Another amazingly snowy winter for the U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:18 PM GMT on February 11, 2011

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As northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas dig out from the two feet of snow dumped this winter's latest epic snowstorm, it's time to summarize how remarkable the snows of the past two winters have been. So far this winter, the Northeast U.S. has seen three Category 3 (major) or higher snow storms on the Northeast Snowfall Impact (NESIS) scale. This scale, which rates Northeast snowstorms by the area affected by the snowstorm, the amount of snow, and the number of people living in the path of the storm, runs from Category 1 (Notable) to Category 5 (Crippling.) This puts the winter of 2010 - 2011 in a tie for first place with the winters of 2009 - 2010 and 1960 - 1961 for most major Northeast snowstorms. All three of these winters had an extreme configuration of surface pressures over the Arctic and North Atlantic referred to as a negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and Arctic Oscillation (AO). In this situation, the band of winds that circles the North Pole weakens, allowing cold air to spill southwards into the mid-latitudes.

In the past twelve months, we've had six major Category 3 or stronger storms on the NESIS scale, by far the most major snowstorms in a 12-month period in the historical record. Going back to 1956, only one 12-month period had as many as four major snowstorms--during 1960 - 1961. New York City has seen three of its top-ten snowstorms and the two snowiest months in its 142-year history during the past 12 months--February 2010 (36.9") and January 2011 (36.0"). Philadelphia has seen four of its top-ten snowstorm in history the past two winters. The Midwest has not been left out of the action this year, either--the Groundhog's Day blizzard nailed Chicago with its 3rd biggest snowstorm on record. According to the National Climatic Data Center, December 2010 saw the 7th greatest U.S. snow extent for the month in the 45-year record, and January 2011 the 5th most. December 2009 had the greatest snow extent for the month in the 45-year record, January 2010 the 6th most, and February 2010 the 3rd most. Clearly, the snows of the past two winters in the U.S. have been truly extraordinary.


Figure 1. The six major Category 3 Northeast snowstorms of the past twelve months. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center.

A cold January in the U.S.
January 2011 was the coldest January in the contiguous U.S. since 1994, according to the National Climatic Data Center, and ranked as the 37th coldest January in the 117-year record. Despite the heavy snows in the Northeast U.S., January was the 9th driest January since 1895. This was largely due to the fact that the Desert Southwest was very dry, with New Mexico recording its driest January, and Arizona and Nevada their second driest.

A cold and record snowy winter (yet again!) in the U.S. does not prove or disprove the existence of climate change or global warming, as we must instead focus on global temperatures averaged over decades. Globally, January 2011 was the 11th warmest since 1880, but tied for the second coolest January of the past decade, according to NASA. NOAA has not yet released their stats for January. The cool-down in global temperatures since November 2010, which was the warmest November in the historical record, is largely due to the temporary cooling effect of the strong La NiƱa event occurring in the Eastern Pacific. This event has cooled a large portion of the surface waters in the Pacific, leading to a cooler global temperature.

Some posts of interest I've done on snow and climate change over the past year:

Hot Arctic-Cold Continents Pattern is back (December 2010)
The future of intense winter storms (March 2010)
Heavy snowfall in a warming world (February 2010)

Have a great weekend, everyone, and enjoy the coming warm-up, those of you in the eastern 2/3 of the country!

Jeff Masters

Snow and icicle sun (emilinetdd)
Snow and icicle sun
Cardinal City (dypepper)
Another exciting day for me, shooting the Cardinals in the Snow!
Cardinal City

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1150. Levi32
Quoting misanthrope:

So, if someone says something that I know to be an out an out lie and I call them on it, you consider that to be a personal attack?

Where I come from, we call it not letting folks get away with BS. I guess your too PC a guy for that kind of thing?



I didn't know you knew Atmo well enough to have a clue what kind of qualifications he has.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting misanthrope:

Then what do you mean?


Its a typical response from GW types.. and apparently you also.

Criticize, Attack, Ridicule, your response was uncalled for and childish. It was a personal attack, with no basis of fact... for all you know, what was said was true.

Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting washingtonian115:
Really?.Like really dude?.Wow how does that make you look on your part?.SMH.personal attacks aren't needed on here...

So, if someone says something that I know to be an out and out lie and I call them on it, you consider that to be a personal attack?

Where I come from, we call it not letting folks get away with BS. I guess your too PC a guy for that kind of thing?

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1147. jpritch
While trying to catch up on the last 24 hours or so of postings, I have come to the conclusion that we need a "WTF?" button next to the +, -, and !.
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1146. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Orcasystems:


Got your snow shovel handy :)
snow shovel for what snow is melting here and by friday may be very little if any will be left at all
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hey everybody, I need your help with something.

A curious thing just happened to me.

I recently changed from a desktop to a laptop computer and when I went online for the first time to WUnderground, I got lazy and just when to this blog without signing in and something peculiar happened.

The following bloggers:

twincomanche
HaloReachFan
PalmBeachWeather
Cochise111
JupiterKen
RitaEvac
overwash12
WeatherWx
oracle28
surfcropper
FtMyersgal
jwh250
RecordSeason
SQUAWK
Ossqss

...were all greyed out so that I could not even see their avatars much less what they wrote. There wasn't even a choice to read what they wrote.

After I went and logged in with my password and went back, there they were with their comments and everything.

Is there something wrong with the site now that it has changed? I am using Firefox.

This sure is a crazy thing to happen.

Is there something wrong with my internet access?



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1144. Ossqss
Quoting Levi32:
Earth-directed M6 flare just came flying out of the sun.



Yup, a mini movie of 1158

http://spaceweather.com/images2011/13feb11/ar1158 _anim.gif?PHPSESSID=o4hv005fnv80rgmli7cpd5smr2

current interactive alert board

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/alerts/warnings_timeline .html
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Quoting Orcasystems:
1131. misanthrope 6:44 PM GMT on February 13, 2011

CAR, and no, I do not mean move the Hockey net off the road.

Then what do you mean?
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1142. Levi32
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


That's 4 days old.



Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting misanthrope:


LOL. What, you talking about that Junior Scientist badge you ordered from the back of a comic book? Face it dude, you're a grad school drop out with a huge chip on his shoulder.

Real scientists have advanced degrees, do research, write papers and write grants. Far as I can tell, you've done none of the above. .And no, that poem you submitted to the company newsletter doesn't count as being published. Real scientist have a familiarity with the literature in their field of specialization. Something you quite obviously have not. Operationally administering computer a program a scientist does not make you.

I'll tell you what aggie, I've been very fortunate to know and work with a lot of good scientists over the years and I can say with confidence that you are certainly a lot of things but scientist is not amongst them. Not even close.


Really?.Like really dude?.Wow how does that make you look on your part?.SMH.personal attacks aren't needed on here...
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
another pissing in the wind day on the blog
but be careful if the wind blows the right way
ya can get that stuff all over yourself


Got your snow shovel handy :)
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting Levi32:


He's ten times the scientist you'll ever be with that attitude.

In case you haven't noticed, I've never claimed to be a scientist. Just wondering - how much time have you spent around real scientists and what do you think are the qualifications for calling oneself a scientist? Besides sharing your ideology, that is.



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1138. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
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1137. Levi32
Earth-directed M6 flare just came flying out of the sun.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
1136. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
another pissing in the wind day on the blog
but be careful if the wind blows the right way
ya can get that stuff all over yourself
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1131. misanthrope 6:44 PM GMT on February 13, 2011

CAR, and no, I do not mean move the Hockey net off the road.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
1134. Levi32
Quoting misanthrope:


LOL. What, you talking about that Junior Scientist badge you ordered from the back of a comic book? Face it dude, you're a grad school drop out with a huge chip on his shoulder.

Real scientists have advanced degrees, do research, write papers and write grants. Far as I can tell, you've done none of the above. .And no, that poem you submitted to the company newsletter doesn't count as being published. Real scientist have a familiarity with the literature in their field of specialization. Something you quite obviously have not. Operationally administering computer a program a scientist does not make you.

I'll tell you what aggie, I've been very fortunate to know and work with a lot of good scientists over the years and I can say with confidence that you are certainly a lot of things but scientist is not amongst them. Not even close.




He's ten times the scientist you'll ever be with that attitude.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
1133. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)


everything appears normal all updates are showing now
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1132. Ossqss
Quoting cg2916:


Hey there, Ossqss, did I miss anything?


Howdy,

Not really, just a bunch of friends were freaked out up north a few days ago by those Frost Quake things. Kinda interesting though :)
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Quoting Neapolitan:

You beat me to it. AO is just wishful thinking on the part of folks unwilling or unable to realize that readily-available, commercially-viable petroleum is running out. You can hear lots about it on Glenn Beck and Alex Jones sandwiched in between 9/11 conspiracy theories, Birther nonsense, and stories about Obama's secret membership in the Muslim Brotherhood. ;-)
I have noticed that most self-proclaimed "Libertarians" I know are both AGW Deniers and Peak Oil Deniers. When reality goes against your ideology, just deny reality! That worked so well for the USSR...
Member Since: August 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 324
1129. bappit
Quoting Cochise111:


New research indicates that oil is not a finite resource and is probably not based on prehistoric fossil sources at all. It might be a "by-product" of the earth's magma. Old oil fields which were once thought empty are refilling. Of course, no greenie wants face that horrible dilemma.

That's worth quoting.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6021
1128. cg2916
Quoting Ossqss:
Hummm, so that is what that was......


Mysterious Loud Explosions Explained

The tremors come, the tremors go, they love the wintry weather: frost quakes in Ohio

Cryoseism


Hey there, Ossqss, did I miss anything?
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1127. cg2916
Quoting overwash12:
 I give up,let's all just believe what the liberal media feeds us and not debate and argue anymore ,the world will be one big happy family! 


Agreed, but ignored
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 I give up,let's all just believe what the liberal media feeds us and not debate and argue anymore ,the world will be one big happy family! 
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1124. cg2916
Hello, everyone!

It's weird talking about winter instead of tropics.

So, what'd I miss, LOL?
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Quoting Caffinehog:
I'm a scientist, and I'll tell you this: You can fit a curve to anything. And whatever trend is underway is likely to continue for a while, so any model based on recent occurrences is likely to do a good job of predicting near term changes. Long term in terms of climate is hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions. Rapid temperature changes like the one we've seen over the last century are COMMON in the history of the earth's climate. There isn't any clear evidence that this is any different from some of the historical swings in temperature.

That being said, some very smart people have come up with a solid theory that shows humans COULD be responsible for this. Moreover, excess CO2 will cause disruption of some marine ecosystems due to ocean acidification. Last but not least, oil is a finite resource, and what is left is getting harder and more expensive to get out of the ground. Prudence dictates that we must find another source of cheap energy, soon.
(The following limited only to the future warming forecast portion of the above)
I too am a scientist. Please show us an example of extrapolating an earth science parameter into the future based on a series of observations that has actually worked to a significant result, near-term or long-term.

I ask as that is what the prognostications are all about.

The dynamical modeling simply isn't there, yet, so a great analogue is literally a hurricane XTRP, but on a different time scale.
(Obviously not talking about the forecast movements of a TC for the next 10 minutes, but for the next 3 days, e.g.)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting TaylorSelseth:


LOL, Abiotic Oil is to Geology what Creationism is to Biology.

You beat me to it. AO is just wishful thinking on the part of folks unwilling or unable to realize that readily-available, commercially-viable petroleum is running out. You can hear lots about it on Glenn Beck and Alex Jones sandwiched in between 9/11 conspiracy theories, Birther nonsense, and stories about Obama's secret membership in the Muslim Brotherhood. ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13526
Quoting BahaHurican:
Boy you are not kidding about that... a few years ago I passed through Fargo on Amtrak during the week the state fair was there, and I don't think the temp at that time was more than 55F... lol


This reminds of of the week in March '09 of temps in the 60sF that caused The Flood because all the snow melted in a week!
Member Since: August 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 324
Quoting Cochise111:


New research indicates that oil is not a finite resource and is probably not based on prehistoric fossil sources at all. It might be a "by-product" of the earth's magma. Old oil fields which were once thought empty are refilling. Of course, no greenie wants face that horrible dilemma.


LOL, Abiotic Oil is to Geology what Creationism is to Biology.
Member Since: August 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 324
1118. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting BahaHurican:
Hey KOTG, my entire local WX page just dropped out...
there are problems some sections are updating but strickers not i check a few different sticky reports and the same is up NA
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Hey, gotta run. L8er all.
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Hey KOTG, my entire local WX page just dropped out...
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Is2C, I got ur drift...
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Sorry BAHA...messed up :(
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Quoting TaylorSelseth:
It's 45F in Fargo right now, incredibly warm from Febuary. I believe the normal high right now is in the low 10sF.
Boy you are not kidding about that... a few years ago I passed through Fargo on Amtrak during the week the state fair was there, and I don't think the temp at that time was more than 55F... lol
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Quoting Caffinehog:
I'm a scientist, and I'll tell you this: You can fit a curve to anything. And whatever trend is underway is likely to continue for a while, so any model based on recent occurrences is likely to do a good job of predicting near term changes. Long term in terms of climate is hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions. Rapid temperature changes like the one we've seen over the last century are COMMON in the history of the earth's climate. There isn't any clear evidence that this is any different from some of the historical swings in temperature.

That being said, some very smart people have come up with a solid theory that shows humans COULD be responsible for this. Moreover, excess CO2 will cause disruption of some marine ecosystems due to ocean acidification. Last but not least, oil is a finite resource, and what is left is getting harder and more expensive to get out of the ground. Prudence dictates that we must find another source of cheap energy, soon.


New research indicates that oil is not a finite resource and is probably not based on prehistoric fossil sources at all. It might be a "by-product" of the earth's magma. Old oil fields which were once thought empty are refilling. Of course, no greenie wants face that horrible dilemma.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
A few interesting statistics gleaned from here.

Not surprisingly, 2005 was the year with most retired names - five. Three years, 1955, 1995, and 2004 tied for second with 4 retired names each. 2009 was the most recent season with no retired names.


Yes, I do that regularly...think it's probably in the outside phone line...so soggy here.....gotta get this fixed before "the season"....Thank you.:)
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It's 45F in Fargo right now, incredibly warm from Febuary. I believe the normal high right now is in the low 10sF.
Member Since: August 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 324
1109. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
A few interesting statistics gleaned from here.

Not surprisingly, 2005 was the year with most retired names - five. Three years, 1955, 1995, and 2004 tied for second with 4 retired names each. 2009 was the most recent season with no retired names.
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1107. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
,
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:
I have a question....recently have been having a lot of instabilty (disconnects} on my PC....did all the tune up stuff, but still happening.....now to the question...Can u have so much stuff (like sattelite images, radar sites,etc....stored on your Favorites that it can cause these king of problems...just asking...thanks


have you cleaned the cache in your browser? If its got 20 days (default), it could slow your system down... but not cause disconnects from your LAN.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
re: 1102....

The favorites are just links, right? So it shouldn't make that much difference.

Maybe has more to do with cache size or hard drive full to empty ratio....

But I'm not an expert like some others on here.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
I doubt Richard, or Karl, 4 that matter. They strike me as pretty typical for this type of season.
Well I think Karl has a higher chance than Richard.But I could be wrong.I thouht back in 2008 they were going to retire 6 storms Dolly,Fay,Gustav,Hanna,Ike,Paloma.But they only retired 3 out of the bunch.That may indeed happen this year to.Wouldn't be totally surprised.
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KOTG, the two in my area are reporting fine right now...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I have a question....recently have been having a lot of instabilty (disconnects} on my PC....did all the tune up stuff, but still happening.....now to the question...Can u have so much stuff (like sattelite images, radar sites,etc....stored on your Favorites that it can cause these king of problems...just asking...thanks
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1101. Patrap
ALL PWS in Se La in works A-OK
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128259
Quoting Orcasystems:


ROFLMAO, when the season gets ready to start... it will happen again... I think there is just a little to much Cabin Fever right now :)

We are in desperate need of a Blob :)
LOL... I always find it kinda amusing how this blog can go nuts over some blob out there while mature storms have become passe.... lol. To me fronts in the tropics are not the same... too long and skinny....
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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.