Record snows hit New England; Brazilian floods kill 350; Brisbane underwater

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:16 PM GMT on January 13, 2011

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The Northeast U.S. is digging out today from the winter's third major snowstorm, and the nation's South continues to deal with travel disruptions caused by the nasty coasting of ice, snow and sleet the storm left behind early this week. Yesterday's Nor'easter has exited into Canada, and the storm is over for the U.S. It was a pretty average Nor'easter as far as intensity goes--the storm's central pressure bottomed out at 982 mb, and just the Massachusetts coast was subject to high winds that merited blizzard warnings. The storm did generate one hurricane-force wind gust--Provincetown airport on the tip of Cape Cod had sustained winds at 43 mph, gusting to 79 mph, at 6:35am EST yesterday, and a personal weather station at Humarock Beach in Scituate, southeast of Boston, recorded a wind gust of 64 mph at 5:51am EST yesterday.


Figure 1. A bit of work today needed before one can step out of the door in Southborough, Massachusetts! Image credit: wunderphotographer Megmdp.

But what was remarkable about the January Nor'easter of 2011 were its snow amounts. This rather ordinary-strength Nor'easter managed to assemble the perfect mix of conditions needed to transport moisture to a region of the storm highly favorable for heavy snow formation. Many heavy snow bands with snowfall rates up to 3 inches per hour formed over New England, with some of these bands intense enough to generate lightning and thunder. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont all came within an inch of setting all-time state 24-hour snowfall records yesterday. North Haven, Connecticut received 29.5", falling just short of the 30.2" 24-hour snowfall record for the state, set at Fairfield in February 2006. Savoy, Massachusetts received 34.5", falling just short of that state's all-time 24-hour snowfall record, the 36" recorded at Milton in February 1997. Wilmington, Vermont got 36" in yesterday's storm, just missing the state record of 37", set at Peru in March 1984. The capital of Connecticut, Hartford, had its greatest snowstorm in history yesterday, with 24". The old record was 23.5", set in a February 1899 storm.

Some selected storm total snowfall amounts, taken from the latest NOAA storm summary:

New York City, NY 9.1"
Albany, NY 13.2"
Worcester, MA 21.1"
Boston, MA 14.6"
Augusta, ME 14.5"
Portland, ME 9.2"
Concord, NH 22"
Somerset, PA 15"
Philadelphia, PA 5.2"
Providence, RI 9.5"
Brattleboro, VT 19"
Elkin, WV 10"
Danbury, CT 17.9"
Wilmington, DE 4.3"

According to our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, in his latest blog post titled, "Snowstorms in the South: A Historical Perspective", the 8.9" that fell on Huntsville, Alabama from this week's storm was that city's third heaviest snow on record. The post has a nice summary of the remarkable heavy snow storms that have hit the South in the past.


Figure 2. Flooding at São José do Vale do Rio Preto in Brazil photographed on Thursday, January 13, 2011.

Brazilian floods, landslides kill at least 350
The globe's parade of massive flooding disasters in recent months continued yesterday in Brazil, where heavy rains of up to 10 inches in 24 hours inundated the region about 60 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. At least 350 are dead and 50 people missing, and the death toll is expected to go much higher once rescuers reach remote villages that have been cut off from communications. Brazil suffers hundreds of deaths each year due to flooding and mudslides, but the past 12 months have been particularly devastating. Flooding and landslides near Rio in April last year killed 246 people and did about $13 billion in damage, and at least 85 people perished last January during a similar event.


Figure 3. A woman trapped on the roof of her car awaits rescue during the Toowoomba flash flood on Monday. Image credit: Wikipedia.

New floods ravage Australia's 3rd largest city
Flood waters swept today into Brisbane, Australia's 3rd largest city, inundating 14,400 homes and businesses, partially submerging another 17,200, and cutting power to 118,000, as the Brisbane River peaked at its highest level since 1974. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, who has called the recent floods in Queensland the greatest natural disaster in their history, said, "What I'm seeing looks more like a war zone in some places. All I could see was their rooftops...underneath every single one of those rooftops is a horror story. We are facing a reconstruction effort of post-war proportions." Much of Brisbane's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, including 55,000 miles of roads. The Port of Brisbane, one of Australia's busiest, has been closed because of debris, and the city's largest sports stadium is under several feet of water.

The search for bodies continues in Toowoomba, about 60 miles west of Brisbane, where freak rains of 6 inches in just 30 minutes triggered a flash flood that killed 12 and left 61 missing on Monday. The flood waters from the Toowoomba disaster poured into the Brisbane River, contributing to its rampage through Brisbane yesterday. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) reported that only scattered light rains less than 1/3" fell in the Brisbane area over the past 24 hours, and no further significant rains are forecast in the Brisbane area until Tuesday next week, so the worst of the flooding is now over for Queensland. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the December - January floods in Queenland are the most significant flooding event in Australia since at least 1974. In 2010, Australia had its wettest spring (September - November) since records began 111 years ago, with some sections of coastal Queensland receiving over 4 feet (1200 mm) of rain. Rainfall in Queensland and all of eastern Australia in December was the greatest on record, and the year 2010 was the rainiest year on record for Queensland. Queensland typically has its rainiest years when La Niña events occur, due to the much warmer than average ocean temperatures that occur along the coast. The BOM notes, "Previous strong La Niña events, such as those of 1974 and 1955, have also been associated with widespread and severe flooding in eastern Australia. Sea surface temperatures off the Queensland coast in recent months have also been at or near record levels." The BOM's annual summary also reported, "Sea surface temperatures in the Australian region during 2010 were the warmest value on record for the Australian region. Individual high monthly sea surface temperature records were also set during 2010 in March, April, June, September, October, November and December. Along with favourable hemispheric circulation associated with the 2010 La Niña, very warm sea surface temperatures contributed to the record rainfall and very high humidity across eastern Australia during winter and spring." Beginning in December, the Queensland floods have killed at least 22, and damage estimates are now as high as $20 billion. Queensland has an area the size of Germany and France combined.

2010 tied for warmest year in Earth's history
Earth's warmest year in history occurred in 2010, NASA reported yesterday. The globe's temperature beat the previous record set in 2005 by just .01°C, so we should consider 2010 and 2005 tied for the warmest year on record. Reliable global temperature records go back to 1880. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also announced yesterday that 2010 was tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record, with temperatures during 2010 1.12°F (0.62°C) above the 20th century average. I'll have a full blog post on the subject Friday morning.

Jeff Masters

storm car burried (slimfast)
on a lowell mass street 1/12/11 taken off hampshire street lowell mass our streets are buried in snow we have 24-36" of snow we had unsafe intersecting roads every where un safe driving also large buildings with flat roofs are unsafe many colapsed buildings
storm car burried
Brilliance..2 (suzi46)
a brilliant mid-Winter's day..blue skies and sunshine on the clear ice of the brooks creating wonderful images..
Brilliance..2
How Many Cars? (stoneygirl)
Can you tell how many cars are under all that? We had a whopping 2 plus FEET of snow today and the snow drifts were upwards of 3 and 4 feet. Gotta love winter.
How Many Cars?

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Does any else find it unusual that 3 out of the 5 top active hurricane seasons have happened in the last 15 years? (1995, 2005 and 2010)

Also -- mostly to STL, will the active period that began in 1995 ever end? Is there evidence to support this? Also, what about the WPAC, CPAC and EPAC, the last year was very inactive for them. Is it possible that only the Atlantic will experience the increased amount of activity?
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Quoting MILLERTIME1:
Feb 12th classes cancelled at University of West Flrdia.Source Nowpublic.com


Hahahaha...I went to the University of West Florida last year in P'Cola (before I transferred to Troy the middle of last year) less than an hour to West of me...I was stuck there all day because classes were canceled doing paperwork for my professor in the department. No snow at the campus or anywhere on the North side of P'Cola. I don't know where that report came from:o Rather odd though. Maybe it was along the county line with Alabama where the snow was. I can't discount that.??
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#65 Thanks Amy! I'll do that!
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Quoting Grecojdw:


Where was that????I didn't see it. It must have been in NE Florida.
Feb 12th classes cancelled at University of West Flrdia.Source Nowpublic.com
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ManBearPig is Al Gore's nemesis.... he's the cause of all the earth's problems.... check out SouthPark on youtube for more info....

;)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
№ 32

Quoting Neapolitan:"
Again, historical means have nothing to do with record highs or lows; such records are absolutes. (That is, absolutes from when records were first kept.) You state you realize they are absolutes--but then you go on to again talk about them being deviations from average. But, again, averages and means and anomalies have nothing to do with these records in this context."


Again...I don't know how better to explain it. You seriously don't think that simply having current global temperatures being above the historical average makes it more likely that record highs will be set as opposed to record lows, regardless of the current trend?

Maybe someone else can explain it better. I'm willing to agree to disagree at this point, but rest assured that I will bring it up again the next time the record high/low graphic and/or data is posted.
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Quoting NRAamy:
Just like today, a lot of that can be blamed on the media and certain people.

true.... Al Gore and ManBearPig are out of control....

Amy, who is ManBearPig?
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Quoting JFLORIDA:
Figures on Global Climate Show 2010 Tied 2005 as the Hottest Year on Record

Two agencies, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reported Wednesday that the global average surface temperature for 2010 had tied the record set in 2005.

It was the 34th year running that global temperatures have been above the 20th-century average; the last below-average year was 1976. The new figures show that 9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since the beginning of 2001.


...and two of the last 3 times 49 states had snow at one time have occurred since the beginning of 2010...

Hey, just posting facts, here.
Member Since: May 18, 2007 Posts: 289 Comments: 1639
Quoting MILLERTIME1:
Feb 12th-13th 2010 snow in all 50 states. Source google.


Where was that????I didn't see it. It must have been in NE Florida.
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Quoting jeffs713:

49 states had snow last year, too.


Perhaps you guys didn't see this when I posted it here a couple days ago.
:)

Patrick Marsh, a meteorology grad student at OU documented snow on the ground in every U.S. state on Feb 12, 2010.
(OU Daily)

Click to hear his story on NPR.
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its going to be a dozie
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Quoting Grecojdw:



Not in the past decade.....sigh...:(
Feb 12th-13th 2010 snow in all 50 states. Source google.
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iam expecting 2011 to be at par with the 2005 tornado level or a little higher with more ef3 or ef4 storms as we progress into feb and the commencement of severe season
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Quoting jeffs713:

49 states had snow last year, too.
Yep. And, that's what it says...
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Just like today, a lot of that can be blamed on the media and certain people.

true.... Al Gore and ManBearPig are out of control....
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
Quoting JFLORIDA:
A Bouy is showing activity near that earth quake keeper. I hope there is not a tsunami. .
localize wave events are possible but a basin wide event is not expected
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Quoting JFLORIDA:
A Bouy is showing activity near that earth quake keeper. I hope there is not a tsunami. .

That activity appears to have been at about 16:30Z, a while ago.
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Quoting atmoaggie:
I thought this interesting enough to bring up here:

"Snow in 49 States: Snow in 49 States Right Now
By Jaclyn Gallucci on January 13th, 2011

The latest snow storm to smack New York has made a name for itself. Thanks to the storm, 49 states out of all 50 have snow in them right now in the United States.

The last time that happened was last year when all states except Hawaii had snow and in 1977 when all states except South Carolina had snow.

But today, it’s Florida who is the odd man out.

Since Tuesday the National Weather Service has reported that 49 out of the 50 states in the country has snow on the ground somewhere, a rare phenomenon.

There have been no reports of all 50 states having snow at once.
"

I wonder if that's true. No report of snow in all 50 states and only 3 times for 49 of 50? (obviously some historical analysis might need to be done pre ~1900? 1920? When would this become reliable?)

49 states had snow last year, too.
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Quoting hydrus:
I do believe that at some point in our countries history there has been snow in all 50 states simultaneously...The panhandle of Florida get snow quite a bit..:)



Not in the past decade.....sigh...:(
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Quoting hydrus:
I do believe that at some point in our countries history there has been snow in all 50 states simultaneously...The panhandle of Florida get snow quite a bit..:)
Feb 13th 2010 snow in all 50 states.
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30. KEEPEROFTHEGATE 5:15 PM GMT on January 13, 2011
was those the ones you wanted

yes, thank you
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Pacific coastal regions outside California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska should refer to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center messages for information on the event

I'm running for my rubber ducky inner tube.....
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
Quoting sirmaelstrom:
Actually, to summarize, a greater than 1:1 trend in record highs over record lows is not necessarily indicative of an upward trend as you suggested, but simply indicates that the current temperatures are above the historical mean.

Again, historical means have nothing to do with record highs or lows; such records are absolutes. (That is, absolutes from when records were first kept.) You state you realize they are absolutes--but then you go on to again talk about them being deviations from average. But, again, averages and means and anomalies have nothing to do with these records in this context.


Quoting sirmaelstrom:
There seems to be a much greater warming trend from the late 70s to the mid to late 90s than there has been since. Comparing temperatures a decade at a time downplays this.

No, and no. This chart shows the ratio of record daily highs (red) to record daily lows (blue) observed at about 1,800 weather stations in the 48 contiguous United States from January 1950 through September 2009. Record highs have increasingly predominated in the last 30 years, with the ratio now about two-to-one. (Source: NCAR)

The heat is on...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13805
Quoting WaterWitch11:
keeper, where is your big world?
was those the ones you wanted
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To: U.S. West Coast, Alaska, and British Columbia coastal regions
From: NOAA/NWS/West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center
Subject: Tsunami Information Statement #1 issued 01/13/2011 at 8:27AM PST

A strong earthquake has occurred, but a tsunami IS NOT expected along the California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, or Alaska coast. NO tsunami warning, watch or advisory is in effect for these areas.

Based on the earthquake magnitude, location and historic tsunami records, a damaging tsunami IS NOT expected along the California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska coasts. At coastal locations which have experienced strong ground shaking, local tsunamis are possible due to underwater landslides.

At 8:17 AM Pacific Standard Time on January 13, an earthquake with preliminary magnitude 7.3 occurred near the Loyalty Islands . (Refer to the United States Geological Survey for official earthquake parameters.)

Pacific coastal regions outside California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska should refer to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center messages for information on the event.

This will be the only statement issued for this event by the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center unless conditions warrant. See the WCATWC web site for basic tsunami information, safety rules, and a tsunami travel time map and table. (NOTE: Travel time maps and tables indicate forecasted times only, not that a wave was generated.)

Link to Standard Information Statement
Link to Public Information Statement
Link to XML/CAP Message
Link to Printable Message

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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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