Weather Extremes

California Rain and Windstorm: Round 2

By: weatherhistorian, 9:36 PM GMT on November 30, 2012

California Rain and Windstorm: Round 2

A Mini Blog

The second of three systems to impact central and northern California is winding down as of mid-day this Friday. Rainfall and winds have not been quite as impressive as forecast (so far) although the third and final of the storms, which is expected to arrive Saturday night and early Sunday, may make up for what the first two systems lacked.

Last Tuesday (November 27th) the GFS was forecasting that the three storms beginning Wednesday morning and ending Sunday evening would produce a large swath of 10”+ rainfall over central and northern California with local amounts of 15-20” in the wettest locations of the Santa Cruz Mountains (south of San Francisco), and the coastal mountain ranges north to the Oregon border as well as east to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and Cascades in the northern third of the state.

The first storm on Wednesday was a quick mover and dropped only modest amounts of rainfall across the region, generally .25”-.50” in the lower elevations and 1.00” in the wettest locations. Although the second storm that began Thursday night has yet to completely clear the area, preliminary 24-hour totals (as of 1 p.m. PST) have been very impressive but not close to record-breaking and about what one normally sees a few times every normal winter when major storms occur. Some peak 24-hour amounts include:

7.26” at Honeydew in Humboldt County. Honeydew is often cited as the wettest weather station in California with an average of 104.18” annually (actually per rain year of July 1-June 30). 7” of precipitation in 24 hours is a fairly common event at this location. Honeydew’s record calendar day rainfall is around 15.00” set on December 21, 1964 (that amount actually measured at nearby Ettersberg).

8.08” at Venado in Sonoma County. This is normally the wettest location in the North San Francisco Bay counties of Marin, Sonoma, and Napa and is not a notable amount for the location. The greatest calendar day rainfall on record for Sonoma County is 18.02” at Fort Ross on November 11, 1874.

7.32” at Mt. Umunhum in Santa Cruz County. Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek are normally the wettest locations in the Santa Cruz Mountains but they picked up only 4-5” in the past 24 hours. These are common big-storm totals. Just last March Ben Lomond picked up 17” of precipitation during a 3-day event. The town’s calendar day record is 15.20” on January 4, 1982.

8.15” at Mining Ridge in San Benito County (Big Sur region). This is usually the wettest location during storms that affect the Big Sur coastal mountains south of Monterrey. It is a relatively new station located at about 4000’ on a ridge overlooking the ocean. One storm last winter dropped 16” of rain in 24 hours here.

7.16” at Brady Creek in the Shasta, Trinity, and Siskiyou County region. The greatest calendar day rainfall on record in this area was 15.34” at Lakeshore on December 20, 1955.

7.32” at Bucks Lake in the northern Sierra foothills. This is not impressive compared to the records but the storm is still on going in this area as I write this.

In the cities at low elevations the rainfall has been relatively modest the past 24 hours:

1.26” San Francisco (downtown) and 1.77” at the normally drier airport location.

3.26” in Santa Rosa.

1.06” in Sacramento (International Airport location).

Wind gusts have been typical for a strong winter storm: 54 mph at San Francisco Airport. 67 mph on Mt. Diablo Peak (elevation 4,000’).

Snow is only just now picking up high in the Sierra Nevada but significant snowfall so far has been confined to very high elevations given the warm nature of the storm. In fact, San Francisco Airport recorded a low of just 61° last night (Thursday night) its 2nd warmest night of the entire year (the low on October 2nd was 62°).

I will post a blog storm summary next Monday when the last storm has passed. Meantime, the sun just broke out and it is turning into a balmy summer-like day here in Oakland!

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Mini Blog Extreme Weather Extra-tropical Storms

Updated: 10:05 PM GMT on November 30, 2012

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Same-Day Record High and Low Temperatures

By: weatherhistorian, 4:23 AM GMT on November 25, 2012

Same-Day Record High and Low Temperatures

Last week Valentine, Nebraska saw its temperature fall from a record 76° at 3 p.m. (CST) on November 21st to 10° by 7 a.m. on November 23rd. A drop of 66° in just 40 hours. The low of 10° was not a record and, of course, almost two days separated the two extremes. However, there have been rare occasions at a handful of locations in the U.S. when the record maximum and record minimum temperatures were broken on the same day. Here is a summary of those events.

There are basically three different climatic conditions that can lead to record highs and lows being set on the same day. One condition is when a very strong and fast moving cold front passes over a location causing the temperature to drop dramatically (as occurred in Valentine last week). The second, and more common event, occurs when the humidity is very low allowing for strong diurnal temperature swings to occur. This is especially true for locations in the Great Basin or mountain valleys of the West, usually during the summertime. The third situation is when a location has a very narrow spread of average temperatures between day and night and thus also a narrow spread between their record daily highs and lows. This is the case for tropical areas or locations right along the Pacific coastline. Here are some examples of all three cases:

COLD FRONT PASSAGE

On November 11, 1911 the most extreme cold front in U.S. meteorological records swept quickly across the Great Plains and Midwest. Kansas City, Missouri fell from 76° to 11° in 12 hours. Oklahoma City fell from 83° to 17° and Springfield, Missouri from 80° to 13° officially. In all three cases the cities recorded both their record high and record low temperature on November 11th.



The thermograph trace from Springfield, Missouri actually shows that the high temp was at least 81° on November 11th at around 3:45 pm. It also shows that by midnight that same day the temperature had fallen to 10°. The ‘official’ range of temperature for the day of 80° to 13° is not correct if the thermograph is accurate. The office only reported hourly temps for their daily summary and concluded that the 11 p.m temp of 13° was the lowest for the day when, in fact, it had reached 10° by midnight). A drop of 40° occurred in 15 minutes between 3:45 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. The 71° drop in eight hours is almost unprecedented in meteorological records although two locations in Arkansas (Rogers and Fayetteville measured a 72° drop in temperature during the same period from 81° to 9°). Graphic from NWS Springfield office.

DRY AIR TEMPERATURE DIURNAL SWINGS

The San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado is the state’s driest location and its high altitude (around 7,500’) means very cool nighttime temperatures are common in the summer, whereas during the daytime the intense solar radiation causes the thermometer to rise dramatically.



The beautiful high and dry San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado experiences enormous diurnal temperature fluctuations. The valley’s principle town of Alamosa has recorded four days of the year that measured both their warmest and coldest day on record. Photo by Steve Garufi.

The town of Alamosa has four days of the year that have recorded both their record highs and lows. Amazingly, three of these four days occurred consecutively:

August 24, 2002: Record high of 85°, record low of 33° (52° range)

August 25, 2002: Record high of 87°, record low of 30° (57°)

August 26, 2002: Record high of 88°, record low of 31° (57°)

Alamosa also saw its temperature rise from a record low of -18° to a record high of 58° on February 21, 1958, an astonishing 76° rise over about 15 hours. An even more astonishing diurnal spread of temperature was purportedly recorded at Juniper Lake, Oregon on May 2, 1968 when the temperature rose from 0° to 81°. I am unable to tell if either of these readings were records for that site and day.

Other places that have had daily high-low records as a result of diurnal heating (listed chronologically) include:

Coalville, Utah on July 10, 2003: 37° to 100° (63°)

Delta, Utah on July 10, 2003: 42° to 107° (65°)

Safford, Arizona on August 25, 2002 from 52° to 105° (53°)

Rapid City, South Dakota on August 16-17, 2002 from 39° to 101° (This was actually a change from the afternoon of August 16th to the morning of August 17th, so not actually a single day ‘double-whammy’, however, it is especially notable since the 101° temperature was just 5° shy of the all-time monthly high record and the 39° was just 1° shy of the all-time monthly low temperature record.

Park City, Utah on August 15, 2002: from 39° to 89° (50°)

Park City, Utah on August 11, 2002: from 36° to 87° (51°)

Paso Robles, California on January 9, 1999 from 21° to 74° (53°)

Sioux City, Iowa on May 16, 1997 from 33° to 91° (58°)

Pueblo, Colorado on July 15, 1993 from 52° to 101° (49°)

Pine Valley, Nevada on July 30, 1989 from 30° to 97° (67°)

Deeth, Nevada on September 21, 1954: from 12° to 87° (75°)

Bakersfield, California on January 3, 1930 from 23° to 75° (52°)

In the book Nevada’s Weather and Climate, by John Houghton et al, (published by the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Special Publication 2, 1975), the authors claim that the temperature at Sunrise Manor (just 10 miles northeast of McCarran Airport in Las Vegas) rose from a record low of 48° to a record high of 119° on July 13, 1972, a 71° range. This is hard to believe since both figures would exceed the all-time monthly high and low temperatures for July at the official Las Vegas site at McCarran Airport (56° on July 21, 1940 and 118° on July 26, 1931).



Sunrise Manor, an eastern suburb of Las Vegas, apparently may have seen its temperature rise from a record low of 48° to a record high of 119° on July 13, 1972. Photographer unknown.

NARROW DIURNAL SPREAD OF AVERAGE AND RECORD TEMPERATURES

There may be many locations in Hawaii, Florida, and Pacific Coastal areas that have experienced record highs and lows on the same day that I am unaware of. This is because they are so unremarkable and consequently go unnoticed or unreported. Here are a handfull I do know about:

Eureka, California on September 23, 2006 from 42° to 82° (40°)

Vero Beach, Florida on September 14, 2005 from 70° to 92° (22°)

Olympia, Washington on March 14, 2005 from 25° to 67° (42°)

Hilo, Hawaii on May 25, 2003 from 60° to 91° (31°)

Hilo, Hawaii on May 26, 2003 from 60° to 88° (28°)

Melbourne, Florida on May 22, 1998 from 68° to 97° (29°)

San Francisco (airport) on December 23, 1990 from 28° to 64° (36°)

Astoria, Oregon on March 15, 1988 from 28° to 61° (33°)

Miami, Florida on August 11, 1984 from 70° to 96° (26°)



This graph is typical of the narrow range of temperatures that Hawaii enjoys year-round. Hilo has had two days with same-day record highs and lows. Its all-time absolute range of temperature is from a record low of 53° in February 1953 to a record high of just 94° in May 1966.

As one can see, these daily ‘extremes’ would be perfectly normal temperature spreads for most places in the country. The site with the smallest extreme range of temperature (for an entire period of record year-round) is Honomu Mauka, Hawaii (on the Big Island) which has so far seen an absolute temperature range of just 35°: from a record low of 49° to a record high of 84°. The U.S. site with the greatest range of record extremes (over an entire period of record) is Fort Yukon, Alaska with 178°: from a record low of -78° to a record high of 100° (which is also the Alaskan state record high).

CHINOOKS

I should also mention that there is possibly a fourth cause of daily record highs and lows: the Chinook wind phenomena. Chinook winds account for the greatest 24-hour temperature change ever recorded on earth when, in Loma, Montana, the temperature rose from -54° on January 14th to 49° on January 15th in 1972: an astonishing 103° rise. I am not sure if either of these were daily records and am unaware of any cases of same-day record high/record low temperatures occurring as a result of a Chinook.

If any readers know of other same-day record high/low temperatures please let me know.

Apologies for not providing Celsius conversions in this blog. It would make the blog almost unreadable with so many temperature statistics.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Temperature

Updated: 8:25 PM GMT on November 25, 2012

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Northwest Storm Update for Tuesday, November 20th

By: weatherhistorian, 8:16 PM GMT on November 20, 2012

Northwest Storm Update for Tuesday, November 20th

The worst of the latest storm affecting Washington and Oregon has passed, although gusty winds and heavy rain showers continue across much of the region. Another fairly decent storm is expected to move into the region Wednesday and Thursday. Some very impressive wind speeds and rainfall amounts were reported from this latest storm. Here is a brief recap of these.

Top wind speeds observed

The highest winds reported occurred along the coast and coastal ranges of northern Oregon and southern Washington with a peak gust of 114 mph reported from Naselle Ridge in extreme southwest Washington. An elk hunter was killed near Nehalem, Oregon when a tree fell on his tent.

Here is a summary of wind reports encompassing the time period from 3 p.m. PST Sunday, November 18th to 3 p.m. PST November 19th. After 3 p.m. on the 19th the front had passed inland and sagged to the south and the wind diminished in intensity. Last night a wind gust of 67 mph was reported from Humboldt County in northwest California.



Storm rainfall totals

The NWS noted this morning that for the southern Oregon counties of Curry and Douglas this storm ranked among the top 5 November rain events on record. A remarkable 9.84” was measured three miles northeast of Harbor, Oregon (near Brookings on the extreme southern coast) in the 24 hours ending at 7 a.m. PST Tuesday, November 20th. Red Mounds, Oregon picked 7.84”, Brookings 7.72”, and Gold Beach 6.44” during this same period of time. Inland, Roseburg received 3.67” (Roseburg’s all-time 24-hour precipitation record is 4.35” on November 19, 1996). The Oregon state 24-hour rainfall remains safe with the 13.20” at Lee’s Camp on November 6, 2006. Lee’s Camp picked up 7.90” in 24 hours during this current storm.

In Washington the top rain report was 8.10” in 24 hours at Swift Creek snotel on the southern flank of Mt. Saint Helens at 4,400’ elevation. The storm total at Swift Creek was a respectable 12.80” for the 3-day period of Saturday-Monday November 17-19. Washington’s state 24-hour precipitation record remains the 14.26” at Mt. Mitchell on November 23-24, 1986.



This Google Earth view shows the location (identified by the coordinates of 46.16N, 122.18W) of Swift Creek, Washington on the southern flank of Mt. Saint Helens at 4,440’ elevation. It is a snotel RAWS station that has been in operation since 2002. Image from Google Earth.

I’ll be posting a new blog after the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Mini Blog Extra-tropical Storms

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Intense wind and rainstorm slams Washington and Oregon

By: weatherhistorian, 8:15 PM GMT on November 19, 2012

Mini-Blogs

As part of my new contract with WU/TWC I will begin posting several ‘mini-blogs’ each week (if weather events warrant) in addition to my weekly-featured blog. These ‘mini-blogs’ will be short updates concerning current extreme weather events and hazards occurring in the U.S. and/or from around the world. These blogs will rarely feature photographs or graphics unless the situation calls for such.

This first entry is an update on the extreme extra-tropical storm that is now affecting the states of Washington and Oregon.

Intense wind and rainstorm slams Washington and Oregon

20,000 customers are without power along Oregon’s north coast at this hour (10 a.m. PST). Damage reports are just coming in but include roofs blown off several structures in many coastal localities from southern Washington to central Oregon.



High winds caused this barn to collapse near Tillamook, Oregon this morning. It was built in the 1930s. Photo by Stuart Tomlinson, for The Oregonian newspaper.

As of 10 a.m. PST, November 19th the following reports have come in from sites in southwestern Washington and the western third of Oregon.

TOP WIND REPORTS SO FAR (10 a.m. PST) NOVEMBER 19th

114 mph: Naselle Ridge, Washington (elev. 2000’) 10 a.m.

101 mph: Meglar Tower, Washington (elev. 1189’) 9:35 a.m.

98 mph: Yaquina Head, Oregon 12.32 a.m.

92 mph: Astoria (mesonet), Oregon 9:35 a.m.

85 mph: Lincoln City, Oregon 8:50 a.m.

80 mph: Newport, Oregon 12: 32 a.m.

The 92 mph wind gust at Astoria, Oregon is close to the highest wind ever measured at Astoria, which was a gust to 96 mph during the great Columbus Day storm of October 12, 1962. However, the highest wind gust at the Astoria airport (official site) has only been 69 mph so far.

TOP RAINFALL REPORTS AS OF 10 a.m. PST, NOVEMBER 19TH

Peak 24-hour rainfall amounts in Oregon and Washington so far reported (as of 10 a.m. PST) are:

COAST: 6.23” at Nehalem, Oregon (Astoria has picked up 2.82”—record 24-hour precipitation for Astoria is 6.98” on January 22, 1919)

COASTAL RANGE: 5.20” Saddle Mountain, Oregon

INLAND VALLEYS: 3.29” Battle Ground, Washington

I will update the storm extremes in a mini-blog tomorrow.

For my most recent featured blog please see posted on November 16th.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Mini Blog Extra-tropical Storms Extreme Weather

Updated: 8:34 PM GMT on November 19, 2012

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World and U.S. Record Snowstorms

By: weatherhistorian, 9:07 PM GMT on November 16, 2012

World and U.S. Record Snowstorms

The city of Hegang, in China’s northeastern province of Heilongjiang, received its greatest snowstorm in at least 50 years (since reliable weather records began in China in 1962) on November 11-13th when 50 cm (20”) of snow accumulated. With winter bearing down and the lake-effect snow season about to begin, I thought I’d take a look at record-breaking snowstorms both in the U.S. and around the world.



Workers in a park in Hegang knock snow off trees following the record 20” snowfall that occurred on November 11-12th this month. Photo by Fang Baoshu, China Daily News.

World 24-hour and Single-snowstorm records

Comprehensive records of snowfall amounts are only maintained in the United States and Canada. In the rest of the world only the melted precipitation amount is kept track of, with the exception of snowfalls in ski resorts or when an exceptional storm may occur. So it is difficult to categorically claim that the ‘world’ records for a 24-hour storm total or single-storm total all really occurred in the United States.

Officially, the world’s greatest 24-hour snowfall was that which occurred at Silver Lake, Colorado on April 14-15, 1921 when 75.8” (193 cm) was measured. Unofficially, 77” (196 cm) was measured in one 24-hour period during an intense lake-effect snowstorm in Montague Township, New York on January 11-12, 1997.



A rare photograph of the possible world-record snowfall at Montague, New York on December 11-12, 1997. The COOP observer made one too many measurements (five instead of four) over the course of the 24-hour period that the 77” accumulated, thus the record was disallowed by the NWS. Photo by Cheryl Boughton.

An even greater amount was reported at the Crestview California Highway Department depot in the Sierra Nevada on January 14-15, 1952 with an 84” (213 cm) accumulation (California’s official 24-hour snowfall record is 67”/170 cm at Echo Summit on January 5, 1982).

Other notable 24-hour snowfalls in the U.S. include:

68”/173 cm at Adams, New York on January 9, 1976 (unofficial)

68”/173 cm at Squaw Valley Ski Resort, California on January 1, 1997 (unofficial)

65”/165 cm at Crystal Mountain, Washington on January 23-24, 1994

63”/160 cm at Georgetown, Colorado on December 4, 1913

62”/157 cm at Thompson Pass, Alaska on December 29, 1955

56”/142 cm at Randolph, New Hampshire on November 23-24, 1943

55.5”/141 cm at Alta, Utah on January 5-6, 1994

For a single storm, the official world record accumulation is 189” (480 cm) over a six-day period February 13-19, 1959 at Shasta Ski Bowl in northern California. However, a reliable measurement of 194” (493 cm) occurred in just four days at the Norden railway depot in California’s Sierra on April 20-23, 1880 during one of the greatest storm’s ever to strike California (Sacramento received 7.24”/184 mm of rain in 24 hours, a city record that still stands).

The greatest two-day snow accumulation on record (in the U.S. and world) is 120.6” (306 cm) at Thompson Pass, Alaska on December 29-30, 1955.

Outside of the U.S., the greatest 24-hour snowfall on record was 173 cm (68.2”) at Tsukayama, Japan on December 30-31, 1960 (this site should not be confused with a town with the same name in the Ryuku Islands). Tsukayama is located in the coastal mountains inland from the Sea of Japan along Honshu’s west coast. The coastal city of Takada is the snowiest sea-level location in the world (although Valdez, Alaska is also a contender for this dubious distinction) and once received 149 cm (58.6”) of snow in 24 hours on February 8, 1927.



A tremendous snow accumulation at Imokawa, Nigata Prefecture, Japan following a storm on February 27, 1972. Note the figure standing to the left of the doorway. This region is among the snowiest locations on earth. Photo by M. Ishii.

In Europe, the greatest 24-hour snowfall was 172 cm (67.8”) at Bessans in the French Alps which accumulated on April 5-6, 1959. Amazingly, this entire amount actually fell in just one 19-hour period. There is a report that claims that the Dartmoor Highlands, Devon in southwestern England received 183 cm (72”) of snow in just 15 hours on February 15-16, 1929. This figure is based upon newspaper accounts that claimed “six feet” of snow fell, so it is not precise. Although there are no detailed snowfall statistics for London, its greatest snowstorm may have been when 24” (61 cm) reportedly accumulated during a single storm in February 1579. Italy’s 24-hour snowfall record appears to be the 138 cm (54.4”) that fell in Montevergine (in the southern Apennines!) on February 22, 1929. For Switzerland the record is 132 cm (52”) at Klosters on January 29-30, 1982.

For Australia Blair Trewin of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology writes me: The most notable heavy snowfall event outside the high mountains in recorded Australian history was on 4-5 July 1900. Among the totals reported (generally through newspaper reports and other similar sources) were 2 feet (61 cm) at Bathurst, and 4 feet (122 cm) at Rydal, west of Lithgow (elevation about 900 meters/3000 feet), in New South Wales. This was presumably a storm total and it's not impossible that there could have been some drifting involved. I would expect that there have been similar or higher totals in the mountains but data are very limited.

Snowfall records for China are sketchy and one generally relies on press reports of remarkable events (such as the recent snowfall in Hegang). In October 2008, the China Daily newspaper reported that 183cm (73”) of snow fell in 36 hours in Lhunze County on the Tibetan plateau.

Canada’s official 24-hour snowfall record is the 145 cm (57.1”) that fell at Tahtsa Lake, British Columbia on February 11, 1999.

U.S. snowfall record notes and city table

The most intense ‘short duration’ snowfalls in the U.S. are almost all of the lake-effect variety occurring along and near the shores of Lake Michigan in Indiana, and Lake Erie and Lake Ontario in Ohio and New York. During the intense Buffalo area snowstorm of December 2, 2010 a spotter reported 7” (18 cm) of snow accumulation in just 30 minutes at West Seneca, New York. 12” (30 cm) of snow purportedly fell in one hour at Copenhagen, New York during a storm on December 2, 1966, and Valparaiso, Indiana measured 22” (56 cm) in just 3 hours on December 18, 1981!



Paradise Ranger Station and Lodge (located at an elevation of 5,430’) is generally accepted as the snowiest location in the U.S., and perhaps world, with an average of about 680” (1727 cm) of snowfall per season. On December 2, 1977 7.76” (197 mm) of melted precipitation was measured, their calendar day all-time record for such. It is unknown how much of this might have fallen as snow since short-term snowfall data for the site is not available. In this photograph, taken in March 1917, the snow had buried the 3-story lodge under a 30-foot (9 meters) on level snow depth. Photo from NOAA archives.

Here is a table of 24-hour and single-storm snowfall records for a select group of U.S. cities:




A more detailed list of snow records for 300 U.S. cities can be found on the Weather Underground’s Record Extremes page.

KUDOS: Thanks to Blair Trewin at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and Stephen Burt of the United Kingdom Royal Meteorological Society for snowstorm information from Australia and the U.K. respectively.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Updated: 1:11 AM GMT on November 19, 2012

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October 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary

By: weatherhistorian, 7:44 PM GMT on November 07, 2012

October 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary

The biggest weather story for October was the amazing hybrid storm Sandy, which devastated the U.S. Mid-Atlantic States resulting in the deaths of at least 119. A further 67 lives was lost to the storm in Cuba and Haiti, which were also dealt devastating blows. An unprecedented heat wave afflicted Brazil and Bolivia. Cyclone Nilam struck southern India triggering deadly floods. A rare heavy snowfall occurred in the mountains of Australia west of Sydney.

Below are some of the month’s highlights.

NORTH AMERICA

The most powerful storm ever to strike the New Jersey coast, Hurricane Sandy, resulted in the loss of life of at least 110 people from Maryland to New Hampshire, the 2nd deadliest tropical storm to affect the U.S. in 40 years. Since the storm has been well covered already on Weather Underground by Jeff Masters, Angela Fritz, and myself in earlier blogs I will not rehash that information in this blog.



At one point the Euro model predicted Sandy to reach a minimum pressure of 934 mb while off the mid-Atlantic coast. In fact, the pressure fell as low as 940 mb while approaching the coast of southern New Jersey on October 29th.



Sandy’s circulation after moving inland over Pennsylvania on October 30th set up an unusual temperature pattern with warm air flowing into northern New England and Quebec while cold air and snow occured hundreds of miles to the south. A record daily high of 70° (21°C) was recorded in Burlington, Vermont while it was 27° (-2.5°C) and snowing in Hot Springs, Virginia. Map from UCAR.

A powerful anti-cyclone swept out of Canada and deep into the southern plains the first and second weeks of October. The temperature fell from 80°F (26.7°C) at Livingston, Montana on October 2nd to freezing with 2.4” of snow the following day. Denver saw 86° (30°C) on October 3rd and snow on October 5th. High winds gusting to 75 mph and sustained at over 50 mph from North Dakota to Oklahoma caused dust storms in western Kansas and Oklahoma briefly causing the interstate highways in the region to close following numerous traffic accidents.

Lihue, Hawaii (on the island of Kaua’i) tied its all-time maximum temperature record with a 91°F (32.8°C) reading on October 9th. This temperature has been measured on five other occasions in the past, most recently on September 4, 1936.

The lowest temperature measured in the northern hemisphere during October was -50.3°C (-58.5°F) at Neem, Greenland on October 31st.

SOUTH AMERICA and CENTRAL AMERICA

A prolonged and unprecedented heat wave that began in September continued to affect Brazil and Bolivia during October. Although historically October often sees record high temperatures occur this past month was exceptional. Hundreds of all-time maximum temperatures were recorded across Brazil including that for the nation’s largest city Sao Paulo with a 35.9°C (96.6°F) reading in its Central Park Observatory. The warmest reading in the country was 43.0°C (109.4°F) at Corumba on October 30th. This was the 3rd highest temperature ever reliably measured in the country (all-time record being 44.6°C (112.3°F) at Orleans on January 6, 1963. In Bolivia, at Puerto Suarez the temperature reached 43.3°F (109.9°F) smashing its old record of 41.0°C (105.8°F) by an amazing 4°F! San Matias (Bolivia) endured 12 days of temperatures that surpassed its former all-time maximum temperature (the peak being a reading of 42.3°C (108.1°F).

A mudslide in the jungles of northeastern Peru killed at least 11 on October 17th following torrential rains in the region.

EUROPE

It was a relatively quiet month for much of Europe. The U.K. was a bit cooler than normal (with some snow in the northern highlands toward the end of the month: 12 cm/5” measured at Copley, Durham on the 27th) but overall precipitation was close to normal. The highest temperature measured in the Kingdom was 18.8°C (65.8°F) at Holbeach, Lincolnshire on October 1st and the coldest -7.8° (18.0°F) at Braemer, Aberdeenshire on the 17th. The heaviest 2-hour rainfall was 70.4mm (2.77”) at Crombie County Park, Angus on October 12-13.

AFRICA

A drought in Zimbabwe combined with abnormally warm temperatures led contributed to the death of 19 elephants in the country’s Hwange National Park.

Flooding in central Nigeria October 8-11 displaced 10,000 people and washed crocodiles and even hippos into some homes.

ASIA

There were several powerful typhoons that affected East Asia during the month. The deadliest was Typhoon Son-Tinh that lashed the Philippines, Vietnam, and southern China October 25-31 with winds as high as 133 kl/h (83 mph) killing at least 30 people, mostly in the Philippines. Typhoon Praipiroon brushed southeastern Japan on October 18th causing little damage. Heavy rains in Yunnan Province, China caused a landslide that killed 18 on October 4th.



Typhoon Son-Tinh swept ashore in northern Vietnam causing considerable damage in Nam Dinh (pictured above). Five lives were lost in Vietnam and 27 in the Philippines. Photo from AFP.

Cyclone Nilam struck the coast of the southeastern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh on October 30-31 leaving a trail of destruction and killing at least 28, destroying 1200 homes, and displacing 150,000 residents of the region.

An all-time record high temperature of 38.8°C (101.8°F) was recorded at Makassar, Sulawesi in Indonesia. Temperatures above 38°C (100°F) are extremely rare in this sprawling archipelago that straddles the equator. The warmest temperature reliably measured in the country is just 39.5°C (103.1°F) at Jatiwangi, Java on November 19, 2006.

The hottest temperature in the northern hemisphere and the world this past October was a reading of 45.6°C (114.1°F) at Sulaibya, Kuwait on October 12th.

AUSTRALIA

Overall, temperatures were above average and precipitation slightly below average across Australia during October. A rare snowfall of around 1-2” blanketed the town of Hallet (elevation 2000’) northeast of Adelaide on October 11-12. It was the first October snowfall in 100 years for this normally temperate location. In the Blue Mountains west of Sydney up to 30cm (12”) was reported and 460 homes lost power at one point during the storm.



The first measurable snowfall in at least 100 years was recorded in Hallett, Australia north of Adelaide on October 12th. Photo by Trisha Flak.

The hottest temperature in Australia and the southern hemisphere during the month was 45.2°C (113.4°F) at Roebourne, Western Australia on October 21st and coldest reading was -7.2°C (19.0°F) at Perisher Valley, New South Wales on October 23rd. The greatest calendar day rainfall was 233mm (9.17”) at Ulladulia, New South Wales on October 12th.





Precipitation was below average across the southern half of Australia and wetter than normal in northern Western Australia during October (top map). Portions of Queensland experienced their lowest average minimum temperatures for October on record (bottom map). Maps courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

NEW ZEALAND

The warmest temperature measured in New Zealand during October was 26.8°C (80.2°F) at Gisborne, North Island on October 27th and the coldest -8.3°C (17.1°F) at Lake Tekapo, South Island on October 14th. This was also the lowest October temperature ever measured at Lake Tekapo since records began there in 1925. The greatest calendar day rainfall was 150mm (5.91”) at North Egmont, North Island on October 13th. Hokitika, South Island recorded its wettest October on record (although the POR only goes back to 1963) with a 507mm (19.96”) total (184% of average).

ANTARCTICA

The coldest temperature in the southern hemisphere and the world during October was -70.9°C (-95.6°F) recorded at Dome A on October 13th.

KUDOS Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera for global temperature extremes data and Jeremy Budd and NIWA for New Zealand data.

Extreme Weather

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Hurricane Sandy

By: weatherhistorian, 5:26 AM GMT on November 02, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Sandy was one of the most significant weather events in U.S. history and certainly near if not on top of the list for the Mid-Atlantic States. As of Friday November 2nd the U.S. death toll stands at 98, making Sandy the 4th or 5th deadliest tropical storm in Mid-Atlantic/New England history (and perhaps 3rd if the toll continues to rise). Here is a brief summary of the storms superlatives. Sorry, no graphics or photos with this blog, there are simply too many of these already in the ‘blogosphere’ and so I rest on words alone.

Size, Barometric Pressure, and Winds

Perhaps the most outstanding feature of Sandy from a meteorological point of view was its size and intensity. On Monday October 29th, just prior to making landfall in New Jersey, the storm had deepened to 940 mb—the lowest pressure ever observed in the mid-Atlantic and New England region of any tropical or extra-tropical cyclone in the region’s history. Atlantic City Airport measured a pressure of 948 mb (28.01”) when the storm made landfall late Monday. The only lower pressure yet measured on land north of Cape Hatteras was 947 mb (27.97”) at the Bellport Coast Guard Station on Long Island when the Great Hurricane of 1938 roared on shore.

A buoy (#ACYN4) just offshore of Atlantic City (about 500 feet from the end of the famous Steel Pier on the boardwalk) measured a pressure of 945.5 mb (27.92”).

Philadelphia smashed its old pressure record of 963 mb (28.43”) set in the previous “superstorm” of March 13, 1993 with a 953 mb (28.12”) reading at 9:32 p.m. Monday (October 29th).

Sandy’s circulation was enormous: about 1500 miles in diameter at its peak with tropical force winds extending out as far as 520 miles from its center at one point on Monday October 29th.

Given the storms size and intensity its maximum wind speeds reported were not actually all that impressive. A peak wind gust of 96 mph was reported from Eaton Neck, Long Island and 91 mph at Islip Airport on Long Island. The top sustained wind speed measured anywhere was ‘just’ 69 mph far away from the center in Westerly, Rhode Island (where peak gust of 86 mph was recorded). New Jersey’s peak wind gust was 90 mph at Tompkinsville. However, the duration of high winds and the enormity of the region enduring these was enough to cause tremendous damage even far away from the immediate coastline. Wind gusts to 60 mph were recorded in Gary, Indiana almost 800 miles from the storms center! It seems about half of the fatalities were caused by falling trees (including a former high school classmate of mine, William Sword, Jr. in Princeton, New Jersey).

If Sandy had been a tightly-wound storm as it came ashore with its pressure of 946 mb-the wind speeds in Atlantic City would have been those of a CAT 4 hurricane: sustained 131-154 mph. Atlantic City would now look like New Orleans or Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina made landfall back in 2005.

However, the meteorological statistics of Sandy pale in comparison to the damage it created.

Storm Surge and Waves

As is usually in the case of tropical storms, the worst damage was caused by the record storm surge that overwhelmed coastal New Jersey, New York City, and communities on the shores of Long Island and Long Island Sound. As all of you know by now, the 13.88’ tide level and 9’ storm surge at the Battery on the southern tip of Manhattan was unprecedented, which is saying a lot since the city has been recording storms and their flooding affects since the late 17th century. Jeff Masters mentioned in his blog on November 1st that the top surge and tide recorded anywhere in the storm was 9.45 feet and 14.60’ respectively at Bergen Point, New Jersey. Bergen Point is on the southern tip of Bayonne, New Jersey just north of Staten Island. Staten Island, a bureau of New York City, is now appearing to be the worst affected location by the storm.

The highest waves at sea measured by buoys were 32.5’ at the New York Harbor entrance about five miles east of Sandy Hook, New Jersey and 33.1’ at a buoy off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The highest shore waves are not known since they occurred after dark, but were probably in the 10-20’ range along New Jersey’s barrier islands.

Snowfall

Not since the ‘Snow Hurricane of 1804’ (see my blog of Nov. 3, 2010) has a tropical storm ended up producing so much snow at inland communities. Even some low elevation sites reported measurable snowfall like Huntington, West Virginia (elevation 564’) with 1.4”, an all-time October record. Higher up, phenomenal snowfall was measured including 18.1” at Elkins, West Virginia (elevation 1,926’) also an all-time October record. Peak amounts by state were:

36” Richwood, West Virginia

36” Newfound Gap, North Carolina

34” Mt. LeConte and Sevier, Tennessee

29” Redhouse and Oakland, Maryland

24” Norton, Virginia

14” Payne Gap, Kentucky

14” Laurel Summit, Pennsylvania (28” reported by the ski resort at Seven Springs)

3.5” Bellefontaine, Ohio

Warm air wrapping around the storm to the north of Pennsylvania precluded snowfall even at high elevations in New York and New England. In fact, a daily record high of 70° was recorded in Burlington, Vermont on October 30th while it was 27° and snowing in Hot Springs, Virginia!

Rainfall

There was a sharp line across New Jersey between areas that received heavy rainfall and those receiving little of such. Some locations in north Jersey received under .50” whereas in the southern portion of the state up to 9” fell. New York City (Central Park) had a storm total of only .95” whereas Atlantic City had an even 6.00”. Maryland reported the highest totals with the 12.55” at Easton leading the way. Widespread inland flooding, which was expected, failed too materialize.

Damage and Fatalities

It may be a while before the full extent of damage caused by Sandy is reckoned. As of the writing of this blog (Thursday November 1st) estimates seem to range between $20-60 billion. Given the economic destruction to New York City’s infrastructure, the high end of this range looks more likely and, I’ll bet, ultimately beyond the $60 billion figure. None of these figures mean much to the residents of Breezy Point in Queens, new York City where 110 homes burned to the ground or the thousands of residents who have lost their homes in New Jersey and other states.

Conclusion

As of now Hurricane Sandy is the 5th or 6th (if you include maritime fatalities) deadliest tropical storm to affect the mid-Atlantic or northeast regions of the U.S and the 2nd costliest in current dollar terms (with Katrina way ahead in this ignominious spot with $108 billion). Here are the contenders so far as fatalities are concerned for tropical storms in the region historically. I order them by land-based fatalities. This information is from HURDAT:

1. Great Hurricane of September 21, 1938: 256 fatalities on land (plus 382 at sea) total: 638

2. Hurricane Diane September 9-13, 1955: 184 fatalities on land

3. Tropical Storm Agnes June 20-21, 1972: 122 fatalities on land

4. Hurricane Sandy October 29-31: 96 fatalities on land (and still counting, plus at least 2 fatalities off-shore on the replica ship Bounty)

5. Hurricane Hazel October 14-15, 1954: 95 fatalities on land

6. Great 1944 Hurricane September 14-15, 1944: 64 fatalities on land, 326 at sea: 390 total

Hurricane Sandy will be studied for years to come. No storm of its like has been registered in the past 300 years of history in the region (at least since the first Europeans appeared on the shores of New York and New Jersey in the mid 17th century). It is a testament to the accuracy of forecasting techniques since there was no precedent to base forecasts on: the NWS fell back on its models. They were dead on accurate and their forecasts saved hundreds if not thousands of lives.

This gives us hope for future events of this magnitude. Let’s not forget that the climate models employed to forecast Sandy do not really differ in a significant way from those now used to forecast future climate change. The same science is behind them. It is simply a matter of magnitude vs. short-term versus long-term forecasts.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Tropical Storms Winter Weather Barometric Pressure

Updated: 7:53 PM GMT on November 02, 2012

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About weatherhistorian

Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.