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Historic blizzard pounds NYC

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 3:51 PM GMT on February 12, 2006

The blizzard of 2006 has dropped the most snow ever on New York City, a record 26.9 inches as of 4:10 pm at Central Park. The previous biggest snowstorm of all time was 26.4", set Dec 26-27 1947. What appeared to be a rather ordinary Nor'easter on the computer model forecasts yesterday--one that I thought would turn out to be a Category 2 snowstorm on the newly-launched NESIS storm scale for Northeast U.S. snowstorms--has intensified dramatically this morning, and will probably end up ranked as a Category 4 storm on the NESIS scale. As of 7am, Central Park recorded 12 inches of new snow--before an intense mesoscale band of snow with snowfall rates of 2 to 4 inches per hour swept through the city, bringing visibility to zero at LaGuardia Airport. Eleven inches of snow fell in three hours at Central Park between 7am and 10am. This intense band of snow, called a "snowburst", is a result of very unstable air that has organized into thunderstorms. Reports of lightning and thunder have been common today all across the Northeast in association with these snowbursts. Check out this 3-hour radar animation from the New York City radar this morning. You can see a narrow band of extremely heavy snow that stretches from northern New Jersey through New York City and northeastward to Hartford Connecticut. This band has echo intensities of 40 dBZ, which are commmon in warm-season thunderstorms, but seldom observed in winter storms. This narrow band of snow is gradually progressing eastward, and will bring exceptionally heavy snows to Long Island, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts today. Snow amounts of 16-24 inches will be common across New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Eastern Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island today.

Over in Massachusetts, the Blizzard of 2006 is expected to cause moderate flooding problems, but nowhere near the scale of the famous Blizzard of 1978. While the blizzard of 2006 is a prodigious snow-producer, its central pressure is not as low as the Blizzard of 1978, and thus its winds are much weaker. The Blizzard of 1978 had sustained winds of 65 mph, while the Blizzard of 2006 can only boast sustained 45 mph winds. The combination of storm tides of 12 feet at Boston Harbor combined with seas between 16 and 22 feet at the time of high tide may produce some structural damage to roads, sea walls, and vulnerable coastal structures around the time of high tide late this morning and early afternoon along the Massachusetts coast.

Down in Florida, the Arctic air mass associated with the Blizzard of 2006 has pushed a strong cold front through the state, bringing the threat of a hard freeze to Florida's citrus groves tonight. Snow flurries are not out of the question in northern Florida tonight and early Monday morning as a weak upper-level disturbance moves through the area. After a long holiday in January, winter has stormed back with a vengance across the eastern half of the U.S.!

Jeff Masters
"Blizzard of '06"
Snow piled up in a hurry overnight in west central New Jersey with up to 18 inches reported. This picture was taken through my open kitchen window looking towards the back yard; Hunterdon County, NJ.
Here Birdie, Birdie, Birdie!
Here Birdie, Birdie, Birdie!
5:30 AM and still snowing. I think the 7 - 12 inch estimate was a bit conservative. This was a 2 second exposure with the side deck lights on.
Now for the Fun Part
Now for the Fun Part
time to dig out and play!!!

Winter Weather

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Cold here in northern florida, though not as cold, Highs in the 40's. Definately not what I signed up for when I moved here.
Thank you again for keeping us up to date!
Wow, that's a lot of snow in a short time!
If Central Park gets 18.2", that would make the Top 5 list. Only three storms have exceeded 20" in NYC - the March 1888 blizzard with 21", the all-time record storm of December 26,1947 with 26.4" and the Blizzard of '96 with 20.2". President's Day 2003 is in 4th place with 19.8". I have cousins on Long Island (Massapequa Park) - looks like they can enjoy a day off tomorrow! The area of storm force winds and 20+ foot seas offshore is also quite impressive.
WOW!! Now in 2nd place with 22.8" and counting. Almost a foot of snow in 3 hours, something usually only seen in the lake-effect snowbelts!
i have updated my blog on the florida cold spell
DenverMark, Dr. Masters already said this storm is in the record books. Its now the 2nd largest snow New York with Central Park recording over 22 inches of snow.

BTW, check out the Floater #2 on visable, looks like this thing developes an eye with stadium effect and everything. Obviously this is not the case, but an interesting see none the less.

Floater #2
Yes it is a lot of snow... :0) I wish we could get just 2-4 inches here is south alabama. It would be pretty here...

Taco :0)
Oh boy, shut up already. Everything you have ever said on this blog is speculation. Show me ONE equation with ALL variables filled in that these things work, until then leave it be.
I say the samething...

Cause it to move quicker, what the hell do SSTs have to do with the speed of the storm.? My god you think SST's rule the world and will determine its future! All hail SST's and bow to the tunnels since they control them! SST's are important for many features, but they're not everything. The water temps around New England are in the 40's and 50's. How cool to do you want to make them?
BLAHAHAHAHAHAH-Myles that is so funny :0)

Cyclone- I have an idea you build it put it on the East Coast and they will come...
Im not going to even discuss this anymore. You ignorance in meteorology is incredible. Your knowledge of physics is even worse; and as far as I can tell, no one, no matter their knowledge background can change your mind, so Im done. You're stubborn enough about this idea as it is, but your ignorance in the important subjects that surround it make it impossible to show you how complicated and unrealistic it really is.
hey don't be so negative, those tunnels could mean world peace, and they will end world hunger. All because of being able to control SST's.
21. dcw
Haha, snow for me!!
Sadly, I bet cyclonebuster thinks the tunnels would do that, too.

Just thought I'd share with y'all that our forecast high today here in Orange County, California is 87 degrees.

Man, wish I was in S. Cali today. High here in Ft. Myers Floida is 57! 57 fricken degrees man! I hate the cold!
I will be back on here later, maybe by then it will be cool in here like it is outside...

Califonia - that is neat that when it is cold here on the East it is hot on the West... I like it cool this time of year just not hot because I work outside... :0) Anyway I will chat with yall later...

Taco :0)
Last statement, but in science that isnt how things work, buster! You must prove to us that these things work with completed formulas and proof that the water will mix. Not the other way around. Simply saying "it will work" is not proof and this is not an idea where we simply take you word on it. Until you show us some real proof we are not going to believe you. And not things correlating SST to hurricanes, or the Charelston hump, upwelling, ect, we already know how it works, you need to prove that your tunnels actually create upwelling, and so far you havent shown me one completed formula.

BTW, I think michalp was being sarcastic. Just thought I'd let you in on that.
Im not a physics major, I cant calculate for all variables, as niether can you. But in science, for something to be proven you have to do expirements that have reproducable results. Your bathtub expirament isnt vaild either, it has none of the characteristics of an ocean, except water, thats it. No current, not much differencre in density, no salt, no where else for the water to go. Tons of differences. You cant compare a bathtub and the ocean.

If you took this idea with the amount of proof you have, and the kind of evidence you are trying to prove it with, to a science convention, you would be laughed at. Thats it, you would be laughed out of the building.

Damnit now, you still got me going. I need to learn to get over other peoples ignorance.
WOW, quite the ocean I must say. Add some sand and you'll have youself a beach with some wildlife moving in soon.
Oh, for goodness sake - will you two stop bickering!!
Come on, comparing a bathtub to an ocean is about the most ingonrant thing ever heard, is it not?
If only the ocean, and the world for that matter, were so simple. The ocean is way more complicated then a glass of water or a bathtub, you cant repersent all the variables in either of those situations. You might be able to with a pool of you could also repersent currents, salinity, and water temp and density, of which you cant do either with a glass of water of a bathtub.
Hey everyone,

I just finished posting my latest blog after accumalating all the latest snowfall amounts of this historic and record breaking Nor'Easter.

In addition, I also listed my own personal forecast as to what I expect to occur for this region for the remainder of the storm.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend and I look forward to talking with all of you again soon.:)

Your friend,

Man, cyclonebuster you are very dense. I was mocking you. Since you didn't notice you really must be really full of yourself. I find it hard to understand why anyone even bothers to take you seriously.
The storm isnt subtropical at all, thats why it isnt classified as one. Its purely baroclonic. The eye was interesting, however it was short lived but quite defined for one or two frames on the visable floater.
Living in a fairly remote area, such snowstorms get only local headlines where I live - yet I've been through two major blizzards the past two weeks - each with over 20 inches of snow...

Is there a permanent link for the eye picture of the Blizzard of 2006?
Hey cyclone,

It has no tropical characteristics meaning it is purely a cold core area of low pressure. It is a strong extratropical storm system and is not by any means a subtropical storm.

Although relatively rare, it is not too uncommon for such intense Nor'Easters to develop the cloudless center of lowest pressure that appears to be an eye by tropical standards.


PPl dont get kicked off this forum for spouting ignorance, buster. Unfortunetly for you, this is science and not the US court system. You're arnt right til you've proven wrong, you are wrong until you are proven right. The fact that you wont accpet that as the one obsolute law of science says everything we need to know
Hey cyclone,

Here is a direct link to my blog where I discuss what an extratropical storm truly is. This Nor'Easter is just such a cold core storm system, albiet, a powerful one at that.

Sorry, I forgot to post the link.:)

Yet you have no calcuations that they even work. Until you can make one of these or show us some calcs, all you have is an idea. We cant help you do make, model or calculate that, so stop trying to convince us when it doesnt really matter.
No but there are for calculating the flow of water through you tunnels. Go ahead and show me em.
Hey cyclone,

My previous post apparently got lost. Therefore, I will repost the direct link to my blog discussing xtratropical storms. The current historic and powerful Nor'Easter battering the Northeast is an Extratropical storm.

Thanks chaser. Please educate that man.
Cyclone, you're the one with the absurd idea - the burden of proof is on you.
Anybody else want to jump in on the fantasy storm? It's just west of the Leewards with 30kt winds.
I love the irony in that third picture. There you see an AC unit completely covered in snow.
do you know what irony means?
Ha...I KNEW there would be a big blizzard following last year's record-breaking hurricane season! It never seems to fail! Boo-yah on that one! :-P
Hey the snow just got lighter. Summer is just around the corner and all of this will be a bad memory
It is becoming very tiresome to sort through hundreds of post for the rare insightful ones. It seems to me that cyclonebuster is just here to push buttons and draw attention to himself. What began as a valid exchange of ideas/debate is now just petty bickering and outlandish claims. Please give it a rest.
You all sounds like a gaggle of blowhards!
Having a measurable level of intelligence does not correllate with being a prick to others that are aware of less...

too bad for your like.
Forgot to mention there was thunder and lighting in my hood around 2:30 AM
That's not an eye, it is a swirl. An eye would be surrounded by convection, the deep convection and lifting is all on the NW side of the storm.
OK I have a question--why was the storm a greater snow producer than forecast? It is not as deep as it was expected, about 982 mb vs the 975 mb that was expected 36 hours ago.
Central Park now reporting 26.9", a new record. Think it is interesting that Central Park got more snow than anyone else :)
Its global warming! Heat content of the warmer ocean is evaporating more water vapor, which condenses out as snow :)
Saw a report out of NWS Taunton,MA that the central pressure got down to 980mb. I'm curious how that would compare with the Blizzard of 1978.

HurricaneMyles - Sorry I got a little excited and repeated Dr.Masters earlier on. It will be fun to compare the totals when it's all done. Looks like it may be an all-time record for Hartford. That looked like an eye, even though it isn't the same as a hurricane. I think the same thing happened with the Blizzard of '78. I'm just an amateur, so am enjoying learning more about how both tropical and extratropical cyclones work.
When things calm down a bit, check out some fantasycasting

26.9 inches in Central Park!!!!

26.9 Inches in NYC
Oh yeah tunnels could cool down the gulf stream from which the storms get their energy and moisture. Right. And Europe would be so pleased.
St.Simons - I find that interesting, too. The NWS measures snowfall more frequently than cooperative observers do, I think it's once every six hours as compared to once or twice a day for many co-op observers. This would result in higher reported totals at NWS sites due to less settling between observations, as compared with the co-op sites. In the past (such as 1888 or 1947) snowfall was measured less frequently, maybe only once a day. This points up another problem with our data and comparability with past storms. Also, when ASOS was commisioned at the first-order stations in the mid-90s, the NWS didn't even measure snow at some locations for several years before adding human observers to measure snow again (this happened at some stations here in the West more than in the East). So NYC has a new "official" record, but did they really have more snow than in 1947? Food for thought.
are we now at cat 5 for the snow storm?
i have updated my blog
Hey everyone,

I thought I would give one last quick update for the night regarding the historical significance of this storm as to how it ranks on the new winter storm scale just released to the public the past couple of weeks.

Based upon the five specific parameters used to categorize these storms, this history making and record setting event appears to be a category three storm event on the scale that goes from 1 to 5. Interestingly, the lowest ranking on the scale of one is still considered a notable event. As is the case with the hurricane scale, a category three storm qualifies it as a "major" storm as well.

This storm has brought snowfall over a very large area across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states affecting tens of millions of people. The vast majority of this large region received snowfall totals ranging from 6 to 15 inches. However, a smaller area including the major cities of New York and Boston for example saw snowfall totals in the 20-28 inch range.

As a result, the large spacual covrage of the more moderate snowfall combined with the very heavy snowfall in the large metro cities alluded to above, qualify this storm as most likely a category 3 storm. It is posssible that it could be classified as a category four once all the data is compiled, but category 3 is most likely.

It is important to note that category 3 is a very significant classification on this new scale and it would be ranked much higher on the scale had it affected a larger area with snowfall totals in the 15-20 range.

On the other hand, this classification is all relative to the areas most heavily impacted and with that in mind, it is the greatest snowstorm in recorded history for New York City and for that one location it most certainly achieves a category five distiction.:)

I hope everyone has a great night and stays warm and safe.:)

Your friend,
Snow measuring is not a standardized thing. On the weather channel discussion board, during the 2003 president's day storm, a lot was made of the fact that ALL of the top ten snowstorms in Boston had happened since 1958, when there were obviously plenty of big snowstorms that hit Boston from when they started records in 1870 until 1958. It turned out that to meet the demand of TV reporters, the Boston WSO measured how much snow accumlated on a clean surface EACH hour and added them all up. At NYC they measure how much snow is on the ground, usually every 6 hours, but more frequently during exception snowstoms. NYC does not set up a patch of clean ground and measure how much snow falls on it each hour.

This became an issue when the 2003 storm pushed made all top 10 storms in Boston recent events, and it became obvious that some sort of measurement bias was taking place.

Under Boston's older standard, they measured the snow with a yardstick when the storm ended. Under that standard, the wet, compressible snow of Mar 31 - Apr 1 1997 would have been measured at a foot, not the record 29".

The NYC record measured today is snow depth.
Boston also switched measuring snow to a more conservative method after the 2003 storm, but I can't remember offhand what it is.
While the Fujita and Saffir-Simpson Scales characterize tornadoes and hurricanes respectively, there is no widely used scale to classify snowstorms. The Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS) developed by Paul Kocin of The Weather Channel and Louis Uccellini of the National Weather Service (Kocin and Uccellini, 2004 ) characterizes and ranks high-impact Northeast snowstorms. These storms have large areas of 10 inch snowfall accumulations and greater. NESIS has five categories: Extreme, Crippling, Major, Significant, and Notable. The index differs from other meteorological indices in that it uses population information in addition to meteorological measurements. Thus NESIS gives an indication of a storm's societal impacts. This scale was developed because of the impact Northeast snowstorms can have on the rest of the country in terms of transportation and economic impact.

NESIS scores are a function of the area affected by the snowstorm, the amount of snow, and the number of people living in the path of the storm. The diagram below illustrates how NESIS values are calculated within a geographical information system (GIS). The aerial distribution of snowfall and population information are combined in an equation that calculates a NESIS score which varies from around one for smaller storms to over ten for extreme storms. The raw score is then converted into one of the five NESIS categories. The largest NESIS values result from storms producing heavy snowfall over large areas that include major metropolitan centers.

Explanation of the NESIS system
Snow measurement sure has varied over the years and from one place to another. But it sounds like the total in Central Park was measured accurately. Given the banded nature of the precipitation, it's not surprising that much more was measured in Central Park than some other nearby locations. So it goes into the books as New York City's greatest snowstorm ever, fair and square.
The heaviest snow measured in Boston before 1958 was 16.5 inches on Feb 20, 1921
86. Inyo
Snow measurements definitely vary based on how the measurements are taken... out here there is a lot of confusion based on ski reports because some of the resorts used to report the amount of snow as how much had fallen, not how much was present.. and of course, snow gets squished or melts. so Kirkwood used to get ridiculous 'base' amounts of 300+ inches... they do get a TON of snow but it tends to be wet and compact.
I believe that central pressure should also be considered as part of the NESIS equation (given about 25% weight). Basically, I would do it as follows:

Cat 1 - 990+ mb, Cat 2 - 980-989, Cat 3 - 970-979, Cat 4 - 960-969, Cat 5 - <960.
89. Inyo
i still say taking 'affect on major cities' into account for the ranking is dumb.
mail for you Colby
91. TomP
DenverMark: That narrow band of heavy precipitation was constantly moving and wasn't over NYC much longer than it was over anywhere else. It crossed our house (near Newark) a few hours before it hit NYC.
Actually the big snow band was moving more slowly when it went over NYC so it is not surprising that the snow totals there were the highest, it stayed over Manhattan ove 3 hours, and whipped through Boston in less than an hour.

What I want to know is why the forecast models did not forcast the QPF well--it was forecast to be around and inch, but over large areas of DE, NJ, PA, NY, and CT the actual QPF was between 1.75-2.00". Also want to know why this storm developed such a strong band, when many other storms of similar intensity or greater (pressures of 985 mb or less) have taken a similar track. without developing such a strong band.
we all knell to cyclones tunnels!

Cyclonebuster, regardless of whether or not your tunnels would stop storms, it is a proven fact that it would kill off millions of fish and other sea creatures (for proof setup an aquarium and mix in cold water). I don't know about you but i really enjoy seafood.
I just want to add one thing, but SSTs near New England are actally LOWER then normal. Just wanted to throw that out and see what cyclone thought. Only the gulf stream shows and hint of warmer then usual water, and that's a couple of hundred miles away. The labrodor current is in full effect near New England, keeping SSTs abonormally low.

Today's snow storm didnt have much to do with SST. In fact I heard from a few sources that the reason they thought this storm wouldnt be so bad is that SST were lower then normal which would make snow harder to form. That one heavy band of snow kinda through estimations for a loop. Without the heavy snowband I figure this is just a regular old Nor'Easter
Right and SST's were the only factor in Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.
Well atleast you didnt say yes, I was expecting you to. But I would say wind shear is just as, if not more, important then SST, at least during the height of the season. You can have 100 degree water everywhere, but if wind shear is too high you wont see any hurricanes.
You forgot to take into account the species that will not breed without a certain water temperature. Without baby fish, the species in time becomes extinct.
that's what I'm all about really Global Warming Effecting and Increasing Snowfalla nd Snowstorms in NE
It's possible Snowman. We could have winters that are 100% mild like parts of this winter. Who knows what the true effects of global warming will be. I can say they will differ all across the world. We have had no ice caps before, and we wont have them at all some time in the future; that's about the truest statement anyone has said.
It would still take several weeks for water temperature to return to normal, followed by several more weeks of waiting for eggs to hatch, followed by several more weeks of growing, followed by several more weeks of gradual cooling so you don't stun and kill the fish. My best estimate for total time needed would be about 2 months, in which time there could easily be a hurricane, or some other severe storm event.
109. haydn
On a funny note

I'm going to build a tunnel to the arctic and be completely evil. I'm going to destroy the Gulf stream so that no hurricanes will ever reach the caost. It will be renamed the Cold Stream. I will be called the master of the storm. I repeat "No more hurricanes."


We can talk about tunnels till the atomic clock at Denver stops and nothing is accomplished. Cyclonebuster, have you thought about experiments of your hypothesis? I know I'm being funny on purpose. I'm trying to make a point. Please experiment. All jokes aside, until disproven your idea is possible. We on this board would like to see some experimentation to back or disprove your hypothesis. I am not trying be offensive with these statements. I am curious to see if the idea works. Interloper conducted one. I do not consider one experiment disproving your hypothesis to be conclusive. Will you consider doing some experimemts and reporting your results?
111. haydn
Why the idea for tunnels? Are you in an area that is near the coast? Have gone through a hurricane?
Wow, Hayden~ Just a moment ago from "no more hurricanes" down was up there in Master's blog under the pick(highlighted in the link to the snow picture's blog). I thought buster had a reply. Totally agree, work on proving it.

Buster ya did nothing with all the different sst, currents & salinity info at the different depths. Looking at that seemed to disqualify some of the locations do to tunnel length to find cool water. & the different current rates from top to bottom? the affect?
114. haydn
One last comment,

The only tunnels I've built have been snow tunnels. That was in '78 in KY. Rough year for snow. Not enough snow here in SC to do the same thing. I can't imagine 26 inches in one storm. Heat up the hot chocolate and enjoy. Tonight the temp is suposed to be around 22. brrrrr Yes, I'm a wimp at cold temps. I am going to finish off my glass of green tea and be back tomorrow.

Anyone interested in discussing dome houses and hurricanes?

Now the last 1/2 of my last message is stuck in Dr Master's Blog...lol
116. haydn

I posted before I read your last comment. I have some questions. I'll catch up later.
The problem is the way you are going about it, cyclone. You say and act like these things already work and that they will end all bad things. If you want to the get support you want you have to present your idea in a different way. You cant present new and unual ideas as if is some sure thing. Then when people present real evidence to the contrary shrug it off, while showing hardly any proof to back yourself up.

It obvious no one can, or will help you right now on this board. It would be polite, and appropriate, to chime in now and then with something like "still looking for people to help me with my tunnel idea to weaken hurricanes. e-mail me to..." you get it. Instead you say that "my tunnels with stop hurricanes and tonrnadoes, increase rain but stop flooding rain, and stop global warming." Thats where you lose people. You dont add an "I think" or "they might" or something like that, or else you lose people right there.

You will get much easier acceptance and more constructive conversation if you come into it with a little more humility. Dont say you're sure they will work, as that doesnt convince anyone else since it's obvious you're no Met or Physics major. Say you have a great idea and need help proving it will work. I'm sure someone will contact you if they really believe in the idea and want to help.
Not to be offensive, but you dont portray yourself as a blackhole of knowledge. But like I was saying, unless you bring some substantial proof, like completed formulas something like that, you're probably not going to convince many people. Since you apparently need help doing this, stop trying to convince us and look for them. You just cant do it by going around saying it will do this or that, expecially saying it will stop global warming. Indirectly help lower greenhouse gasses yes; HELP stop the proposed human induced global warming, yes; but when you say "it will stop global warming" you look like a crackpot since you dont elaborate at all. Again, not trying to be offensive, simply giving the point of view of the rest of the world.
Sorry for your loss....................

cherish every moment the good lord has given me thus far.
And the LORD spake unto cyclonebuster, "Buildest thou the great tunnels in the oceans, and thou shalt have long life and shall multiply your number. So let it be written...so let it be done!"