Top U.S. weather event of 2010: Snowmageddon

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:44 PM GMT on January 05, 2011

As we ring in the new year, it's time to look back on 2010 and reflect upon what a remarkable weather year it was. Today, I'll focus on the U.S. While 2010 certainly had its share of violent and destructive weather events in the U.S., I am thankful for two things:

1) The sustained period of northerly winds needed to blow oil from the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe into the Loop Current never materialized, and the Florida Keys and U.S. East Coast were spared oil damage.

2) The 3rd busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record resulted in minimal damage to the U.S., with only one minimum strength tropical storm (Bonnie) making direct landfall in the U.S.

Here, then, is my list of the top three most significant weather events in the U.S. in 2010:

#1: Snowmageddon
The top U.S. weather story of 2010 has to be "Snowmageddon", the remarkable February blizzard that buried the mid-Atlantic under 2 - 3 feet of snow. Snowmageddon set the all-time record for heaviest snowfall in Delaware history, thanks to the 26.5" that fell in Wilmington (old state record: 25" in the President's Day storm of 2003). "Snowmageddon" dumped the second heaviest at Philadelphia 28.5"), second heaviest at Atlantic City (18.2"), third heaviest at Baltimore (24.8"), and the 4th heaviest at Washington D.C. (17.8"). Several locations in Maryland saw over three feet of snow, with the northern Washington D.C. suburb of Colesville receiving 40", and the southern Baltimore suburb of Elkridge receiving 38.3". While the blizzard was not an exceptionally strong storm--the central pressure was a rather unimpressive 986 mb at the height of the blizzard--it was an exceptionally wet storm. The melted equivalent precipitation for the blizzard exceeded three inches along its core snow belt. That's an phenomenal amount of moisture for a winter storm. The blizzard formed a very unstable region aloft where thunderstorms were able to build, and there were many reports of thundersnow during the height of the storm. These embedded thunderstorms were able to generate very heavy snow bursts of 2 - 3 inches per hour.

"Snowmageddon" was followed just three days later by a second massive snowstorm which dumped another 1 - 2 feet of snow on the mid-Atlantic. By the time the flakes stopped flying, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Atlantic City all had their snowiest winters on record. The February snowstorms killed 41 people and did up to $2.4 billion in damage, according to the Insurance Information Institute.


Figure 1. There's a car under here somewhere! Maryland resident digs out after Snowmageddon. Image credit: wunderphotographer chills.

#2: The Tennessee and Nashville floods
An atmospheric river of moisture originating in the East Pacific subtropics surged northwards into the southeast U.S. during the first two days of May, unleashing unprecedented rains that caused a 1000-year flood in Tennessee, Kentucky, and northern Mississippi. The floods killed 31 people, making it the deadliest non-tropical storm or hurricane flood disaster in the U.S. since the October 1998 Central Texas floods that killed 31 when a cold front stalled over Texas. The 2010 flood did more than $1.5 billion in damage, much of it in Nashville, Tennessee, where ten fatalities were reported. The city had its heaviest 1-day and 2-day rainfall amounts in its history. A remarkable 7.25" of rain fell on May 2, breaking the record for most rain in a single day (6.60", set September 13, 1979.) Nashville's third greatest day of rainfall on record occurred on May 1, 2010, when 6.32" fell. Nashville also eclipsed its greatest 6-hour and 12-hour rainfall events on record during the May 2 deluge, with 5.57" and 7.20", respectively. By the end of May 2, it was already the rainiest May in Nashville's history. Rainfall records were smashed all across Tennessee and Kentucky, with amounts as high as 17.73" recorded at Camden, TN, and 17.02" at Brownsville, TN. According to Christopher C. Burt, the author of the excellent book Extreme Weather, the 13.30" that fell on Camden in 24 hours just missed eclipsing the state's all-time 24-hour precipitation record, the 13.60" inches that fell on Milan on September 13, 1982.


Figure 2. Parking via Mother Nature. A scene in Nashville after the May, 2010 flood. Image credit: wunderphotographer jannash.

#3: May 10 tornado outbreak
On May 10, a massive tornado outbreak affected large areas of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri, with the bulk of the activity in central and eastern Oklahoma. Over 60 tornadoes, including two violent EF-4 twisters and six strong EF-3s, hit the region. The tornadoes and associated severe thunderstorms caused approximately $2 billion in damage, according to Swiss Re Insurance Company. The most destructive tornadoes caused severe damage in southern suburbs of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area and just east of Norman, Oklahoma. Three people were killed by the tornadoes.


Figure 3. Video of the May 10, 2010 tornado near Norman, OK. Dr. Rob Carver's blog has many more videos from this spectacular outbreak linked.

I'll be back with a new post on Friday.

Our extreme weather blogger, Christopher C. Burt, has an interesting post on historic episodes where large numbers of dead birds have fallen from the sky.

Jeff Masters

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Well, FOX News viewers are considered the least informed; it's no surprise that their hosts are part of the reason for that

Nea this comment shows what a small person you are.
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If planes start dropping outta the sky, I'd say the mayans were right. RAPTURE has arrived.
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Beginning of the end maybe? it only gets worse, next year at this time this stuff could be childs play...
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Mass bird deaths and fish deaths now appearing all across the globe and in Florida too (thousands of fish washed up on Cocoa Beach)
Google maps of each reported location of mass bird or fish deaths

Yea, 2012 came early.
this is only the beginning not the end
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Hi, all. May I add some humor from Germany? And BTW happy new year (I was lazy to add anything to this blog in the recent time).



A collapsed deer was rescued from the frozen surface of a lake by the fire department in Voerde in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Wednesday. The fire brigade used ropes to pull the exhausted but uninjured animal to safety. The lake near the town of Voerde is completely frozen over, and the fire team also had to perform a number of animal rescues on Tuesday. source http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,738136,00.html

More very nice pics of this rescue work see the gallery: http://www.welt.de/vermischtes/article12005848/Ein-Hirsch-rutscht-auf-eisigen-Abwegen.html
(They rescued four animals, two died in the cold water; now we're going to have spring weather in the next ten days)
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Quoting Jeff9641:


I think some just aren't mentally able to have a sense of humor or they are swinging lefty if you no what I mean.


Jeff, while I am cool with you, posting that pic was extremely unnecessary. There are middle schoolers on this blog. Think about it.
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Mass bird deaths and fish deaths now appearing all across the globe and in Florida too (thousands of fish washed up on Cocoa Beach)
Google maps of each reported location of mass bird or fish deaths

Yea, 2012 came early.
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665. DDR
Piarco international Trinidad recorded 70mm (2.75 inch)of rain today,which is the monthly average for January,some areas may have gotten 4 inches,flash flooding also reported.
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Quoting Patrap:
O'REILLY: See, the water, the tide comes in and it goes out, Mr. Silverman. It always comes in, and always goes out. You can't explain that.

Well, FOX News viewers are considered the least informed; it's no surprise that their hosts are part of the reason for that.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 15161
Quoting Neapolitan:

Why are you asking? Plan on stopping by?
Not really, being a SW Florida native of 51 years and seeing the change brought forth by those that moved down from up north (including environmental) I just wanted to see if you were on a Charity mission in Immokalee, or laid up @ Tiburon, Lely or such... FYI, I am anti-development and growth in SW Florida.....
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Quoting MichaelSTL:


LOL, I always laugh too when I see a forecast like that. That said, I actually had all of that and more before, per the NWS observation (check the last one too, not sure what they mean there, we certainly don't get those, maybe out in Arizona):

THE FOLLOWING WEATHER WAS RECORDED YESTERDAY.
RAIN
LIGHT RAIN
LT FREEZING RAIN
SNOW
LIGHT SNOW
SLEET
FOG
HAZE
SANDSTORM

That was on January 29, 2008 (while not officially record, I had a thunderstorm as well in my location, including severe weather reports, with snow an hour later; the high was 73 with a low of 11 the same night).
Same thing happened in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City set a record high and low on the same day November 11,1911. 83 degrees was the recored high that day and 17 degrees was the record low on the same day. Also note 11-11-11. 1911!!
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Quoting HRinFM:
By the way brother neapolitan, whcih gated community in Naples do you reside in?

Why are you asking? Plan on stopping by? ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 15161
Quoting presslord:


whatever the cause...I can assure you it was an unappealing sight...


i can tell ya what it means

times up

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Quoting Jeff9641:


I just heard this on the news while getting ready for work this morning. The reason is because of record cold SST along the NE coastline.


whatever the cause...I can assure you it was an unappealing sight...
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Quoting TampaFLUSA:
Wow!
there is nothing to see here move along it was just fireworks
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Quoting Neapolitan:

This was covered in comment #590, but I'll go into it with a bit more detail here if you don't mind.

When viewed coarsely, historical CO2 levels and temperature show a very tight correlation. However, a closer look at the CO2 (and CH4) and temperature fluctuations recorded in the Antarctic ice core records to which you refer reveals that, yes, temperature moved first.

Egads! ;-)

Really, though, it's incorrect to state that temperatures rose and then--hundreds of years later--CO2 rose. These warming periods lasted for between 5,000 and 10,000 years, so for the majority of that time--say, 85% or 90%--temperatures and CO2 rose together. The detailed climatological evidence from the ice cores clearly allows for CO2 acting as a cause for rising temperatures, while also showing that it can be an effect of them.

Basically, changes in orbital parameters caused greater amounts of summer sunlight to fall in the northern hemisphere. This was a small forcing, but it caused ice to retreat in the north, which changed the albedo. This change--reducing the amount of white, reflective ice surface--led to further warmth in a feedback effect. Some number of centuries after that process started, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere began to rise, which amplified the warming trend even further as an additional feedback mechanism.

So, yes, it's correct that CO2 didn't trigger the warmings found in the ice cores, but it contributed to them--and according to climate theory and modelling, GhG forcing was the dominant factor in the magnitude of the change. (Making this a warning for our near future: we're likely to see additional CO2 come out hiding as whatever process(es) took place repeatedly over the last 650,000 years play out again. The likely candidates: outgassing from warming ocean waters, plant carbon from warming soils, and methane from melting permafrost.)

There's much more about this here and here; a science-minded guy such as yourself will be able to understand what they're saying.
By the way brother neapolitan, whcih gated community in Naples do you reside in?
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Quoting jwh250:
Mass Animal Deaths - Google Maps
Wow!
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Quoting Neapolitan:

Ummm...what argument? Someone said that nature was in charge, and I simply responded that I wish that were true. But evidence and observation--which are real, concrete things that we have--say nature is not in charge, and that we humans are quite capable of overcoming any "balancing" effect she's purported to have.

To put it another way: the only way Nature will even truly be restored to a pre-human balance is for us humans to depart or die. I'm surprised at the number of people here who seem okay with that happening if that's the price they have to pay to keep driving their Hummers.
Quoting Neapolitan:

Ummm...what argument? Someone said that nature was in charge, and I simply responded that I wish that were true. But evidence and observation--which are real, concrete things that we have--say nature is not in charge, and that we humans are quite capable of overcoming any "balancing" effect she's purported to have.

To put it another way: the only way Nature will even truly be restored to a pre-human balance is for us humans to depart or die. I'm surprised at the number of people here who seem okay with that happening if that's the price they have to pay to keep driving their Hummers.
You are amazing...please post the pre human information that you can prove, or is once again the rambling of a bored SW Florida resident that doesnt play golf
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Quoting smartinwx:


That's hilarious.

How should we speed it up?
we got to start running in one direction.....
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Quoting JFLORIDA:


Actually How - after having a bit of formal logic I would like to see your argument.
Lets say this krakotaoa east of java blow up and disrupts the entire weather pattern in the world (documented) man sure had a hell of a lot to do with that. Lets say Hurricane Katrina generated alot of energy (don't know how much), but man sure had a lot to do with that...Go buy your prius and let me know how much your battery will cost to replace and where, oh where, you are going to put said battery to preserve the earth. You espouse theories that are hypocritical, ironic, and hard core left wing.
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Quoting oracle28:
The Earth's rotation has slowed since the arrival of man. It must be man-made global slowing.


That's hilarious.

How should we speed it up?
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Thanks!
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Quoting Jeff9641:


LOL! Good evening brother! I just tried to loosen up the blog some. OH WELL!


re ported......lol!
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I have to go for a bit. Later guys.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26780

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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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