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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000
WEHW42 PHEB 131627
TIBHWX

HIZ001>003-005>009-012>014-016>021-023>026-131827-

TSUNAMI INFORMATION STATEMENT NUMBER 1
NWS PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER EWA BEACH HI
627 AM HST THU JAN 13 2011

TO - CIVIL DEFENSE IN THE STATE OF HAWAII

SUBJECT - TSUNAMI INFORMATION

THIS STATEMENT IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. NO ACTION REQUIRED.

AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS

ORIGIN TIME - 0617 AM HST 13 JAN 2011
COORDINATES - 20.7 SOUTH 168.7 EAST
LOCATION - LOYALTY ISLANDS
MAGNITUDE - 7.3 MOMENT

EVALUATION

BASED ON ALL AVAILABLE DATA A DESTRUCTIVE PACIFIC-WIDE TSUNAMI IS
NOT EXPECTED AND THERE IS NO TSUNAMI THREAT TO HAWAII. REPEAT. A
DESTRUCTIVE PACIFIC-WIDE TSUNAMI IS NOT EXPECTED AND THERE IS NO
TSUNAMI THREAT TO HAWAII.

THIS WILL BE THE ONLY STATEMENT ISSUED FOR THIS EVENT UNLESS
ADDITIONAL DATA ARE RECEIVED.
...SP...


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Magnitude 7.3 - LOYALTY ISLANDS
2011 January 13 16:16:41 UTC
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Thursday 13th January 2011
Mt Etna Volcano, Italy
Eruptions have occurred at Mt Etna volcano, Italy. On the evening of 11th January 2011 an increase in volcanic tremor was recorded at the volcano. Seismic activity reached a peak at 07:00 hr on 12th January when the source moved from north of NE crater to the SE crater. This corresponded to weak eruptive activity at SE crater on 11th January. On 12th January eruptions increased with strombolian activity recorded at SE crater. About 21:00 hr, lava overflowed the eastern rim of SE crater, and fed a flow that moved toward the western wall of the Valle del Bove.
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Quoting smartinwx:


Simple,
If it's really cold, it's due to global warming.
If it's really warm, hello...it's global warming.
Lots of snow, global warming.
Lots of rain, global warming.
Drought? Duh, global warming.
Lots of tropical storms, global warming.
Fewer tropical storms? Global warming.

Do you understand now?

LMAO, that's pretty much what the "experts" say.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
keeper, where is your big world?
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AMY!!!!!
Member Since: December 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2498
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
as temp risi embalances wwill create extreme swings from deep cold and heavy snows to intense severe weather with heavy rains then prolonged extreme heat waves and drought conditions the swings from one extreme to the other is what makes it extreme and as the temps go up the swings will become even more extreme

we have only just begun to see these and we will see them more and alot worse than we can imagine
Si Senor..The weather has been crazy, and it will get worse...I am not doomcasting..I believe it to be true too Keep..
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post #14...

hahahahahahaha! just as I thought!!!!

;)
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
"441. Neapolitan 3:24 PM GMT on January 13, 2011
Quoting ILwthrfan:

You talk of the great global cooldown...do you have any source links or deeper insight of that.

The "Great Global Cooldown" comment was a joking reference to the theory offered by a number of people--including some right here on WU--that states not only is there no such thing as "global warming", but the planet is actually cooling. Source-wise, it's easy to find plenty of press; here's a representative sampling:

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/05/19/global-cooling-scientists-warming/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/globalwarming/6965342/Big-freeze-could-signal-global-w arming-pause.html

http://www.dailytech.com/Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling/article10866.htm

http://anhonestclimatedebate.wordpress.com/2008/12/18/cooler-year-on-a-cooling-planet/

http://www.isthereglobalcooling.com/

IMO, it takes a special kind of person to look at certain facts--2010 was one of the warmest ever recorded, seven of the warmest years ever recorded start with "20", the top ten warmest year ever have been since 1995, the growing imbalance between record highs and record lows etc.--and proclaim with certainty, "Yep, the globe is definitely cooling." Now, the "coolistas" may eventually be proven correct--but so far there are absolutely no signs of it happening."

I thought maybe is was some sort of reference to a "Day After Tommorrow" cliche, I liked Dr. Masters "Cold Continents Warm Oceans" piece. I would think one of the biggest alarms besides the record temperatures for global warming that is showing up, is the average storm strength that effects the east coast on a weekly routine over the last winter and a half. How many 50-100 years storms have slammed the DC to Boston area half a dozen? I would only expect this to increase in frequency as the gulf stream continues to warm, it will only add EVEN more potential energy for anything developing in an area that is already naturally conducive for cyclogenesis. Add to the fact the Greenland has had a freakishly strong high parked over it for the better part of a year only adds to the chances that every other storm system scooting out of the midwest will bomb out off the east coast with very low pressure drops in a short amount of time.
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Quoting NRAamy:
so.....how do "extreme events" play into the whole Global Warming thingy?

"thingy" is my edumacated word for the day....
as temp risi embalances wwill create extreme swings from deep cold and heavy snows to intense severe weather with heavy rains then prolonged extreme heat waves and drought conditions the swings from one extreme to the other is what makes it extreme and as the temps go up the swings will become even more extreme

we have only just begun to see these and we will see them more and alot worse than we can imagine
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NRAamy:
so.....how do "extreme events" play into the whole Global Warming thingy?

"thingy" is my edumacated word for the day....


Simple,
If it's really cold, it's due to global warming.
If it's really warm, hello...it's global warming.
Lots of snow, global warming.
Lots of rain, global warming.
Drought? Duh, global warming.
Lots of tropical storms, global warming.
Fewer tropical storms? Global warming.

Do you understand now?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
so.....how do "extreme events" play into the whole Global Warming thingy?

"thingy" is my edumacated word for the day....
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
Copied from previous blog...


Quoting Neapolitan:

So to summarize your comment: increasing warmth is no sign of increasing warmth? Got it! ;-)

Seriously, though, those record highs (and lows) aren't based on means; they're not anomalies; they're not in comparison to any baseline. They are, instead, absolutes. As each new high (and low) record is set, it moves the standard, meaning it takes an even hotter (or colder) temp to exceed the old record. The fact that each passing decade shows an increasing number of those record highs (and a decreasing number of those record lows) is very telling, don't you think?


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.

The increase in ratio is a better indicator of trend admittedly. However, by comparing decades only, more recent trends are harder to see. 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.

Added: To better explain my prior point...I know these are absolute temperatures. When the average temperature is higher than the historical average, it is easier to set record highs than record lows because it requires less deviation from the average. Even in a situation where the overall average was declining, this would remain the case as long as the overall average remained above the historical average, although the ratio would likely decrease somewhat. If temperatures remained flat at current levels for an extended period of time, the ratio would likely not change much, although over the number of overall records would decrease as they begin to require further deviations from the overall mean due to the setting of new records.

Hopefully more clear...I'm not sure how else to state it.

Time for lunch...May check back later.
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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?)
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..:)
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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?)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
yet it was the coldest Summer in Southern Calif that I can remember.....
Right up until LA recorded it's highest temp to date.
And Crestline got 26 inches in 4 days.

These would all be called extreme events.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Nice twisting motion down near Panama, just what the hell is it think its doing.

Lol..Maybe it will bring some needed rain to Belize.
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Quoting NRAamy:
2010 tied for warmest year in Earth's history

yet it was the coldest Summer in Southern Calif that I can remember.....


They mean the parts of the Earth than were warmer, not the entire Earth.

Don't you know about selective data points?
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Dr. Masters there are 1 million people in Sri Lanka out of their homes, due flooding ..... the drinking water system for the country has been shattered.

10.94 inches fell on the north coast of Tasmania yesterday.

38 are dead in South Africa, and the country is struggling to make electricity because the coal piles are too wet to burn.
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Not to be picky, but, FYI:

Quoting DrM:
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 [snip]


"coating" ?
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
2010 tied for warmest year in Earth's history

yet it was the coldest Summer in Southern Calif that I can remember.....
Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
Reports of sleet in Jackson and Matagorda counties earlier this morning


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Quoting sirmaelstrom:
In short the ratio of record highs to record lows says something about current temperatures relative to the historical mean, but does not reveal much concerning the trend.

So to summarize your comment: increasing warmth is no sign of increasing warmth? Got it! ;-)

Seriously, though, those record highs (and lows) aren't based on means; they're not anomalies; they're not in comparison to any baseline. They are, instead, absolutes. As each new high (and low) record is set, it moves the standard, meaning it takes an even hotter (or colder) temp to exceed the old record. The fact that each passing decade shows an increasing number of those record highs (and a decreasing number of those record lows) is very telling, don't you think?
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13470

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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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