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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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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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


I took a close look and I can say.....that's about the cutest little animal I've seen in a long time...I do believe my DDD would agree.!
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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
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Quoting Neapolitan:

Thanks. ;-)

A few facts about this weekend's snow event:

--This was only the 6th snowstorm since 1869 to drop more then 20" in New York's Central Park.

--Three of those six snowstorms have happened in the past five years.

--Atlantic City' received 19" from this storm--far more than it's average seasonal snowfall of 13.6".

--Finally, a nice thundersnow video.


and had the lowest pressure off the East Coast since the 1993 Superstorm.
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
How about that. My DDD (Dear Departed Dad) is no doubt doing back-flips in his grave. DDD was a serious advanced amateur ornithologist, banded for the Audubon Society for years.


In reverence to your DDD, I'll change my thoughts...I think...lol, I'm certainly not banded, just a bird lover. Let's just say that's one cold looking Cardinal. I'm just wishing I could have a few inches of that snow...have a good one..:)
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Quoting lilElla:
<

I'm in agreement with you Shen - a female.
from birding.com -
Adult female:
• Reddish crest, wings and tail
• Brownish-gray upperparts
• Buffy underparts
• Red bill
• Juvenile like adult female but has dark bill and crest

Both the male & female have the black around the beak but the male also has a black bib.

Have been birding for 50 years now! (OMG - did I just say 50 yrs)Started Audubon Christmas Bird Counts with my Dad when I was 5. Wish I was at home right now watching the feeders :)
Thank you. I am back to thinking female. Lack of bib and brownish tinge under wings makes me feel more confidant.

What in the world is the critter in your avatar? Looks sort of like a mutant Shetland pony we once had. Old country vet just stood and grinned and said "Now ain't that just the ugliest thing you ever saw!"
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Here in Richmond VA we got 5.5", not a bad snow.
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Quoting aquak9:
neapolitan- that was awesome

Thanks. ;-)

A few facts about this weekend's snow event:

--This was only the 6th snowstorm since 1869 to drop more then 20" in New York's Central Park.

--Three of those six snowstorms have happened in the past five years.

--Atlantic City' received 19" from this storm--far more than it's average seasonal snowfall of 13.6".

--Finally, a nice thundersnow video.
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Not sure what you mean by immune to extreme low pressures? The Midwest is not accustomed to pressures comparable to Hurricane Cat 1 - 3!
Either way - both storms are ones not soon to be forgotten.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


When the Euro started showing that monster of beast then it was becoming clear that a major storm was looming. Reed it also looks as if a very warm and fairly wet pattern is coming to C FL next week as the southern jet looks to get quite active. Looks like a similar pattern to that of January 2008 which brought 4" to 8" of rain to most of C FL that month during a La-Nina year.


Personally, I would never put faith in one model and one model only. But it got something right, for once.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
Forgot to mention - Late afternoons I have been counting anywhere from 11 to 22 cardinals at my feeders. And - I heard my first one singing yesterday. Spring is just around the corner :)
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neapolitan- that was awesome
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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..


955 mb is like a Cat. 3 hurricane. So technically, they're not immune to stuff like that, albeit it's rare.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
33 and sunny out here in the backwoods of SC. 35 this morning back home. Lows are dropping to 19 and 28 respectively. Honestly, it feels nice with a t-shirt and and no jacket up here. Obviously, it won't be the case later when we take my uncle out to dinner for his b-day.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
<
Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
How about that. My DDD (Dear Departed Dad) is no doubt doing back-flips in his grave. DDD was a serious advanced amateur ornithologist, banded for the Audubon Society for years.


I'm in agreement with you Shen - a female.
from birding.com -
Adult female:
• Reddish crest, wings and tail
• Brownish-gray upperparts
• Buffy underparts
• Red bill
• Juvenile like adult female but has dark bill and crest

Both the male & female have the black around the beak but the male also has a black bib.

Have been birding for 50 years now! (OMG - did I just say 50 yrs)Started Audubon Christmas Bird Counts with my Dad when I was 5. Wish I was at home right now watching the feeders :)
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57. JeffMasters (Admin)
Quoting MichaelSTL:
The only change that I can see is that the PNA has become neutral from a negative state, and this negative state coincides with the period of cold and snow in the U.S. and Europe, but the PNA isn't supposed to do that; indeed, Europe sees virtually no anomalies (invert for negative phase) from the PNA, and in the U.S., a negative PNA favors warmer than normal temperatures over the Southeast:



If Dr. Masters is really referring to the "Warm Arctic-cold continents" pattern, then this suggests that it isn't so related to the Arctic Oscillation or NAO and it should be tracked as a separate climate pattern.


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:



This shift will bring about an end to the "hot Arctic, cold continents" pattern we've been in for most of the last 5 weeks. The NAO index is not showing this shift as strongly, but the "hot Arctic, cold continents" pattern is more closely linked to the AO than the NAO (I did not discuss this in my post on this last week, to try to keep things simple--perhaps I oversimplified!)

Jeff Masters

Quoting RichardRamirez:
Snowy Precipitation Is Detrimental, Even Ruinous. I'm Stuck. Hope Everyone Remains Enlivened.

Folks usually can't keep outdoors; furious flurries and nasty downpours demand indoor entertainment.
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Latest surface map shows the pressure rising to 962 mlb. The storm has peaked late this morning with a pressure of 961 mlb. Just shy of the 1993 Superstorm (960 mlb.)
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Quoting RIDGES:
Ug. Need I remind all the METS on here that there was a better pressure this year?

On October 26th and 27th, two areas of low pressure merged over northern Minnesota forming a intense extratropical cyclone. The low pressure system "bombed" out and reached a record low minimun central pressure of 955.2mb (28.21in) at 5:13pm Tuesday at Bigfork Minnesota. The 955.2mb reading not only broke Minnesota state pressure records, but also was the lowest pressure ever recorded on United States mainland from a extratropical cyclone!

Please. I think Eddie Fitzgerald would take exception to all of this adoration.

And I still think switching the game from Sunday to Tuesday was REEEEEDICULOUS.


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..
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


Well..I'm with the pale male thought there....my females( I'm actually watching both at the feeder now) are never that color, but rather with beautiful burnised brown wings and a golden/tan breast. Only the males have black around the beak....That one looks like a juvenile pale male....lol....Boy ! I must be really bored.....:0
How about that. My DDD (Dear Departed Dad) is no doubt doing back-flips in his grave. DDD was a serious advanced amateur ornithologist, banded for the Audubon Society for years.
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Their's damage around my nieghborhood today.Due to the wind her wooden fence broke,and the trees that lined up on it snapped as well.The tree in my backyard has also snapped.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16325
Quoting reedzone:


This is a storm people will remember for a while, not just a memory. METS won't forget it, almost tied with the 1993 Superstorm pressure wise.


Wouldn't be surprised if I don't remember this storm next week. Thats probably because though it didn't bring a massive Dehrico to my area.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23483
Quoting skubaaruba:
Most of the time a major pattern change is proceeded by a major storm. The East Coast happened to be on the wrong side of this storm. It looks like by the weekend the storm will be just a memory with the possibility of 50 degree temperatures!


This is a storm people will remember for a while, not just a memory. METS won't forget it, almost tied with the 1993 Superstorm pressure wise.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
45 here north of Orlando and going to maybe 80 by Friday. Truely amazing to see this type of temp swing in one week. Also appears FL is heading into a warm and fairly wet period starting later this weekend in North FL and spreading into C and S FL next week as storm after storm moves thru the Southern Branch. Janaury is looking very El-Nino-ish with the active southern jet taking over.


Kudos to you Jeff! This is the most strongest storm since the 1993 Superstorm with a pressure of 961 mlb. Good job on your prediction.
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Most of the time a major pattern change is proceeded by a major storm. The East Coast happened to be on the wrong side of this storm. It looks like by the weekend the storm will be just a memory with the possibility of 50 degree temperatures!
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45. Inyo
Quoting RichardRamirez:
Snowy Precipitation Is Detrimental, Even Ruinous. I'm Stuck. Hope Everyone Remains Enlivened.


'spider is here' ? Are you that troll from before?

From where I sit I can see snow streaming onto the Adirondack high peaks. Very pretty but not a good day to be up there
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Quoting DEKRE:
Quoting fireflymom:

Down here the females are Brownish not that pale color. Learn every day.

Same here in the north - the males are quite pale in winter, the new plumage in spring will be back to standard


Well..I'm with the pale male thought there....my females( I'm actually watching both at the feeder now) are never that color, but rather with beautiful burnised brown wings and a golden/tan breast. Only the males have black around the beak....That one looks like a juvenile pale male....lol....Boy ! I must be really bored.....:0
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Quoting Skyepony:
Read it & weep.. Almost looks like the surface feature has already slipped off into the EPAC.



Hmm, a late-season basin crossover via Panama?!

Quoting BahaHurican:
Hmmmm.... speaking of GW.... is this early winter blast the earth's way of blasting back at the equatorial warming we've been seeing?????

lol


Again, see here.

Quoting CybrTeddy:
They should name Nor'easters to keep us from being bored during post/pre-season.


In some cases, they do. Link
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I usually lurk but thought I'd share a clip someone posted on Blizzard's blog. Amazing.
http://vimeo.com/18213768
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That little blob off Columbia's coast is rather intriguing given that we are almost to January. It will most likely get ripped apart though.
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38. JRRP
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5229
37. JRRP
Niña Modoki
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Quoting fireflymom:

Down here the females are Brownish not that pale color. Learn every day.

Same here in the north - the males are quite pale in winter, the new plumage in spring will be back to standard
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I am snowed in!!!! help!
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That Nor'easters pressure is equivalent of a low end Category 3 hurricane. Amazing!
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23483
i know its a freak of nature having a strong ne er during a la nina but its happened. wont be surprised it happens a couple more times this winter.
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What a storm. Air pressure got down to 988.1 mb in New Brunswick!
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Baha...Nooooooo!...too late, can open, worms everywhere...it's just a matter of time
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Quoting Inyo:
Burlington Vermont seemed to have mostly missed this storm but in the last hour we are getting a raging snow squall with wind around 30 MPH from the north, heavy snow, and a wind chill of -8F. Yikes!

I won't mind a bit of 'warmer than average' after this but I hope the snow doesn't get ruined.
all the snow that fell will turn to water before the end of next weekend TRY TO CLEAR OFF STORM COVERS AND CATCH BASINS in your area nearby to your home remember if you are closest to the drain flooding is yours first to deal with



thanks for update doc
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 168 Comments: 53285
They should name Nor'easters to keep us from being bored during post/pre-season.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23483
Hmmmm.... speaking of GW.... is this early winter blast the earth's way of blasting back at the equatorial warming we've been seeing?????

lol
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21143
Morning all.

It's "but cold" here too, comparatively speaking; only 61 degrees at NOON!!!! I have to go out, eventually, but I really don't want to...
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21143

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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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