Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.
By: weatherhistorian, 9:49 PM GMT on February 25, 2012
Weather Underground Launches New Weather Extreme Records Page
A few days ago Weather Underground launched a fantastic new database that provides an unparalleled collection of historical extreme weather records for the United States and the World. This one-stop site is unique on the Internet and will allow users to search historical weather extremes in a variety of ways. The data may be found on the Wunderground front page under the ‘Severe Weather’ tab as ‘Record Extremes’. It features the following data collections:
Under the ‘Data Source’ link you will find three options labeled ‘NCDC Records (USA Only)’, Wunderground U.S. Records’ and ‘Wunderground Int’l Records’.
The 'Wunderground U.S. Records' provide historical extreme weather records for 304 sites in the U.S.A. that have long PORs (periods of record) and represent cities and locations wherein 90% of the country’s population resides within a radius of 50 miles. The data includes the following:
List of Wunderground U.S. Record parameters:
All-time hottest temperature on record.
All-time coldest temperature on record.
Warmest single month on record.
Coldest Single month on record.
Warmest summer (June-August) on record (not all sites have this information).
Coldest winter (December-February) on record (not all sites have this information).
All-time maximum 24-hour precipitation.
Wettest single month on record.
Wettest calendar year on record.
Driest calendar year on record.
All-time maximum 24-hour snowfall on record.
Greatest single snowstorm on record (amount inches).
Snowiest single month on record.
Snowiest winter season on record (July 1-June 30).
Greatest depth of snow on record.
NOTE: The "NCDC Records (USA only)" include all records from the NCDC database regardless of a site's POR or significance. This parameter is especially good for searching records for less significant sites with newer POR's and more recent events.
List of Wunderground Int’l records parameters
Hottest temperature on record ever measured for every country in the world.
Coldest temperature on record ever measured for every country in the world.
In the future we hope to add national records for maximum observed 24-hour precipitation to the above list, as well as other international weather extremes.
Special Features and Useful Tips
The icons of all the above data are located on a Wunderground map interface and are interactive. If you click on an icon more detailed information concerning the record will pop-up including dates of occurrence and special footnotes (in some cases) as well as more precise figures (for instance if precipitation amounts to hundredths of an inch rather than the tenths of inch displayed in the map icons).
The ‘Date Range’ function will also allow you to search the records using either limited date preferences (maybe you just want to know what new records were set last month or last year) or you can click on the ‘Show All Current Standing Records’ to view the entire period of record which, in most cases, go back to 1890 or earlier.
Please note that when choosing one of the ‘Weather Variables’ and ‘Record Types’ listed to the right of the ‘Date Range’ field you must be careful to choose just ONE ‘Weather Variable’ along with just ONE ‘Record Type’. Otherwise a great mishmash of data will appear on your Wundermap. If a particular ‘Weather Variable’ or ‘Record Type’ is not available the field will be in a shade of grey instead of black.
Please note that this is NOT a final product yet. There are still plenty of glitches and refinements to work out and work on!. Furthermore, lots of additional weather extremes will soon be added including U.S. state-by-state records for all variables mentioned (record temperatures, record precipitation, and record snowfall).
Please be patient and let us know your suggestions for improvement of the site and any problems you may come across.
A Little Background on the Database Development
The Wunderground U.S. and Int’l Records portions of the database was collected by me over the course of my research for my book here ‘Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book’ most recent edition of which was published in 2007 by W.W. Norton .
A cover of the 2007 version of my book ‘Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book’ that formed the basis of the data in Wunderground’s new ‘Record Extremes’ page. This does not include the NCDC records portion of the site.
In 2010 a tech-savvy (unlike myself!) friend of mine Tom Rauch digitized the tables of weather extreme records that appear in the appendices of my book and mapped and coded them into a user-friendly and interactive fashion that would make the data as up-to-date and internet-compatible as possible.
You may see this version here but keep in mind that the data herein is only updated to March 1, 2011 and also does not include some corrections I’ve since made to older data over the past year while Weather Underground worked on adopting the information for the new site. Be sure to click on "view map" at the end of each table to see the data herein displayed graphically and click on the icons for the all-important footnotes associated with most of the records displayed. I would like some feednack about how the information was displayed in this early version versus the new WU version. This early version is not really compatible for computer pads or mobile phones but looks nice on big desktop screens.
KUDOS: To Angela Fritz and Andrew Fink at Weather Underground for putting the project together and making a very complex thing work so well! Also thanks to Dr. Jeff Masters and Dr. Perry Samson (the founders of Weather Underground) for championing the project. The majority of the international temperature extremes were researched and compiled by Maximilliano Herrera, probably the world’s foremost temperature detective.
And special thanks to my friend Tom Rauch who talked me into allowing him to digitize the data and produce a product that ultimately led to my job at Weather Underground.
Christopher C. Burt
P.S. I will be away on a business trip next week, so my next blog will not be posted until sometime in early March.
Updated: 7:20 AM GMT on February 26, 2012
By: weatherhistorian, 11:19 PM GMT on February 17, 2012
Overview of the European Cold Wave a Snowfall During February 2012
The great European cold wave of February 2012 has finally begun to loosen its grip the past couple of days as temperatures have risen above freezing across most of the continent. The cold wave was the sharpest since 1991 or 1987 depending upon what source you use. Below are some of the event’s highlights.
The Cold Temperatures
As of February 17 the death toll from the cold wave has topped 650 with most of the cold-related fatalities occurring in the Ukraine and Russia. However, the only all-time cold record set at any specific location was a reading of -33.8°C at Astrakhan in Russia (located on the north shore of the Caspian Sea) on February 9th (previous record was -33.0°C in February 1954). Most of the temperatures reported were far short of their all-time records. The coldest unofficial temperature reported was -49.7°F (-45.4°C) at an undisclosed and uninhabited valley in Switzerland by a RAWS (remote automated weather site) and the coldest officially measured was a -45.0°F (-42.8°C) reading in Sweden.
Below is a table of the coldest temperatures officially recorded in each country during so far this February. The last columns of figures are the all-time national cold records for each country in C°:
Temperatures averaged 10-20°F below normal for almost two weeks across most of Europe with the exception the U.K., Spain, Portugal and Greece. Below is an example of departure from normal temperatures (in C°) for one of the coldest mornings, that of February 4th.:
A map of the temperature departure from normal on the morning of February 4th. These departures were more or less maintained for almost a two-week period across most of Europe. The cold wave did not quite reach the British Isles or Iberian Peninsula. From Meteo France.
The persistence of the cold was no that unusual for a mid-winter cold wave in Europe but was nevertheless shocking to most residents since it has been at least 20 years since the last cold wave of this magnitude has occurred. In Brussels, Belgium the temperature stayed below freezing for 14 consecutive days, close to the record 17 such set in the brutal cold wave of January 1941. Bucharest, Romania finally warmed up above freezing on February 16th for the first time since January 24th (the average high temperature for this period of time is 37°F/3°C) The Danube River has frozen over trapping commercial vessels in their ports or at anchor costing shipping companies millions of dollars in losses.
The frozen Danube River at Bucharest, Romania where temperatures stayed below freezing for 23 consecutive days. Photo from Reuters.
Snow cover across Europe and North Africa as of February 13th. Source: Office of Satellite Data and Processing.
Perhaps more impressive than the cold have been the prodigious snowfalls reported from some European locations. Worst hit seem to be Italy and the Balkans. Rome has had its heaviest snowfall since 1956 and the landmark coliseum has been closed because of falling masonry (ice forms in cracks and expands causing this).
A rare snowfall envelops the Coliseum of Rome in early February. Agence France Press (AFP).
The town of Urbino in central the hills of central Italy south of Venice received a staggering 132.9” (335 cm) of snowfall in the week between January 31 and February 5th. Reports of snow depths of one meter (39”) at sea level and 4 meters (157”) in mountain valleys have been mentioned in the press.
A couple of images from the streets of Urbino, Italy where over 3 meters (132”) of snow fell in five days late January into early February. Photos by Filippo Biagianti (bottom) and Federico Barattini (top).
In Bosnia the snow accumulated to 99.6” (253 cm) at Bjelasnica and avalanches have killed at least nine so far in the country. Snow depths peaked at 63” (160cm) in Macedonia at Popova, and 52.4” (133cm) in Kopaonik, Serbia. In Croatia a depth of 46.8” (119cm) was measured at Zavizan.
Snow accumulation map of Croatia for February 12th. Note the steep accumulation from 2cm (less than an inch) to 119cm (almost 4 feet) over the short distance between Rab and Zavizan on the northwest coast.
At the lower elevations in Croatia ice accumulations of at least 2” (5 cm) toppled transmission towers and isolated some communities for days.
Heavy ice accumulations toppled transmission towers near Rab, Croatia in mid-February. Photo by Slobadan Rosic.
Snow has also been reported over a wide area of North Africa, even at sea level in Algeria. 2-3” (5-7 cm) of sleet fell on the coast of Libya at Tripoli with snow accumulations of up to 6” (15 cm) inland in the hills.
Christopher C. Burt
By: weatherhistorian, 7:02 AM GMT on February 11, 2012
January 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary
January was a mild and dry month for the contiguous U.S. but one of the coldest on record for Alaska. Excessive rainfall induced flooding conditions in parts of Australia and Brazil. A massive cold wave began to affect Europe towards the end of the month. A powerful Category 4 tropical cyclone swirled in the waters between Madagascar and Mozambique in Africa. The coldest summer maximum temperature ever recorded in Australia was measured on January 11th.
Below is a summary some of the month’s highlights.
Without doubt the biggest weather story in North America during January was the remarkable and persistent cold that engulfed Alaska. Several locations recorded their single coldest month on record: Galena with an average of -32.6°F (-35.9°C), McGrath with an average of -28.5°F (-33.6°C), and Bettles with an average of -35.6°F (-37.6°C). Records only go back to the 1939-1951 period for these sites, but at Nome the average of -16.7° (-27.1°C) was the 2nd coldest month on record (coldest was -17.3°F/-27.4°C in February 1990) and records here go back to 1907. Fairbanks endured its coldest month (avg. -26.9°F) since January 1971 (-31.7°F). The absolute minimum for the month in the state was -66°F (-54.4°C) three nights at Fort Yukon COOP site the last three days of the month.
I just couldn’t resist reposting this great photo which first appeared in one of Jeff Master’s January blogs. One of the all-time best wunderground.com photo submissions. The date was January 29th. Photo kudos to wunderphotographer Terezka Sunshine!
A relatively snowless month in the lower 48 states had a strange exception in Midland, Texas where 10.6” of snow fell on January 9th, its greatest snowstorm on record (previous record was 9.8” on December 10-11, 1998). Coupled with a 5” snowfall on Christmas Eve, this storm enabled Midland to also break its snowiest season on record as well.
Reno, Nevada completed a seven-month stretch of dry weather with a total of just .33” (8mm) precipitation to mid-January when some significant rainfall occurred. However, prior to the onset of the rain high winds gusting to 85mph on January 19-20 sparked a rare mid-winter wild fire that engulfed six square miles and 29 homes.
One of the 29 homes that burned to the ground during the Reno area wildfire on January 19-20. Photo by Liz Margerum/The Reno Gazette-Journal.
74 tornadoes were reported during the month, the 2nd most for a January on record. Jeff Masters blogged about this and other significant January weather events in the USA in his blog posted on February 8th.
SOUTH AMERICA and CENTRAL AMERICA
All-time record highs were set at Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina with a 104.4°F (40.2°C) and Paso de Indios, Argentina with a reading of 103.8°F (39.9°C) in early January.
Heavy rains in Rio de Janeiro and the neighboring state of Minas Gerais, Brazil caused mudslides that killed at least 23 people on January 5-9. The town of Sapucaia was especially hard hit.
The warmest temperature measured in the northern hemisphere this past January was 104.9°F (40.5°C) at Los Pinzanes, Mexico on January 18th (a tie with Nigeria, see below).
A fairly unremarkable month in most of Europe. It started mild and ended with the beginning of an historic cold wave that continues into February as I wrote (the cold wave will be discussed in my February summary next month). An exceptionally cold reading for Greece was reported from Florina on January 17th when the temperature fell to -13.2°F (-25.1°C). This is fairly close to the Greek national record of -18.0°F (-27.8°C) set at Ptolemaida in January 1963.
In the U.K. the warmest temperature measured was 57.2°F (14.0°C) at Teignmouth, Devon on January 18th and the coldest 13.1°F (-10.5°C) at Aboyne, Aberdeednshire on January 16th. Maximum 24-hour rainfall was 64.8mm (2.55”) at Kinlochewe, Highland on January 11-12 and highest wind gust 102 mph at Blackford Hill, Edinburgh on the 3rd.
One of the most powerful southern Indian Ocean tropical cyclones on record churned in the open waters between Madagascar and Mozambique the week of Jan.18-25. Tropical Cyclone Funso never made landfall with its 140mph winds but did spin off heavy bands of rain in Mozambique resulting in floods that killed at least 22.
Cyclone Funso (with winds of 140mph) conveniently churned away through the Mozambique Channel never making landfall. Image from NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team.
Extreme heat continued in southern Africa in January as it did in December. All-time record highs were established at Twee River, South Africa with a 112.6°F (44.8°C) reading in mid January. The temperature peaked at 114°F (45.6°C) at Vredenal in South Africa and 110.8°F (42.8°C) in Namibia at Hardap (an all-time record for the site). Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, also broke its all-time heat record with a temperature of 103.1°F (39.5°C).
The warmest temperature measured in the northern hemisphere this past January was 104.9°F (40.5°C) at Yelwa, Nigeria on January 31st (a tie with Mexico).
The coldest temperature in the northern hemisphere and on earth during January was -68.4°F (-55.8°C) at Amga, Russia on January 13th and 14th.
All-time record low temperatures were reported for the Indian sites of Mysore (45.9°F/7.7°C) and Nizamabad (39.2°F/4.0°C).
AUSTRALIA/PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Heavy rains were the biggest story in Australia during the month. The rains in Queensland (291 mm/11.46” fell in a single calendar day at Springbrook Road on January 25th) resulted in record flooding in February at some locations. In Western Australia tremendous rains accumulated at several locations including Cygnet Bay where 729mm (28.70”) fell in the four-day period of January 25-29. New South Wales recorded its wettest month since 1996.
The hottest temperature measured in the southern hemisphere and the world was 117.5°F (47.5°C) at Birdsville Airport on January 7th. The coolest temperature in Australia during the month was 25.3°F (-3.7°C) at Thredbo AWS in New South Wales on January 12th. This is an amazing low temperature for Australia during January (their warmest month normally). An extreme cold wave hit Victoria and southern New South Wales on January 11-12. Many all-time monthly lows were broken and some incredible all-time low maximums like the high of just 33.1°F (0.6°C) at Mount Hotham, Victoria on January 11th which is the coldest July day on record for anywhere in Australia (previous record was 35.4°F (1.9°C) also at Mount Hotham in 1994 and 1983).
In Papua, New Guinea heavy rains caused a landslide in the central part of the country that killed 40-60 people on January 23-24.
The massive landslide in central Papua New Guinea that buried an estimated 40-60 people on January 24th. Photo AP/Post-Courier.
The highest temperature measured in New Zealand during January was 89.1°F (31.7°C) at Lake Pukaki on January 4th and the lowest 30.4°F (-0.9°C) at Ranfurly on January 3rd. Greatest calendar day rainfall was 145mm (5.71") at Milford Sound on January 31st and peak wind gust was 185km/hr at the Rock and Pilar range, Central Otago on January 31st.
Severe flooding and landslides killed six in Fiji January 24-26 following 292mm (11.50”) of rainfall in 24 hours on January 24-25.
A baby reef black-tip shark was found cruising down one of the Fijian town of Nadi’s streets during the floods of January 25th. Photo from The Fiji Times.
The coldest temperature in the southern hemisphere during January was -54.4°F (-48.0°C) recorded at Concordia on January 28th.
KUDOS Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera for global temperature extremes data, Stephen Burt for the U.K. extremes, and Jeremy Budd for New Zealand weather extremes.
Christopher C. Burt
Updated: 7:41 PM GMT on February 14, 2012
By: weatherhistorian, 6:54 AM GMT on February 03, 2012
Where does the Deepest Snow on Earth Accumulate?
As the warm and relatively snowless winter of 2011-2012 progresses in the contiguous United States (I write this as a big snowstorm develops in the west-central plains!), some other parts of the world have been experiencing some extraordinary snowfalls, specifically in Alaska and Europe. So, I thought I’d take a look at what the greatest depths of snow on record might be.
Snowiest Places in the World
It is likely that probably the snowiest regions in the world are in the coastal mountains of British Columbia and southern Alaska above the 3,000 foot level. Unfortunately, there are no weather sites to make measurements in these areas. The Thompson Pass location in Alaska (mentioned below) is indicative of how much snow probably falls in such locations. The Thompson Pass site is no longer making observations. What we do have records for in North America are noted below.
The snowiest place we have measurements from (historically-speaking) in North America are the two sites in the mountains of western Washington (both situated around 5,000-6,000 feet) on the slopes of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker. At both places world records have been established for greatest annual snowfall:
Greatest seasonal snowfall: 1,140” at Mount Baker Ski Resort 1998-1999
Greatest 12-month snowfall: 1,224.5” at Paradise Rainier Ranger Station between Feb. 19, 1971 and Feb. 18, 1972
The greatest depth achieved at either location was 367” at Paradise R.S. on March 10, 1956.
However, it is in the Sierra of California that even greater depths of snow have been achieved, specifically at Tamarack, a site located at 7000’ near where the Bear Valley Ski Resort is now in the central Sierra. In March 1911 the snow depth reached an amazing 451” (37.5 feet!), the greatest snow depth ever measured anywhere in North America (but not the world!). A seasonal total of 884” fell at Tamarack during 1906-1907, a Sierra and thus California record.
Other North American sites recording phenomenal seasonal snowfalls and depths include:
974.1” Thompson Pass, Alaska (just north of Valdez) in 1952-1953. Maximum depth unknown, the Alaska state record for such is 345” at White Mountain March 1, 1942.
963” Mt. Copeland (near Revelstoke), British Columbia, Canada in 1971-1972. Maximum depth unknown.
903” Crater Lake, Oregon in 1949-1950. Maximum depth 252” on April 3, 1983.
846.8” Alta, Utah (in the Wasatch Mountains) in 1982-1983. Maximum depth 179” on April 7, 1958.
837.5” Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado (in the San Juan Mountains) in 1978-1979. Maximum depth 251” on March 31, 1979.
Valdez, Alaska is the snowiest sea-level town in the world with an average of 320” falling each season. This winter has been one of its busiest with 104.9” this past January alone (reaching a maximum depth of 84” on January 12th). So far this season 339.1” has already (as of Feb. 3) accumulated at Valdez.
The port of Valdez on Alaska’s south-central coastline is the snowiest sea-level town in the world with an average of 320” of snowfall per season. Photo by Don Pitcher.
Here is a list of the 10 snowiest locations in the U.S. by annual average snowfall (various periods of record):
680” Paradise Rainier Ranger Station, Washington
552” Thompson Pass, Alaska
530” Mt. Baker Lodge, Washington
530” Crater Lake, Oregon
516” Alta, Utah
471” Soda Springs, California
445” Tamarack, California
442” Stampede Pass, Washington
436” Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado
429” Silver Lake Brighton, Utah
Impressive as the depths recorded in North America might seem, the deepest snow on earth accumulates in the Japanese Alps of Honshu Island around the 2,000-6,000’ level. The average annual snowfall is estimated to be in the 1200-1500” range (see The Climate of Japan by E. Fukui p. 171). On Feb. 14, 1927 a snow depth of 465.4” was measured on Mt. Ibuki at 5,000 feet. In fact, these amazing snow depths are a singular tourist attraction since a highway that transects the mountains is kept open all winter. It is known as the Yuki-no-Otani Snow Canyon.
A roadside and topside view of the famous Yuki-no-Otani Snow Canyon in the Japanese Alps of Honshu Island. The greatest snow depths ever measured on earth are in this region. Photos from buzzhunt.com, photographer(s) unknown.
Even low-level (in fact sea level) locations on the west coast of Honshu have recorded incredible snowfall and snow depths. Only Valdez, Alaska is snowier in this regard. Tsukayama recorded 68.2” of snow in 24 hours on December 30-31, 1960, a world record for a low elevation site. The snow depths are so extreme in the towns of this region that warm-water sprinklers are imbedded in the streets to melt the snow.
Snowfall in the towns along the Sea of Japan in Niigata Prefecture are so deep that artificial snow-melting systems must be employed. These warm-water sprinklers, which run down the middle of a street in Imokawa, keep the community functioning during the winter. Photo by M. Ishii.
The Alps of Europe above the 6,000-foot level also have recorded exceptional snow depths. Santis, Switzerland (elevation 8,200’) reported a snow depth of 325” in April 1999 following one of Europe’s snowiest winters. A world record point snowfall of 67.8” once fell in just 19 hours at Bessans in the French Alp region of Savoie on April 5-6, 1959. This winter has seen some very impressive snowfall in the Alps and on January 24th (last month) a depth of 226” was reported at the ski resort St. Anton Am Arlberg in Austria at the 2,800-meter (9,240-foot) level. Perhaps the deepest snow on record for the Balkans has fallen just this past week in Serbia where depths of up to 78” have been reported.
Curiously, one of the snowiest places in the world is in the Western Great Caucus Mountains of Russia near Turkey and the Black Sea. This is the region where the winter Olympics will next be held. Achishko (elevation 6,200’) has measured snow depths as high as 315”. Snow depths in the Swedish and Norwegian mountains reach up to 20 feet during particularly snowy winters.
The deepest undrifted snow reliably measured at a low level site in the U.K. was 83" at Forest-in-Teesdale in northeast England on March 14, 1947. The site rests at an elevation of 1305 feet and much deeper snow depths have been seen at mountain top sites like Ben Nevis (4406').
OTHER SNOWY PLACES
Prodigious snowfalls occur in high mountain areas all over the world, but by and large these places are uninhabited. Particularly snowy mountains include the Alps of the South Island of New Zealand above 3,000 to 4,000 feet. The southern tip of the Andes near Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia, in Chile and Argentina, experiences tremendous snow accumulations above the 3,000- to 4,000-foot level as do the southern flanks of the high Himalayas east of the 80° longitude.
Surprisingly, the arctic and Antarctic receive very small amounts of snowfall due to lack of atmospheric moisture. It is estimated, in fact, that the South Pole is one of the driest places on earth. It is impossible to actually measure precipitation here because of the high winds, but less than one-tenth of an inch of precipitation (just one or two inches of snow) probably falls on an annual basis.
P.S. For metric conversions please note that 1” is about 2.5 cm and one meter about 3.3 feet.
Christopher C. Burt
KUDOS: Stephen Burt for U.K. snow information.
Updated: 8:17 PM GMT on February 04, 2012