Record snows hit New England; Brazilian floods kill 350; Brisbane underwater

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:16 PM GMT on January 13, 2011

The Northeast U.S. is digging out today from the winter's third major snowstorm, and the nation's South continues to deal with travel disruptions caused by the nasty coasting of ice, snow and sleet the storm left behind early this week. Yesterday's Nor'easter has exited into Canada, and the storm is over for the U.S. It was a pretty average Nor'easter as far as intensity goes--the storm's central pressure bottomed out at 982 mb, and just the Massachusetts coast was subject to high winds that merited blizzard warnings. The storm did generate one hurricane-force wind gust--Provincetown airport on the tip of Cape Cod had sustained winds at 43 mph, gusting to 79 mph, at 6:35am EST yesterday, and a personal weather station at Humarock Beach in Scituate, southeast of Boston, recorded a wind gust of 64 mph at 5:51am EST yesterday.

Figure 1. A bit of work today needed before one can step out of the door in Southborough, Massachusetts! Image credit: wunderphotographer Megmdp.

But what was remarkable about the January Nor'easter of 2011 were its snow amounts. This rather ordinary-strength Nor'easter managed to assemble the perfect mix of conditions needed to transport moisture to a region of the storm highly favorable for heavy snow formation. Many heavy snow bands with snowfall rates up to 3 inches per hour formed over New England, with some of these bands intense enough to generate lightning and thunder. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont all came within an inch of setting all-time state 24-hour snowfall records yesterday. North Haven, Connecticut received 29.5", falling just short of the 30.2" 24-hour snowfall record for the state, set at Fairfield in February 2006. Savoy, Massachusetts received 34.5", falling just short of that state's all-time 24-hour snowfall record, the 36" recorded at Milton in February 1997. Wilmington, Vermont got 36" in yesterday's storm, just missing the state record of 37", set at Peru in March 1984. The capital of Connecticut, Hartford, had its greatest snowstorm in history yesterday, with 24". The old record was 23.5", set in a February 1899 storm.

Some selected storm total snowfall amounts, taken from the latest NOAA storm summary:

New York City, NY 9.1"
Albany, NY 13.2"
Worcester, MA 21.1"
Boston, MA 14.6"
Augusta, ME 14.5"
Portland, ME 9.2"
Concord, NH 22"
Somerset, PA 15"
Philadelphia, PA 5.2"
Providence, RI 9.5"
Brattleboro, VT 19"
Elkin, WV 10"
Danbury, CT 17.9"
Wilmington, DE 4.3"

According to our weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, in his latest blog post titled, "Snowstorms in the South: A Historical Perspective", the 8.9" that fell on Huntsville, Alabama from this week's storm was that city's third heaviest snow on record. The post has a nice summary of the remarkable heavy snow storms that have hit the South in the past.

Figure 2. Flooding at São José do Vale do Rio Preto in Brazil photographed on Thursday, January 13, 2011.

Brazilian floods, landslides kill at least 350
The globe's parade of massive flooding disasters in recent months continued yesterday in Brazil, where heavy rains of up to 10 inches in 24 hours inundated the region about 60 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. At least 350 are dead and 50 people missing, and the death toll is expected to go much higher once rescuers reach remote villages that have been cut off from communications. Brazil suffers hundreds of deaths each year due to flooding and mudslides, but the past 12 months have been particularly devastating. Flooding and landslides near Rio in April last year killed 246 people and did about $13 billion in damage, and at least 85 people perished last January during a similar event.

Figure 3. A woman trapped on the roof of her car awaits rescue during the Toowoomba flash flood on Monday. Image credit: Wikipedia.

New floods ravage Australia's 3rd largest city
Flood waters swept today into Brisbane, Australia's 3rd largest city, inundating 14,400 homes and businesses, partially submerging another 17,200, and cutting power to 118,000, as the Brisbane River peaked at its highest level since 1974. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, who has called the recent floods in Queensland the greatest natural disaster in their history, said, "What I'm seeing looks more like a war zone in some places. All I could see was their rooftops...underneath every single one of those rooftops is a horror story. We are facing a reconstruction effort of post-war proportions." Much of Brisbane's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, including 55,000 miles of roads. The Port of Brisbane, one of Australia's busiest, has been closed because of debris, and the city's largest sports stadium is under several feet of water.

The search for bodies continues in Toowoomba, about 60 miles west of Brisbane, where freak rains of 6 inches in just 30 minutes triggered a flash flood that killed 12 and left 61 missing on Monday. The flood waters from the Toowoomba disaster poured into the Brisbane River, contributing to its rampage through Brisbane yesterday. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) reported that only scattered light rains less than 1/3" fell in the Brisbane area over the past 24 hours, and no further significant rains are forecast in the Brisbane area until Tuesday next week, so the worst of the flooding is now over for Queensland. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the December - January floods in Queenland are the most significant flooding event in Australia since at least 1974. In 2010, Australia had its wettest spring (September - November) since records began 111 years ago, with some sections of coastal Queensland receiving over 4 feet (1200 mm) of rain. Rainfall in Queensland and all of eastern Australia in December was the greatest on record, and the year 2010 was the rainiest year on record for Queensland. Queensland typically has its rainiest years when La Niña events occur, due to the much warmer than average ocean temperatures that occur along the coast. The BOM notes, "Previous strong La Niña events, such as those of 1974 and 1955, have also been associated with widespread and severe flooding in eastern Australia. Sea surface temperatures off the Queensland coast in recent months have also been at or near record levels." The BOM's annual summary also reported, "Sea surface temperatures in the Australian region during 2010 were the warmest value on record for the Australian region. Individual high monthly sea surface temperature records were also set during 2010 in March, April, June, September, October, November and December. Along with favourable hemispheric circulation associated with the 2010 La Niña, very warm sea surface temperatures contributed to the record rainfall and very high humidity across eastern Australia during winter and spring." Beginning in December, the Queensland floods have killed at least 22, and damage estimates are now as high as $20 billion. Queensland has an area the size of Germany and France combined.

2010 tied for warmest year in Earth's history
Earth's warmest year in history occurred in 2010, NASA reported yesterday. The globe's temperature beat the previous record set in 2005 by just .01°C, so we should consider 2010 and 2005 tied for the warmest year on record. Reliable global temperature records go back to 1880. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also announced yesterday that 2010 was tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record, with temperatures during 2010 1.12°F (0.62°C) above the 20th century average. I'll have a full blog post on the subject Friday morning.

Jeff Masters

storm car burried (slimfast)
on a lowell mass street 1/12/11 taken off hampshire street lowell mass our streets are buried in snow we have 24-36" of snow we had unsafe intersecting roads every where un safe driving also large buildings with flat roofs are unsafe many colapsed buildings
storm car burried
Brilliance..2 (suzi46)
a brilliant mid-Winter's skies and sunshine on the clear ice of the brooks creating wonderful images..
How Many Cars? (stoneygirl)
Can you tell how many cars are under all that? We had a whopping 2 plus FEET of snow today and the snow drifts were upwards of 3 and 4 feet. Gotta love winter.
How Many Cars?

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Image of a supposed storm in the Pacific. Can't tell for sure if it is real. You know how scientists love to make things up.

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"12/21/2012 aint got nuthin on me!!!"
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Quoting NRAamy:
we're not all going to be dead in 5 years.... 12/21/2012 is just around the corner....
i dont think it will be easy lots of disasters first.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:

Levi,this means La Nina will get much stronger than what it is now?

We don't know about that. The La Nina is currently holding fairly steady, neither strengthening nor weakening significantly. Atmospherically it is one of the strongest La Ninas ever recorded, though in terms of SST it is only on the threshold of moderate and strong. It is currently unclear when it will go away, but it will be interesting to see if it becomes one of those multi-year La Ninas similar to the 1950s, which is the point we are currently at in the oceanic climate cycle.
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yes Levi32 - just like last year the "global cooling" will start any day now.

Can I see the source for that graph that isnt housed at tinypic?

UAH trend data has not been released yet.

I posted the link in the post if you were reading.
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Quoting Levi32:
The current situation with our La Nina is interesting to watch. Looking at daily MSU temperature data (updated through December 31st, 2010, and available here), the tropics are crashing fast over the last three months, already below the long-term average, and the global anomalies are beginning to follow suit.

The most interesting part is how far ahead in the fall the tropical anomalies are compared to the global. If we zoom out to the entire data set since 1978, it is the 2nd largest deficit between the tropics and the globe in the entire data set behind the 1997-98 El Nino, which was a positive deficit in favor of the tropics. This is a negative deficit, and the largest of its kind in the data set. This implies that the global anomalies have a ways to fall yet to catch up.

Levi,this means La Nina will get much stronger than what it is now?
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Quoting NRAamy:
we're not all going to be dead in 5 years.... 12/21/2012 is just around the corner....
707days 9hrs 10 minutes
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Quoting Grecojdw:
We in the Panhandle of Florida might have had our last chance for snow this last time around. All indications that the end of Jan into Feb is going to usher in a typical La Nina pattern into a mild winter....bollocks....sigh:(
it will warm up the signal is showing in the long term starts in the west moves east
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I have my ticket to the ship, do you?

bomb shelter out in the desert....
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The current situation with our La Nina is interesting to watch. Looking at daily MSU temperature data (updated through December 31st, 2010, and available here), the tropics are crashing fast over the last three months, already below the long-term average, and the global anomalies are beginning to follow suit.

The most interesting part is how far ahead in the fall the tropical anomalies are compared to the global. If we zoom out to the entire data set since 1978, it is the 2nd largest deficit between the tropics and the globe in the entire data set behind the 1997-98 El Nino, which was a positive deficit in favor of the tropics. This is a negative deficit, and the largest of its kind in the data set. This implies that the global anomalies have a ways to fall yet to catch up.

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Quoting Neapolitan:

Okay, one final try. ;-)

You asked, "You seriously don't think that simply having current global temperatures being above the historical average makes it more likely that record highs will be set as opposed to record lows, regardless of the current trend?"

The opposite, actually; if we were discussing anomalies, record highs outnumbering record lows would drive up the historical average, making it less likely that we'd see anomalous highs. But we're not talking about averages. We're discussing records, where the only reference point is the previous record.

Look at it this way: when an Olympic runner sets a record for, say, the 100m, that's a record regardless of how much he beat the average 100m time by--and his beating that average is certainly not going to make it more likely he or another runner will set another record. ;-)

The historical average isn't going to change very quickly from year-to-year, given that there is over 100 years of data. Over a shorter time period, say 10-20 years, it can be considered to be constant for the sake of this argument. Any year whose average is above the long-term mean is going to have more record highs set than record lows. You can check this empirically. I stand by the fact that a 1:1 ratio of record highs to lows will only occur when the annual temperature is near the long-term average. More highs than lows indicates annual temperatures are likely above the long-term average. Conversely, more record lows than highs suggest that the annual temperature is below the long-term average. The point I am making is that a greater than 1:1 ratio of high to low records does not indicate that the trend is necessarily increasing, as you previously stated.

The only way I can think of to relate this to your "Olympic runner" analogy is as follows:

You have two groups of runners. One group's average time for the 100m is not too far from the record time. The second group is composed of slower runners whose average time is much further from the record. Out of which group do you think it is most likely that a runner will set a new record?

Anyway, I'm out for time being. I'm sure we'll probably have an occasion to revisit this in the future. Good afternoon to all.
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Quoting MichaelSTL:
Scientific Savvy? In U.S., Not Much

While scientific literacy has doubled over the past two decades, only 20 to 25 percent of Americans are "scientifically savvy and alert," he said in an interview. Most of the rest "don't have a clue." At a time when science permeates debates on everything from global warming to stem cell research, he said, people's inability to understand basic scientific concepts undermines their ability to take part in the democratic process.

American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.

Which is why scientists want to run the show. They would say "we are smarter than you all, therefore we are more powerful and you will be our slaves and pay and pay your asses off into our system you stupid little people".
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 10641
post 145.... now you've got it!

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we're not all going to be dead in 5 years.... 12/21/2012 is just around the corner....
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Quoting NRAamy:
Every winter storm, of course, brings the same stale jokes about Al Gore and ManBearBig

wrong..... Al Gore is stale.... not the jokes....

He wants to be taken "cereal"
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Quoting MichaelSTL:

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Conspiracy theorists are seeking to prove something they want to believe. Instead of scientifically following a stream of facts to a rational conclusion they collect bits and pieces and oddments, not to synthesize a robust alternative explanation, but more to crap on an official version or more cohesive theories. The fact that their interpretation of events, evidence, and testimony leads to more and more dubious explanations for the data, and impossible situations is unimportant. Contrary to Leman's assertion, this type of thinking is completely contrary to what makes good scientific, and probably journalistic investigation. 9/11 conspiracy thinking is typical of this, and rather than going into it here - and dammit I mean it - check out Bronze Dog's "Twoof is Wewative" coverage of recent crank arguments here. He sums it up nicely. These explanations rely on dubious facts and interpretation of events, and increase in complexity the explanation for how the towers fell or the Pentagon was hit astronomically. All of a sudden, rather than a reasonable explanation - planes hitting buildings, buildings catch fire, buildings fall, you have a range of theories from the hilariously absurd (holographic projection), to pointlessly complex (planned demolition).

Thank you STL. That explains it perfectly. AGW is a conspiracy theory. I knew it!!!
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Nice job, cut and paste
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 10641
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 10641
Satellite temperatures of the mid-troposphere show that the globe has really crashed so far this winter and is now very significantly lower than last year at this time (cyan line). For the first 10 days of January we are actually running below the long-term average (orange line). If this continues, we may see global temperature turn in a below-average month to start off 2011.

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Jesse Ventura has a show on Conspiracy Theories.....

I'm waiting for the one on ManBearPig...
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№ 99
Quoting MichaelSTL:
I thought this comment over at Climate Progress was interesting:

Let us not forget the cooling bias from the AO and NAO. They were in the negative phase most of the year, but made most impact in January, Feb, Nov and Dec. Cold Arctic air flowed onto the continents, decreasing the average mean temp there, but the warm air that flowed into the Arctic and dramatically raised the average temp up there did not affect the global average much since temps are extrapolated in GISS, and not even taken into account in CRU, causing a large cold bias. No wonder the CRU data are the new favorite set of the deniers. The very dataset that they %u201Cproved%u201D to be %u201Cfraudulent%u201D during %u201CClimategate%u201D. Funny how quick things change in the land of denial.

This makes the 2010 tie/record a lot more impressive and a whole lot more scary.

That is true, because if you look at the zonal means, it was very likely even warmer in the Arctic that it suggests, because it doesn't just level off like it shows:

In fact, it probably was more like this (shaded areas show where warming was underestimated):

Actually based on the GISS anomalies using the 250km extrapolation, shown below:

It doesn't seem that it is correct to assume that the extrapolated region should be even warmer than is shown. The highest anomalies are not at the highest latitudes and the data at the highest latitudes is in the 2-4 degC range. Very sparse data up there though.
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thank you JF- it's like all the seismos are stuck on a big PING

I promise I'll wait, Nea...
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What did the cavemen think when the last ice age started to abate,they grunted and groaned(they were thinking how can we stop AGW)
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Quoting Neapolitan:

The same can be said of many things, no? I've never gone to the moon, yet I believe what science tells me is there. I've never been to the bottom of the ocean, yet I believe science where that goes. Heck, I've never been inside an internal combustion engine either, so I have to take the word of scientists about what's going on there. And I've never looked inside my chest cavity, but I think I'd believe what a thoracic surgeon told me about it.

At any rate, the big money is in Big Energy. Think how much more "job security" a good half of those AGW-believing climate scientists would have if they would only stop lying about global warming and go to work for ExxonMobil. Dumb money-grubbing scientists...

Because their scientists, if they are smarter than everybody else they could run their own company (green jobs) instead of working for ExxonMobil.  Plus it's not a "clean energy" they might catch something.
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Quoting Jedkins01:
Continue to blow your fuses, while I got some sleep.

By the way, the weather underground blogs were not created so people can freak out about the end of the world because they believe in an unproved hypothesis known as Global Warming.

Ahahahaha classic.

The only proof for global warming is every single piece of scientific evidence ever published, which you anti GW folk claim are all hidden agenda non sense.

Wake up already, the debate isn't if earth is warming, its how much are humans contributing and what can we do about it. Maybe you haven't noticed, but the more professional and educated agw folk look at alternate reasons for the warming, other than humans, rather than denying the warming.
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Quoting aquak9:
(bangs head on keyboard, sticks straws in ears)

Oh, don't do that; save those straws for the Long Island Iced Tea... ;-)
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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