Weather Extremes

What a Difference a Year Makes!

By: weatherhistorian, 11:04 PM GMT on December 29, 2012

What a Difference a Year Makes!

After a mild and dry start, this December has seen a series of significant snowstorms affect the lower 48 states coast-to-coast. Some 65% of the country had snow cover as of December 29th compared to just 22.7% last year at this time.

The 65% snow coverage as of December 27th is greater than the maximum of such reached at any point last winter, which was 47.7% on February 14th according to research done by Christopher Dolce at the Weather Channel.

A comparison of the snow depth on December 29, 2011 (top) to December 29, 2012 (bottom). Maps from the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center (NOHRSC).

Of particular interest is how much snow has fallen in California’s Sierra Nevada. December 2011 was the driest December on record for central and northern California (and 2nd driest state-wide). San Francisco picked up only .06” total precipitation last December compared to over 7” this December.

Snow depth in California’s Sierra mountains as of December 28, 2011 (left) and December 28, 2012 (right). Some ski resorts are reporting base depths of over 11 feet right now. Maps from NOHRSC.

The rest of the southwest quarter of the country also has seen far more snowfall than at this time last year as well.

Liquid precipitation for the month of December in 2011 and 2012. Notice the large area of California that received no precipitation whatsoever in December 2011, including a big chunk of the Sierra Nevada. Maps and table courtesy of the NWS-Reno office.

The one place that is not getting in on the snow fun is Chicago, Illinois where 306 consecutive days without 1” or more snowfall is approaching its longest such streak on record: 313 days ending on January 6, 1940.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Winter Weather

Updated: 12:58 AM GMT on December 30, 2012


Madison, Wisconsin Big Snow of Dec. 19-20

By: weatherhistorian, 8:40 PM GMT on December 21, 2012

Madison, Wisconsin Big Snow of Dec. 19-20

Madison, Wisconsin endured (and many enjoyed!) its fourth greatest 24-hour snowfall on record this past Tuesday-Wednesday, December 19-20 with 15.2”. Other sites in southern Wisconsin picked up 20” of snow, the highest amounts for winter storm ‘Draco’ since it swung out of Colorado earlier in the week.

The path of winter storm ‘Draco’ and its central pressure in millibars (i.e. 82=982 mb). Map from NWS-Milwaukee office.

Madison, the state capital of Wisconsin, has maintained official temperature weather records since 1869 and snowfall records since 1883, one of the longest POR’s (period of record) for such of any U.S. city. So it was quite an accomplishment this week to have registered its 4th greatest 24-hour snowfall on Wednesday and Thursday with a 15.2” storm total. 1.9” fell on Wednesday evening between 8 pm and midnight, and then an additional 13.3” on Thursday until the snowfall ended around 6 pm. The 13.3” on Wednesday was the 2nd greatest calendar total on record (a fairly meaningless statistic since storms do not conveniently occur on single calendar day).

A list of the calendar-day greatest snowfalls recorded in Madison. Table from NWS-Milwaukee office.

Here are the top five greatest 24-hour snowfalls in Madison history:

1) 17.3” on December 3, 1990 (also the calendar day record)

2) 16.1” on December 10-11, 1970

3) 15.4” on February 22-23, 1994

4) 15.2” on December 19-20, 2012

5) 14.5” on March 18-19, 1971

The measurements have been made at Madison’s Truax Field (airport) located about 4 miles northeast of the Capitol Building downtown. Other locations in the Madison area recorded up to 20” (at the WISC-TV studio 7 miles SW of the Capitol) and 19.5” in Middleton, a suburb about 5 miles west of the Capitol. Juneau, in Dodge County, 40 miles northeast of Madison, reported the highest storm total in the state or at any location east of the Rockies with a 20.1” measurement. Another 20” report came from near the town of Mt. Vernon about 20 miles SW of Madison.

A snow map for south-central and southeastern Wisconsin. The SE corner of the state received relatively light accumulations since most of the precipitation fell as rain. Milwaukee picked up 2.23” of precipitation but just 2” of snow. Map from NWS-Milwaukee office.

The heavy wet snow combined with winds gusting to 45 mph caused significant tree damage and power outages across the south-central portion of the state.

This 20”-tall Buddha head sits serenely under about 11” of snow early on Wednesday morning in a Madison residents backyard. Photo by Danny Kahrs.

I will be away for the Christmas Holiday until December 28th. Happy holidays to all!

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Winter Weather


A Couple of Examples of Historic Thunder-Snowstorms in Illinois

By: weatherhistorian, 8:36 PM GMT on December 20, 2012

A Couple of Examples of Historic Thunder-Snowstorms in Illinois

Winter storm Draco (as The Weather Channel has designated it) has produced multiple reports of heavy thunder snow so far in Iowa, Wisconsin, and northern Illinois. Although rare, this phenomenon has occurred frequently in the past. Here are two examples (from 1933 and 1960) from Illinois that were particularly devastating.

Storm of March 20-22, 1932

A deep low-pressure system of similar intensity to Draco also followed roughly the same path , albeit about 150 miles further to the south, on March 21-22, 1932. By the evening of March 21 heavy snow with intense lightning and thunder was occurring over portions of northern Illinois including Chicago. Snowfall reached a total of 16” in the north-central portion of Illinois with 6-10” in the Chicago area. A squall line bisected the warm front and crossed the southern two-thirds of the state producing two tornadoes and hail up to 3.5” in diameter in southern Illinois. Hail fell for 30 minutes and accumulated 3” deep in the Effingham area of east-central Illinois. The combination of ice, snow, wind, and hail shut down transportation and communications in the northern half of the state for two days following the storm.

The top map shows the path of the cyclone of March 21-22, 1932 as it traversed Illinois creating virtually every kind of severe weather across the state. The bottom map contains the details of snowfall, precipitation amounts, and areas reporting hail, high winds, and tornadoes. Maps by Stanley A. Changnon, reproduced in Weatherwise magazine in 1964.

Storm of February 9-10, 1960

This storm followed the path of Draco more closely but its pressure (while over central Illinois) of 998 mb was not as deep as Draco’s (around 988 mb in central Illinois as I write this). Like the 1932 event, the 1960 storm produced blizzard conditions in northern Illinois with intense lightning and thunder. Chicago received 8-12” of snow and drifts of 8-10 feet were common across the northern third of the state. Lightning struck and damaged a building during the period of heavy snowfall in a Chicago suburb. In southern Illinois three tornadoes caused widespread damage, killed two persons, and injured 59 others.

As in the previous example, the top map shows the path of the cyclone of February 9-10, 1960 as it traversed Illinois creating virtually every kind of severe weather across the state. The bottom map contains the details of snowfall, precipitation amounts, and areas reporting hail, high winds, and tornadoes. Maps by Stanley A. Changnon, reproduced in Weatherwise magazine in 1964.

It will be interesting to compare Draco to these previous events when all is said and done.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

REFERENCE: Stanley A. Changnon, Jr. for the maps and story he wrote about these storms in Weatherwise magazine, Vol. 17, No. 6, December 1964.

Extreme Weather Mini Blog Thunderstorms Extra-tropical Storms


Extreme Rainfall Event in Western Australia

By: weatherhistorian, 9:54 PM GMT on December 17, 2012

Extreme Rainfall Event in Western Australia

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology just released (December 17th) a special statement concerning recent extraordinary rainfalls that occurred in the southwestern portion of Western Australia on December 10-13 (last week). All-time 24-hour precipitation records were broken at several locations when more than 8” (200 mm) of rain fell in less than 24 hours.

The special statement notes that “A deep surface trough interacted with a slow moving middle level low off the Western Australian west coast to produce widespread showers and thunderstorms across most of Western Australia from December 10 to 13.”

Maps of 24-hour rainfall amounts in Western Australia on December 12th and 13th. The heaviest rains fell in the extreme southwestern portion of the state on December 13th. Maps courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The area most impacted was the Bunbury to Collie region located about 80 miles south of Perth. Collie measured 157.2 mm (6.19”) on December 13th(126 mm/4.96” of which fell in just 12 hours). The town not only smashed its previous December daily rainfall record of 42 mm/1.65” (set on December 24, 1987) but also broke its greatest 24-hour rainfall for any month in a 106-year long period of record. The amount also broke its December monthly record of 80.6 mm (3.17”) set in 1913.

Water floods into the Amaroo Primary School in Collie following a record 6” rainfall on December 13th. Photo by Katherine Hall.

Yourdamung Lake, 20 kl northeast of Collie measured 210.8 mm (8.30”), the 5th highest daily rainfall for any location, any month, in southwestern Australia (all-time record remains 239.8 mm/9.44” at Illalangi on March 10, 1917). The 210 mm at Yourdamung Lake also broke its all-time monthly December record. Flooding damaged 40 homes in Collie but was otherwise not severe.

This portion of Australia has a pleasant Mediterranean climate similar to the California south coast. Perth is Australia’s 4th largest city with a population of 1.8 million and is often cited as one of the world’s best places to live. It has an annual average rainfall of about 850 mm (33.5”) but December is normally one of its driest months with an average of just 13 mm (0.5”). So one can see how extraordinary this event is for the time of year. Ironically, the 2nd greatest rainstorm to occur in the region over the past 100 years happened almost exactly one year ago on December 11, 2011.

A thunderstorm brews over Perth. Most of the city’s precipitation falls between May and September. Photo by Mateusz Nowacki.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Precipitation Records Mini Blog

Updated: 5:14 PM GMT on December 19, 2012


Samoan Cyclone History

By: weatherhistorian, 10:19 PM GMT on December 13, 2012

Samoan Cyclone History

Samoa has just experienced one of its worst tropical storms on record, Cyclone Evan, which churned through the island chain with 100 mph winds on December 12-13. It has so far resulted in at least two fatalities and extensive damage reports are filtering in. Tropical storms occur every year in this region between November and April. Here is a brief historical recap of some of the worst tropical storms to have affected the Samoan island chain.

A photograph of Cyclone Evan in action at the town of Vaivase, Samoa on December 12th. Image tweeted by Niva@iLoveSamoa4eva.

Perhaps the most powerful storm on record to hit the islands was Severe Tropical Cyclone Val that took nine days to traverse the island chain (see map at end of blog) from December 4-13, 1991. Sustained winds of 105 mph and gusts to 145 mph were measured, along with ocean waves up to 50 feet in height. There were 17 fatalities associated with the storm and damage was estimated at $368 million (in 1991 dollars). An incredible figure for such a small area and economy. Just a year earlier, in February 1990, Cyclone Ofa struck Samoa with sustained winds of 115 mph and gusts to 130 mph killing seven and causing approximately $200 million in damage. At the time, Ofa was considered the worst tropical storm to have occurred since the ‘Great Hurricane’ of 1889.

The Great Samoan ‘Hurricane’ of 1889

The most famous and deadliest tropical storm to strike Samoa (in modern records) was that of March 1889. This storm influenced the balance of Western imperial power in the Southern Pacific.

In early 1889 the United States and Germany were flexing their Pacific imperial muscles via an ambitious ‘gun boat diplomacy’ policy in the Southern Pacific region. The Samoan Islands were in their sites. By mid-March naval forces of both nations confronted one another in the harbor of Apia and a military showdown was imminent. Then, on March 15th, a powerful tropical storm with winds estimated well over 100 mph slammed into the island. By the time the storm had cleared three U.S naval vessels along with 52 sailors had been wrecked or sunk and three German vessels with 93 sailors suffered a similar fate. On land and sea a total of at least 200 souls perished as a result of the storm.

The German corvette ‘Olga’ lies beached on Samoa following the cyclone of 1889. Photographer unknown.

Many acts of heroism on the part of both sides and the Samoan natives were reported and, in the end, the Germans and Americans decided to settle their claims amicably by dividing their annexations. The islands of Upolu (where Apia is located) and Savaii went to the German forces (Western Samoa), and the islands of Tutuila (where Pago Pago is located) and Manua went to the United Staes and became known as American Samoa. After the First World War and German defeat, the German Samoan islands came under New Zealand control until 1962 when they became an independent country. American Samoa is still a territory of the United States.

A map of the Samoan Islands. Map produced by Pacific Island Guides.

For my latest featured blog: “November 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary” please see the entry here.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Tropical Storms Extreme Weather Mini Blog


November 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary

By: weatherhistorian, 7:57 PM GMT on December 11, 2012

November 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary

November was notable for some major extra-tropical storms that bought flooding rains to the U.S. Northwest and California as well as to England and Wales in Europe. A record heat wave affected southeastern Australia. One of the most intense typhoons of the year, Super Typhoon Bopha, developed unusually far south in the Western Pacific and eventually made landfall on Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines in early December killing hundreds.

Below are some of the month’s highlights.


November was a topsy-turvy month temperature-wise across the U.S. with unseasonably warm temperatures occurring in California early in November and the Midwest in mid-November followed by a sharp cold front that saw temperatures plummet 60°F (33°C) in the Great Plains and heavy snow fall in North Dakota. Williston saw 8.0” of snow on November 10th, its 3rd greatest November snowstorm on record. The interior of Alaska suffered through an early season cold wave the last two weeks of the month when the temperature fell below 0°F on all but four days of the month. The temperature averaged -8.8°F (-22.7°C) for the month, some -11.4°F (-6.3°C) below normal. Chicken, Alaska dropped to -56°F (-48.9°C) on November 30th

The month was unusually dry in the lower 48 and Hawaii, with drought conditions expanding to include 62.7% of the country. It was the 2nd driest November on record for the Northeast and Southeast regions with many cities reporting their driest November on record. Nationwide it was the 8th driest November since records began in 1895.

Temperatures across the lower 48 states averaged much above normal for the western two-thirds of the country during November (top map) and precipitation much below normal over all but the Northwest and California. Climate division maps courtesy of NCDC.

A series of powerful extra-tropical storms slammed into the Pacific Northwest on November 17-20 and northern California on November 27-December 2nd. The former storm brought wind gusts as high as 114 mph to the coast of northern Oregon and southern Washington, while the later storm brought rainfall totals over 20” (500 mm) to some locations in northern California. See my three blogs posted in November for more details concerning these storms.

Wind gusts 60-80 mph in the San Francisco Bay Area uprooted numerous trees (this one in Fairfax) and blew over a big rig on the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge on November 30th. Photo by Robert Tong.

The coldest temperature measured in the northern hemisphere during the month was -57.4°C (-71.3°F) at Summit, Greenland on November 10th.


A week of torrential rains caused severe flooding in the Colon and Panama Provinces of Panama November 20-26. At least three died and 800 were made homeless in the affected regions.


For England and Wales the week of November 20-26 was one of the wettest such in the last 50 years. Over 1000 properties were flooded and five fatalities reported during the course of several storms that passed over the country that week. The greatest 24-hour precipitation report was 88.4 mm (3.48”) at Holne, Devon on November 24-25. A peak wind gust of 86 mph was measured at Capel Curig, Gwynedd on November 22nd. The warmest temperature reported from the U.K. during the month was 16.4°C (61.5°F) at Kew Gardens, London on November 13th and the coldest -7.3°C (18.9°F) at Braemer, Aberdeenshire, Scotland on November 29th.

Monthly precipitation averaged 200% of normal over portions of southern England thanks to the powerful storms that swept across this region on November 20-26. Map from U.K. Met Office.

Heavy rains of over 5” (125 mm) in as many hours resulted in flash flooding in the Spanish city of Malaga on the Costa del Sol and also in many localities across Italy. After three days of torrential rain Venice reported its 6th highest flood level since record keeping began in 1872. Nine inches (228 mm) of rain in 24 hours was reported in Tuscany November 11-12.

Flooding on Venice’s San Marco Plaza reached its 6th greatest depth on record following flooding rains November 10-13. Photographer not identified.


The warmest temperature reported in the world and the southern hemisphere during the month of November was 46.5°C (115.7°F) at Vioolsdrif, South Africa on Nov. 28th. The warmest temperature reported in the northern hemisphere was 44.0°C (111.2°F) at Matam, Senegal on November 8th.


Super Typhoon Bopha became the most southerly typhoon (or 2nd such depending on sources) on record when it reached typhoon status on November 30th at 3.8°N latitude. The storm went on to devastate Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines in early December killing perhaps over 1,000 people. The storm will be covered in my December global extremes summary next January.

A photograph of Typhoon Bopha taken from the International Space Station on December 1st prior to the storm’s landfall on Mindanao Island. Photographer not identified.


The past was the 4th warmest November on record for Australia. An intense heat wave affected the southeastern third of the country on November 24-30th with several locations recording their warmest November temperature on record in New South Wales and Victoria. The 45.8°C (114.4°F) at Ouyen on November 29th was the warmest November temperature ever measured in the state of Victoria. (The warmest temperature reported in Australia during November was 46.4°C/115.5°F at Roebourne, Western Australia on November 15th, not a result of the heat wave). The peak observed temperature during the heat wave was 46.2°C (115.2°F) at Pooncarie Mail Agency, New South Wales on November 29th. There were some remarkable warm minimums also noted: the low temperature for Oodnadatta, South Australia on November 29th was a very warm 32.3°C (90.1°F). The coldest temperature reported in the country during the month was -5.2°C (22.6°F) at Mount Baw Baw, Victoria on November 1st. P

Precipitation was variable around the country and overall quite close to average. The greatest calendar day rainfall measurement was the 159.8 mm (6.28”) at Coffs Harbour, New South Wales on November 18th.

The average maximum temperature during November reached all-time record levels over a wide area of the state of South Australia during November (top map). Precipitation varied widely across the country with some portions of southern Western Australia seeing record maximum amounts (bottom map). Maps courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.


November was an unremarkable month weather-wise in New Zealand (the deadly tornado outbreak occurred on December 6th). The warmest temperature reported in New Zealand during the month was 30.1°C (86.2°F) at Blenheim, South Island on November 25th and the coldest -5.1°C (22.8°F) at Waiouru, North Island on November 7th. The greatest calendar day rainfall was 137 mm (5.39”) at Milford Sound, South Island on November 1st.


The coldest temperature in the southern hemisphere and the world during November was -60.5°C (-76.9°F) recorded at Concordia station on November 2nd.

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

Extreme Weather

Updated: 10:18 PM GMT on December 11, 2012


New Zealand Tornado Kills 3 in Auckland Area

By: weatherhistorian, 8:24 PM GMT on December 07, 2012

New Zealand Tornado Kills 3 in Auckland Area

A strong EF-2 tornado swept through the Auckland, New Zealand suburb of Hobsonville on Thursday December 6th killing three and injuring at least seven. About 150 homes were damaged in the Hobsonville and Whenuapai Districts. Hours later a smaller tornado hit the hot springs resort of Rotorua 235 kilometers southeast of Auckland. It was the 2nd fatal tornado event in as many years for New Zealand.

Tornado damage in Hobsonville where three fatalities were reported during Thursday’s (December 6th) EF-2 twister. This was one of two of the most destructive and deadly tornado events in New Zealand modern history. Photo by Nigel Marple for Reuters.

This tornado event tied the Waikato District tornado of August 25, 1948 as New Zealand’s deadliest on record. New Zealand averages around 10 tornadoes a year (various sources claim as few as 7 on average to as many as 25 on average) with most occurrences affecting the North Island or western coast of the South Island. The vast majority of New Zealand tornadoes are weak in nature in the EF-0 category. They can occur at any time of the year, there is no real ‘tornado season’ in New Zealand.

This map shows tornado occurrence in New Zealand for the period of 1961-1975. Although this is short 15-year POR, the map illustrates that tornado formation is far more common on the North Island than the South Island. There 45 tornado reports on the South Island and 164 tornado reports on the North Island for a total of 209 reports nationwide--an average of 14 per year. Map from the book ‘Weather and Climate of New Zealand’ by Sturman and Tapper, Oxford Univ. Press, 1996.

Violent and deadly tornadoes are extremely rare in New Zealand, so it is a bit alarming that of the five known fatal tornado events in the past 100 years, two of them have happened in just the past two years. Here is a list of all the known fatal tornado events in New Zealand to date:

New Zealand’s Deadliest Twisters

December 6, 2012: 3 dead in Auckland area (Hobsonville). Seven injuries so far reported.

May 3, 2011: 1 dead in Auckland area (Albany). There were 14 injuries.

August 15, 2004: 2 dead in Taranaki, North Island. 2 injuries.

May 1991: 1 dead in Auckland area (Albany)

August 25, 1948: 3 dead in Waikato area (Frankton and Hamilton). This tornado was estimated to be of F-2 strength based on damage reports. There were 80 injuries.


It can be said with some certainty that Thursday's tornado was one of the two most intense such in modern New Zealand history.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Mini Blog Tornadoes

Updated: 8:46 PM GMT on December 08, 2012


Early December Heat Wave Breaks Many Records

By: weatherhistorian, 9:37 PM GMT on December 05, 2012

Early December Heat Wave Breaks Many Records

December has started off as one of the mildest on record for most of the U.S. east of the Rockies. Many cities broke or tied their all-time December monthly records for warmest day on Monday, December 3rd and at least 500 towns and cities broke at their daily record highs at some point between December 1st and December 5th. Here is a brief recap.

There are too many locations to list so far as daily record highs so I mention below a selection of locations that broke or tied their all-time December monthly heat records.

The daily temperature maps for December 3 (top) and December 4 (bottom) show the extraordinary warmth that engulfed most of the lower 48 states earlier this week. There were hardly any locations that fell below freezing, coast-to-coast. Maps from Weekly Weather Maps, NOAA.


Kansas City, Missouri: 74° (tied old record Dec. 5, 2001 and Dec. 6, 1939)

Springfield, Illinois: 74° (tied old record Dec. 28, 1984 and Dec. 3, 1970

Quincy, Illinois: 74° (old record 71° on Dec. 3, 1970 and Dec. 9, 1940)

St. Joseph, Missouri: 72° (tied old record Dec. 6, 1939)

Kirksville, Missouri: 71° (old record 69° on Dec. 11, 1949)

Ottumwa, Iowa: 71° (tied old record Dec. 4, 1998)

Des Moines, Iowa: 69° (tied old record Dec. 28, 1984)

Waterloo, Iowa: 67° (tied old record Dec. 5, 2001)

Cedar Rapids, Iowa: (tied old record Dec. 4, 1998)

Rockford, Illinois: 69° (old record 67 Dec. 5, 2001)
This was also Rockford's second warmest day in "meteorological winter" (Dec-Feb). Warmest was 70° on Feb. 25, 2000.

Urbana, Illinois: 71° (tied old record Dec. 4, 1998)

Lamoni, Iowa: 68° (tied old record Dec. 28, 1984 and 4 other occasions)

Waterloo, Iowa: 67° (tied old record Dec. 5, 2001 and Dec. 4, 1998)

Madison, Wisconsin: 65° (old record 64° Dec. 5, 2001)

Traverse City, Michigan: 64° (tied old record Dec. 3, 1962)

While Chicago O'Hare (70° on Dec. 3rd) did not set a December record high (which is 71° set on, it was only the third 70-degree-plus December day on record there, dating to 1871.


Watertown, New York: 69° (old record 68° date unknown)

Syracuse, New York reached 70° just short of their monthly record of 72° set on two previous occasions.

Binghamton, New York reached 64° short by 1° of their monthly record of 65° set on two previous occasions.

Corpus Christi, Texas reached 89° short of their monthly record of 91° set on Dec. 5, 1977.

Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois came very close to breaking their all-time state monthly heat records when Keokuk, Iowa reached 73° on Dec. 3, just short of the 74° set at Thurman on Dec. 6, 1939. Janesville, Wisconsin hit 68° on Dec. 3, short of the 70° state record set at Kenosha and West Allis on Dec. 5, 2001. Lacon, Illinois hit 77° on Dec. 3, short of the 79° measured at Cairo in December 1982

Snowless Streak Continues

Des Moines, Iowa has now broken its longest snowless streak on record with 278 consecutive days with no measurable snowfall as of Dec. 5. The previous record was 277 days in 1889. Chicago has now (as of Dec. 5) gone 245 days without measurable snow, approaching the record of 250 such set in 1999. Milwaukee, Wisconsin has gone 277 days without measurable snow, the record is 279 set in 1999.

U.S. snow depth maps for the past 3 December 4ths illustrate the snow drought the country is currently observing. Maps from NOAA.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Temperature Mini Blog


California Storm Wrap-Up

By: weatherhistorian, 8:45 PM GMT on December 03, 2012

California Storm Wrap-Up

The five-day series of storms, involving three systems in all between November 28-December 2, that affected central and northern California finally ended on Sunday. Some very impressive precipitation amounts were recorded in the central and especially northern regions of the state but damage and flooding was minimal thanks to periods of calm between each storm system.

In general, the models ended up being fairly accurate in the amount of precipitation that accumulated across the state, with the exception of the immediate San Francisco Bay Area which received considerably less rain than forecast (about 75% of forecasted amounts). The peak rain report for the state was a five-day total of 23.40” at Brandy Creek in the Upper Sacramento Valley’s western division and the top 24-hour total 9.75” at Lakeshore in Shasta County between noon December 1 and noon December 2. Maximum wind gusts were confined to under 60 mph at low elevation locations (54 mph at San Francisco Airport with 38 mph sustained) although a gust to 73 mph was measured at Point San Pablo on the northeastern shore of San Francisco Bay. In the Sierra Nevada a peak wind gust of 150 mph was reported on Saddleback Ridge Sunday morning. There were no reports of major flooding or significant landslips due to the intermittent nature of the rainfall.

Here are the final rain reports for major locations in central and northern California as compiled by Jan Null at Golden Gate Weather Services:

Below are the top rain reports for secondary hydro stations in the various water regions of the state. These are for the period of November 28-December 2 and compiled by Jan Null. For Jan’s comprehensive list of state storm totals please check

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: 20.40” at Honeydew

SHASTA LAKE INFLOW: 21.36” at Lakeshore



NORTHERN AND CENTRAL SACRAMENTO: 6.23” at Redding Fire Station





SACRAMENTO METRO AREA: 8.23” at Auburn (actually in the Sierra foothills)

SAN FRANCISCO BAY NORTH: 17.16” at Whispering Pines


SAN FRANCISCO BAY SOUTH: 15.91” at Mt. Umunhum

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA COAST: 17.38” at Mining Ridge

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY: 2.98” at Stockton


This was a major storm system, probably the most significant in two years for most areas in the north and central portions of the state. However, being the first big wet storm of the season most of the moisture was well absorbed and welcome after a dry past year. Unfortunately, the very warm nature of the storms inhibited much in the way of snow accumulation in the Sierra so probably the storm has not contributed much to the state’s ‘water bank’ for next year’s dry season. Hopefully, we will see some just as wet but colder storms in the coming months.

KUDOS: Jan Null of Golden Gate Weather Services for keeping track of the myriad precipitation reports during this event. A daunting task!

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Extra-tropical Storms Mini Blog

Updated: 9:38 PM GMT on December 03, 2012


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.