosphere must point to support it. The models this year are really putting a lot of mets at odds with the reality of the pattern this year (albeit unusual)

Take care,
Mike Stanislaw
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Thank you - as you can tell, I am very partial to my donkeys :) They really are very special critters, just like big puppies! Very, very gentle, except when it comes to strange dogs or wild canine. They are used for coyote control in many areas.
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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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