Weather Extremes

How Will Rainstorm Affect California Precipitation Totals?

By: weatherhistorian, 8:10 PM GMT on February 26, 2014

How Will Rainstorm Affect California Precipitation Totals?

A couple of wet storms are now approaching the California coast and are expected to provide the first heavy rainfall of the season to southern portions of the state. Here is an update of where precipitation totals so far this water season (July 1-June 30) stand.

Below are two charts showing the seasonal (July 1-to date) precipitation for 11 major cities in California arranged from north (Eureka) to south (San Diego). The first table is where the situation stood as of January 15th and the second table as of yesterday, February 26th. As one can see the big rainstorm of February 7-9 improved the situation for the northern two-thirds of California but did not affect the southern third of the state where the drought conditions have markedly worsened since January. In fact, the Downtown Los Angeles site (which is the site used in the tables) has not seen a calendar day rainfall of 1” or greater since October 5, 2011. Almost two and a half years ago. So we can see how important this coming storm will be for the southern portion of California.

I’ll post an update of these figures next Monday after the storm(s) have cleared the area.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Mini Blog Precipitation Records


Heaviest Snow in 50 Years along Caspian Shore of Iran

By: weatherhistorian, 8:26 PM GMT on February 24, 2014

Heaviest Snow in 50 Years along Caspian Shore of Iran

This is an old story that was just brought to my attention by one of my blog readers, but on February 4-7 earlier this month a snowstorm buried the city of Rasht under 60 cm (23.6”) of snow. Heavy snow is not uncommon for most of mountainous Iran but Rasht lies at 7 meters (23 feet) below sea level on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea.

Up to two meters (79”) of snow apparently fell in some localities near the Caspian Sea on February 3-7 in Mazadaran and Gilan Provinces and media reports claimed that this was the heaviest snowfall for this region in 50 years. Photo from Tehran Times.

A relief map of Iran. Note Rasht’s location below sea level on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea.

The storm also brought an official 7 cm (2.8”) of snow to Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport (city official weather site). Much heavier amounts fell on the hills in the northern portion of the city. These amounts are not particularly uncommon for Tehran.

A photo of Tehran under a blanket of snow on February 3rd taken from Tochai Mountain. Officially the city received 7 cm (2.8”) of snowfall but this photo obviously shows a considerably greater quantity must have fallen in the elevated portions of the city. Photo Getty Images, photographer not identified.

The snowstorm left about 500,000 people without power at one point during the event. The snow was accompanied and followed by below normal temperatures with -6.7°C (19.9•F) in Tehran on February 4th (normal low for the date is 1.2°C/34.2°F) and as low as -23.8°C (-10.8°F) at Ghuchan (elevation 1286 m/4219) near Mashad in northeastern Iran and -23.2°C (-9.8°F) at Saghez (elev. 1493 m/4898’) in Kordestan Province in northwestern Iran. Although chilly, these temperatures are far from Iran’s record coldest temperature of -36.4°C (-33.5°F) set at Kheyrabad, Zanjan Province on January 29, 1997.

It was 42 years ago this same week (February 3-11) in 1972 that the deadliest blizzard known in modern world history struck the lower Caucasus and Iran. Some 4,000 people perished in northwestern, central, and southern Iran where entire villages were wiped out. Reports of snowdrifts over 7.9 meters (26 feet) and level accumulations of 3 meters (10 feet) were reported by the press. The city of Ardakan (near Esfahan) was hardest hit and there were no survivors in the nearby villages of Kakkan and Kumar.

KUDOS: Blog reader BaltimoreBrian for bringing this to my attention.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Mini Blog Snow Cold


Flooding Worst in Modern Records for Southern England

By: weatherhistorian, 9:26 PM GMT on February 21, 2014

Flooding Worst in Modern Records for Southern England

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has described the recent flooding in southern England as “biblical” following the wettest December-January period on record. The Thames River has been flowing at its highest level for longer than any period since 1883 according to news sources.

Submerged homes in an unidentified neighborhood in southern England. Getty images.

Some 5000 homes have been flooded in southern England with the Somerset region worst affected where 150 square miles of land have been submerged by floodwaters. Damage from the floods is now estimated to have surpassed US$1 billion (630 million pounds sterling).

Satellite images of Somerset before the flooding and after (as of January 23, 2014).

A map of the rivers in flood in southern England that also shows the location of Somerset where much of the worst flooding has occurred. This was the situation as of February 12th. Map courtesy of The Economist magazine.

The floods are a result of an almost continuous series of powerful Atlantic storms sweeping over the U. K. since early December. One of the strongest of these storms hit just last week bringing winds of over 75 mph to a wide area. The container ship Svendborg Maersk was overwhelmed by 30-foot seas and 60-knot winds in the Bay of Biscay and lost 520 full containers overboard. This was the greatest container loss on record for a single incident (discounting, of course, vessels that have sunk or vanished in the past).

There is no end in site to the bad weather for England as the current and forecast surface charts show:

Current (Friday February 21st) synoptic chart and forecast chart (for Monday February 24th) continue to show a parade of storms sweeping across the Atlantic and impacting the U.K. with more rain and wind. Maps for U.K. Met Office, Crown copyright.

Below is a map of where the flood situation stands as of Friday February 21st:

Severe flood warnings continue for the Somerset region in southeastern England and 43 flood warnings and 109 flood alerts are also currently posted for most of the south-central portions of the country. Map created by Shoothill and published by the Environment Agency. You can follow the flood situation and updates of the above map on the Environment Agency web site here.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Extra-tropical Storms Flood


January 2014 Global Weather Extremes Summary

By: weatherhistorian, 7:36 PM GMT on February 18, 2014

January 2014 Global Weather Extremes Summary

January featured cold waves and snowstorms across the eastern and Midwest portions of the U.S. while record warmth and drought affected California. A series of powerful extra-tropical storms brought record rainfall and high winds to the U.K. Extreme summer heat predominated in Australia and Argentina.

Below are some of the month’s highlights.


January saw extreme contrasts between the eastern half of the nation and the western half. It was one of the coldest and snowiest Januaries on record for portions of the Upper Midwest and the Southeast whereas it was the warmest and driest January on record for most of California. It was unusual mild in Alaska as well, in fact their 3rd warmest on record.

Temperature (top) and precipitation (bottom) state rankings for January 2014. Overall, the temperature extremes across the contiguous U.S. balanced themselves out, resulting in a near average month nationwide (just 0.1°F below average). However, the month ended up being the 5th driest January on record overall nationwide. Maps from NCDC/NOAA.

The biggest weather-wise news stories were the extreme drought and heat in California and the extreme cold and snow-ice storms in the Midwest and Southeast.

Snow rollers were observed over a wide area of Ohio and Pennsylvania following a snow and wind storm on January 27. This image was taken in Green Camp, Ohio. Photo posted on by Gordanian.

Atlanta was paralyzed by a 2-3” snowstorm on January 28th (although it was poor planning rather than the snowfall amounts that lead to the chaos) and Mt. Mitchell, North Carolina saw the temperature fall to -24°F (-31.1°C) on January 7th, its 2nd coldest temperature on record. It was the 3rd coldest January on record in Birmingham, Alabama and Macon, Georgia and between the 5th to 9th coldest such for most cities in the Upper Midwest. Meanwhile, in California, virtually no rain fell during what is normally the state’s wettest month of the year and Palmer Index (drought measurement) reached its lowest on record. Numerous all-time monthly heat records were set as well, see my blog for details about this. The same held true for central Alaska, see for details on the Alaskan heat wave. It was also unusually mild in Greenland where the Summit site failed to register a temperature below -50°C (-58°F) for perhaps its first time for a January.


Extreme heat continued for Argentina and southern Brazil. It was the warmest January on record for Sao Paulo, Brazil with an average of 25.0°C (77.0°F). The only hotter month on record was that of February 2003 when the average was 25.4°C (77.7°F). Buenos Aires, Argentina tied its warmest night on record on January 24th when the temperature fell to only 28.2°C (82.8°F). Rosario, Argentina fell to just 29.1°C (84.4°F), breaking its all-time max minimum.

Floods in Bolivia claimed at least 50 lives during the last week of the month following weeks of torrential rainfall. The worst affected regions were those around La Paz, Beni, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba.

Floods in Bolivia during late January left at least 50 dead. Photo from AP.


It was the wettest January on record for England and Wales and 3rd wettest for the U.K. as a whole. A series of powerful storms lashed the nation bringing wind gusts up to 106 mph at the low-elevation site of Needles Old Battery on the Isle of Wight on January 3rd. The warmest temperature observed in the U.K. during the month was 14.1°C (57.4°F) at Bude, Cornwall on January 5th and the coldest -6.6°C (20.1°F) at Altnaharra, Sutherland on the 5th as well. The heaviest 24-hour precipitation observed was 68.6 mm (2.70”) at Cluanie Inn, Highland on January 6-7.

Precipitation averaged over 200% of normal for much of southern England and Wales. Their wettest January on record. Map from U.K. Met Office and Crown copyright.

Iceland was exceptionally warm and for the first time on record some sites (two to be exact) never fell to freezing or below for the entire month: Vattarnes where the minimum was +0.4°C (32.7°F), and Stórhöfði in Vestmannaeyjar where the minimum was +0.3°C (32.5°F).

It was also a very mild month across most of Western Europe from the far north where temperatures averaged 10°C (18°F) above normal in the Svalbard archipelago of Arctic Norway to Spain where many days reached 25°F (77°F) or warmer including Murcia where the temperature peaked at 26.2°C (79.2°F) on January 26th. Amsterdam measured its warmest January temperature on record when it hit 14.0°C (57.2°F) on January 6th. Winter didn’t arrive until the last days of the month when cold and heavy snows finally began to fall in Eastern Europe.

Flooding rains in the French Riviera of up to 203 mm (8”) on January 18-19 caused flash floods in Saint- Tropez and in Provence resulting in the deaths of three people.


The hottest temperature observed in the northern hemisphere during January was 42.1°C (107.8°F) at Matam, Senegal on January 13th.

Cyclone Deliwe struck southwestern Madagascar on January 18th killing at least five and leaving hundreds homeless.

The track of Cyclone Deliwe January 18-20 that formed in the Mozambique Channel and then brushed the coast of Madagascar with high winds and torrential rains. Image from JRC.


Deadly flooding occurred in both the Philippines and Indonesia during mid-January leaving at least 20 dead in the Philippine regions of Compostella and Davao Oriental, and 13 dead on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Unusually cool weather affected portions of Southeast Asia for much of January. All-time record low temperatures were observed in southern Thailand at Koh Samui 17.8°C (64.0°F) and Nakhon Sri Thammarat 15.5°C (59.9°F), and in Malaysia with 16.1°C (61.0°F) at Chuping (but a short POR here back to just 1979). The central Philippines also saw some all-time record lows with 17.2°C (63.0°F) at Puerto Princessa and 14.2°C (57.6°F) at Ambulong. In Laos temperatures as low as -2.2°C (28.0°F) were observed at locations on the plateau of the Plain of Jars, the coldest readings observed since December 1999 when it reached -3.3°C (26.0°F).

The coldest temperature observed in the northern hemisphere and the world during the month was -58.5°C (-73.3°F) at Yarol in Russia’s Siberia on January 7th.


It was another blistering month for much of Australia with several intense periods of heat affecting virtually every state at one time or another. Perth, Western Australia recorded its warmest night in 116 years of records when the temperature fell to only 29.7°C (85.5°F) on January 12th.

Precipitation (top) and temperature (bottom) deciles for Australia during the month of January. Maps courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The hottest temperature measured in Australia, the southern hemisphere, and the world during January was 49.3°C (120.7°F) at Moomba Airport, South Australia on January 2nd and the coldest -4.3°C (24.3°F) at Perisher Valley, New South Wales. The greatest calendar day rainfall was 221.4 mm (8.72”) at Wollogorang, North Territory on January 15th.


It was a fairly cool month for New Zealand. The warmest temperature measured during January was 33.8°C (92.9°F) at Leeston (near Christchurch), South Island on January 19th and the coldest -2.7°C (27.1°F) at Waiouru, North Island on January 27th. The maximum daily rainfall was 220 mm (8.66”) at North Egmont, North Island on January 4th.

A powerful CAT 2 cyclone (named Ian) struck the Pacific Island of Tonga on January 11th destroying buildings and killing at least one person on Lifuka Island. Another cyclone (named June) sideswiped New Caledonia on January 20th lashing the island with torrential rains. The storm’s remnants went on to affect the North Island of New Zealand with high winds knocking out power to some localities.


The coldest temperature in the southern hemisphere during January was –48.0°C (-54.4°F) recorded at Dome Fuji on January 28th.

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

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather

Updated: 8:38 PM GMT on February 18, 2014


Second, and Heavier, Snowstorm Hits Tokyo Area. All-time snow depth records set

By: weatherhistorian, 8:27 PM GMT on February 14, 2014

Second, and Heavier, Snowstorm Hits Tokyo Area. All-time snow depth records set

As the eastern U.S. digs out of its biggest snowstorm of the season (see Jeff Masters blog on the subject) another snowstorm has hit Tokyo, Japan this Friday-Saturday (February 14-15), the 2nd big snow to hit the city in the span of just a week. Early reports say that 27 cm (10.6”) of snow has fallen in downtown Tokyo as of 2 a.m., February 15th local time. However, extraordinary snowfalls of up to 42" have fallen in sites in the far suburbs (50 mile radius) of the city, doubling previous all-time records.

This generalized map of average January snowfall in Japan illustrates how rare it is that more than 10 cm (4”) falls anywhere south of Sendai at low elevations along the eastern shoreline of Honshu Island. Map from Teikoku’s ‘Complete Atlas of Japan’.

Snowstorm of February 8-9

Today’s 27 cm was about the same amount that was measured during the storm of February 8th last week which was 22-27 cm (there are discrepencies in the METARS for that day), which apparently may have been the heaviest snowfall in the downtown area for 45 years (since 30 cm/11.8” fell on March 12, 1969). During the February 8-9 event up to 50 cm (20”) was reported in some areas of greater Tokyo. Notable snowfalls during last week’s (February 8-9) storm included 35 cm (13.8”) at Sendai (about 200 miles north of Tokyo on the eastern coast), its heaviest snowfall since 41 cm (16.1”) on February 9, 1936, Ishinomaki (about 20 miles up the coast from Sendai) picked up 38 cm (15.0”), its deepest since 43 cm (16.9”) on February 17, 1923, and Chiba (across Tokyo Bay from Tokyo) with 33 cm (13”), its deepest fall on record but the POR only goes back to 1966 at that site.

Snowstorm of February 14-15: Greatest Snowstorm on Record for Tokyo Region

It is quite rare to have heavy snowfalls east of the mountain ranges on Honshu Island (as the map above illustrates) and in downtown Tokyo especially. The deepest snow on record for the city was 46 cm (18.1”) measured on February 8, 1883 (this is a depth record, not necessarily a single snowstorm record). So with the 27 cm (10.6”) that has fallen today, following a similar amount just six days ago, this is truly an exceptional event.

A couple stroll through a park in downtown Tokyo at the beginning of the Valentine’s Day snowstorm. Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi.

Unlike the storm of February 8-9, this latest storm has apparently broken some all-time snowfall records at other locations in the greater Tokyo region. These include 112 cm (44.0”) at Kofu City, Yamashi Prefecture (50 miles west of Tokyo) of which 106 cm (41.7”) fell in just 24 hours. This has obliterated the previous record of 49 cm (19.3”) set on January 15, 1998 (POR goes back to 1894!). Maebashi (50 miles NW of Tokyo) picked up a record 73 cm (28.7”)--71 cm of which fell in just 24 hours-- surpassing the previous record of 37 cm (14.6”) set on February 26, 1945 (POR to 1896). Chichibu (30 miles NW of Tokyo) received 98 cm (38.6”)--92 cm (36.2") in 24 hours-- smashing the old record of 58 cm (22.8”) set on February 14, 1928 (POR since 1926), and Kawaguchiko (a mountainous site 50 miles west of Tokyo) ended up with an astonishing 112 cm (44.1") cm (56.3”)--of which 102 cm (40.2") fell in 24 hours) surpassing their former record of 89 cm (35.0”) set on January 15, 1998 (POR since 1933). Many other sites also broke their all-time records for single storm and 24-hour totals. The margins of the new record snowfalls over the previous records for the sites listed above are simply staggering.

Needless to say, the heavy snowfall in the greater Tokyo region has resulted in many flight cancellations and delays of commuter rail lines. The Nissan Motor plant in Yokohama (just south of Tokyo) asked its workers to go home early on Friday, an almost unheard of event.

The storm has wound down today (Saturday, February 15th in Japan) so the snowfall statistics are still preliminary.

KUDOS: Japanese climate expert Mr. Yusuke Uemura for the snowfall statistics for both storms.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian


Updated: 9:16 AM GMT on February 15, 2014


Record Warmth in Siberia, Brazil and Cold in U.S. Upper Midwest

By: weatherhistorian, 8:29 PM GMT on February 12, 2014

Record Warmth in Siberia, Brazil and Cold in U.S. Upper Midwest

In contrast to the continuing near-record cold temperatures in the U.S. Upper Midwest, record warmth has been occurring in portions of Siberia and Brazil. Here are the details.

Record cold continues in upper Midwest

Duluth, Minnesota finally snapped its record longest stretch of 0°F (-17.8°C) or below days today (February 12th) when the temperature this morning fell to ‘only’ 10°F (-12.2°C). For 23 days from January 19th to February 11th the minimum temperature fell to zero or below. This surpassed the previous record of 22 days set in 1936 (January 17-February 7) and also in 1963 (January 10th to January 31st). Lake Superior is now 87.1% iced over, its greatest extent since the winter of 1996 and closing in on the record 94.7% during the winter of 1979.

Lake Superior ice thickness and concentration as of February 12th. Only a few small portions of the lake remain clear of ice cover. Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, NOAA.

Chicago fell below zero again Wednesday morning (January 12th) making this the 22nd zero or below day this winter tying 4th place (with the winter of 1981-1982) for the most such on record. Here’s where the ranking stands now:

Table provided by NWS-Chicago.

Meanwhile on the other side of the North Pole in Siberia…

All-time record monthly warm temperatures have been observed at many sites in the Siberian states of Yakutia and Kamchatka. In what is normally the coldest permanently inhabited place on earth, Oymyakon (various spellings), saw its temperature rise to a February record high of -12.5°C (9.5°F) on February 9th (previous record was -15.3°C/4.5°F in February 2010). The normal high temperature at this time of the year should be around -42°C (-51°F). Oymyakon also holds the world record (along with Verkhoyansk) for the coldest temperature ever measured on earth at an inhabited site: -67.7°C (-90°F) set on February 6, 1933 (almost exactly 80 years ago).

Other all-time monthly records have been set at:

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski: 5.3°C (41.5°F) on Feb. 3 (previous record 5.0°C/41.0°F on Feb. 19, 1986)

Pevek: 5.6°C (42.1°F) on Feb. 8 (previous record 1.4°C/34.5°F on Feb. 28, 2008)

Magadan: 3.2°C (37.8°F) on Feb. 8 (old record 2.5°C/36.5°F in February 1968

Omolon: 2.9°C (37.2°F) on Feb. 7 (old record -0.6°C/30.9°F on Feb. 1, 1985). This is the first time this site has ever risen above freezing during the month of February.

Okhotsk: 2.0°C (35.6°F) on Feb. 7 (old record 1.9°C/35.4°F in February 1985

Keyes: 3.7°C (38.7°F) on Feb. 6 (old record 3.0°C/37.4°F on Feb. 28, 1982).

A map of the maximum temperatures observed (C°) during the period of February 7-10 in northeastern Siberia and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Daily maximum temperatures at this time of the year in these regions should range between -20°C (-4°F) to -40C° (-40°F). Map courtesy of Michael Theusner at Klimahaus, Bremerhaven, Germany.

Record heat wave and drought in Sao Paulo, Brazil

The official weather station for Sao Paulo (Brazil’s largest city) Mirante do Santana has recorded its warmest January on record with a daily average of 25.0°C (previous January record was 24.6°C in 1998) and its maximum average of 31.9°C (89.4°F) was the warmest such for any month surpassing February 1984. This was the 2nd warmest month (any month) on record for average temperature, surpassed only by the 25.4°C of February 2003. Since January the temperatures in Sao Paulo have shot up even higher Here are the daily highs observed so far:

Feb. 1: 35.9°C (96.6°F)
Feb. 2: 34.5°C (94.1°F)
Feb. 3: 35.0°C (95.0°F)
Feb. 4: 34.7°C (94.5°F)
Feb. 5: 35.5°C (95.9°F)
Feb. 6: 35.2°C (95.4°F)
Feb. 7: 36.4°C (97.5°F) (this is just shy of the all-time record of 37.0°/98.6°F set in January 1999)
Feb. 8: 36.3°C (97.3°F)
Feb. 9: 36.1°C (97.0°F)
Feb. 10: 34.7°C (94.5°F)
Feb. 11: 33.3°C (91.9°F)

The normal daily high temperature for both January and February is about 28°C (82°F).

Even hotter temperatures prevailed in other locations in southern Brazil such as the 41.2°C (106.2°F) at Indaial this past week. Unofficial temperatures as high as 42°-43°C (107.6°-109.4°F) have been reported from locations in Rio Grande do Sul and Catarina States. Brazil’s hottest temperature on record remains 44.6°C (112.3°F) at Orleans, Santa Catarina State on January 6, 1963. Sao Paulo’s main reservoir is apparently now less than 25% of its capacity, a ten-year low.

Cooler weather and some rainfall is now on the horizon and expected to bring some relief to both the heat and drought.

KUDOS: Maximiliano Hererra and Michael Theusner for information about Siberian heat records and Loepa for Brazilian data.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Cold Heat

Updated: 9:09 AM GMT on February 13, 2014


Heavy Rain Makes Dent in California Drought

By: weatherhistorian, 9:26 PM GMT on February 10, 2014

Heavy Rain Makes Dent in California Drought

An ‘atmospheric river’ of Pacific moisture washed over the northern half of California this past Thursday through Sunday (February 6-9). It was the first (and strongest) such event since March of 2012. Here are some details of the storm precipitation and how it has impacted the deficits of the current rainfall season.

PRECIP UPDATES February 11th Some truly amazing amounts of rain fell over the coastal mountains north of San Francisco and also in the northern and central portions of the Sierra. In Sonoma County, just north of San Francisco, 13.98” of precipitation was observed at Guerneville over the course of February 6-9 and 20.17" at Monte Rio in Sonoma County. In Marin County, 20.86” fell at the Middle Peak RAWS site (elev. 2,300’) on Mt. Tamalpais and, at the low-elevation site of Kentfield, 11.71” fell. The top amount in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco was 9.58” at Felton. In Napa County 13.56” fell on Mt. St. Helena (at about 4,000’) and in the town of Napa (near sea level) 8.11” accumulated. The Oakland Hills saw as much as 8.14” on Bald Peak. My home gauge here in the city of Oakland (at 314’) picked up 5.16”, the greatest storm total since 5.59” on March 13-16, 2012.

In the Sierra heavy precipitation was observed in the hills and mountains north of and including the Yosemite Park area. Some signature amounts of 16.60" were measured at Four Trees and 15.56" at Huysink and 6-8” totals were common for the entire Northern and Central Sierra. What has been unfortunate is that the snowline remained very high during the entire storm period, generally above 8,000’. Tahoe City (on the shores of Lake Tahoe, elevation 6,229’) received 6.20” of precipitation of which only 3” fell as snow. A site 3 miles SSW of South Lake Tahoe picked up 10.76" of rain. Above 8,000’ some prodigious snowfall was reported at some of the ski resort summit locations, like the 82” Kirkwood Resort claims to have fallen at their summit location at 9,300’. Squaw Valley says they picked up 38” in 24 hours and a 66” storm total at the 8,200’ level of their resort. Homewood Ski resort upper mountain picked up 63", and Alpine Meadows 61". Mt Rose ski resort in Nevada received 51" at their 8,260' level.

The latest graphic from the California Snow Survey Department shows a nice little tick up over the past few days in Sierra snow water content, enough to finally get slightly ahead of the record dry 1976-1977 season:

Sierra snow water content as of February 10th. The top graph is for the northern Sierra region, middle graph for the central Sierra, and bottom graph for the southern Sierra. California Department of Water Resources.

At lower elevations a big improvement in the seasonal precipitation deficits has taken place at a few locations in northern California. Santa Rosa has seen its % of normal precipitation to date go from 12% on February 5th to 40% today (February 10th).

Below is a table of how the situation has improved across the state over the past five days:

Change between February 5th and February 9th in % of normal precipitation to date for select California cities. Table produced by Jan Null of Golden Gate Weather Services.

What is clear from the table above is that the rainfall has not had much impact on most of the central and southern portions of the state where the worst drought conditions prevail.

Below is a map of California with the locations of the cities in the table above. Compare this to the latest drought monitor map and you can see that the region under ‘exceptional’ drought conditions (as of February 4th) have not been the prime beneficiary of the recent storm rainfall. It will be interesting to see what the new drought report due out on Thursday (Feb. 11) shows.

Since this was the first significant rainfall of the winter season, the ground has soaked the water up like a sponge and thus the rain will, at last, turn the brown hills green and put an end to the ridiculous mid-winter red flag warnings of December and January. How much of the precipitation has run off into the major reservoirs is not yet clear (as of Monday Feb. 10). We can, however, see a nice little uptick at one site, Folsom Lake:

Jeff Masters has another interesting graphic of the Folsom Lake water level in his latest post.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extra-tropical Storms Drought Precipitation Records

Updated: 7:08 AM GMT on February 12, 2014


The Amazing January 2014 Heat Wave in California

By: weatherhistorian, 9:10 PM GMT on February 07, 2014

The Amazing January 2014 Heat Wave in California

Although the weather news for California has (rightly) been focused on the enduring drought, with January likely to go into the books as the state’s driest on record, little mention has been made about the extraordinary warmth of the month as well. In fact, the maximum temperature anomalies were unparalleled for many locations and several all-time monthly heat records were broken. Here are a few examples.


The average maximum temperature for the past month in Sacramento was 66.1°, crushing the former record for such of 62.1° set in January 1976. Keep in mind that temperature records for downtown Sacramento date back to 1877. The all-time January record high of 79° on January 24th smashed the previous record for such by a whopping 5°: 74° set on January 31, 1976. Daily record highs were set for 12 of the month’s 31 days:

No other month in Sacramento weather records has set so many daily record highs in a single month.

San Francisco

San Francisco Airport (POR since 1927) had an average maximum temperature of 64.1°, a record and some 7.6° above normal, one of the most anomalous monthly temperature departures on record for the site. Seven days observed record daily highs with two of them all-time monthly highs: 73° on January 15th and 16th (previous record was 72° set on three previous occasions including on January 14th, 2014). Amazingly, the downtown site of San Francisco (with a temperature POR back to 1874) did not see any days ranking in the top 10 warmest thanks to cool breezes coming trough the Golden Gate and off the bay.

Other California sites that observed all-time monthly heat records

Below is a selection of sites across the state (arranged from north to south) that recorded their all-time monthly record high temperatures for January. This data is from the NCDC’s NOW DATA. Some of the POR’s appear very short (like Oakland). However, checking the actual entire POR’s for these sites, the records set in January 2014 still stand.

Map of California showing locations of the cities listed below.


What is amazing is that some locations not only broke their all-time record highs for the month in January 2014, but also saw their 2nd and 3rd places for such.

The warmest temperature observed in the state during January appears to be 91° set at several sites, the most northerly being San Luis Obispo. This was also their all-time record besting the 88° set on January 17, 1976 (POR since 1893 at SLO Polytec).

The Drought Situation

As I write this, a major winter storm—a so-called ‘Pineapple Express’-is closing in on the northern two-thirds of the state. Up to 10” of rain is expected to fall in the normally favored locations in the coastal mountain ranges, with a general 1-3” soaking for the lower elevations and the metropolitan San Francisco region. If the forecasts verify over the weekend, this will be the first significant rainstorm to strike the area since mid-December 2012 (and the wettest since mid-March 2012, when the last ‘pineapple’ express’ made landfall in California.)

I will update the impact of this weekend’s storm on the precipitation deficits on Monday.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Heat

Updated: 9:14 PM GMT on February 07, 2014


Wild Winter Weather Around the World

By: weatherhistorian, 8:26 PM GMT on February 05, 2014

Wild Winter Weather Around the World

Heavy snow and ice storms have pounded the U.S., southeastern Europe, and Central Asia. Topeka, Kansas measured its 3rd snowiest calendar day on record with 12.9” on February 4th. Amazing ice and snow accumulations have struck Slovenia, Austria, and northern Italy where flooding at low elevations has resulted in deadly flooding.

U.S. winter storm ‘Nika’

The winter storm designated Nika by The Weather Channel has affected over 100 million Americans over a wide swath of the country bringing heavy snow and damaging ice accumulations. The ice has been particularly disruptive for the residents of Pennsylvania where at one point on Wednesday (February 5) over 700,000 people were without power.

Areal coverage of winter storm warnings (purple) and advisories (red) from winter storm Nika February 4-5. Map from The Weather Channel.

Top icing accumulations have been around 0.5” in portions of Arkansas, Kentucky (where .75” accumulated in Marion), W. Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania and snowfall up to 15” in Kansas. Top snowfall reports by state have been:

Kansas 15.5” at Eskridge

New York 15.0” at Waverly and Bainbridge

Pennsylvania 15.0” at Sayre 2.8 WNW

Massachusetts 13.2” at Lunenburg

New Hampshire 12.3" at New Ipswich

Vermont 12.0" at Tunbridge

Connecticut 12.0” in Torrington

Missouri 12.0” at Weston

Indiana 10.1” at Claypool 1.2 E

New Jersey 9.8” at Bethlehem and Montague Townships

Maine 9.6" at Standish 3 E

Illinois 9.0” in Watseka 6.9 WNW

Rhode Island 9.1" at West Gloucester

Ohio 8.7” at Anna 3.1 NNW

Oklahoma 7.0” at Fort Supply 4.2 SE

Nebraska 6.5” at Jewell

Iowa 6.0” in Red Oak and Farmington 3.5 W

Arkansas 6.0” at Bruno 3.1 SSE

Texas 6.0” at Lipscomb

Incredible Ice Storm in Slovenia, Heavy snow in Southern Alps

As bad as the icing has been in portions of the U.S., it pales in comparison to the incredible accumulations that have paralyzed Slovenia in southeastern Europe. Ice accretions up to (and perhaps over) 3” have toppled power lines and left 25% of the countries homes without power. Authorities say 40% of the country’s Alpine forests have been decimated. Southern Austria was also hard hit.

Incredible ice accumulations of up to 3” have encased everything in Postojna, Slovenia the past few days. In the capital city of Ljubljana 33 mm (1.3”) of ice accumulated. Curiously, January was the warmest on record there. Photo from Reuters News Agency.

Video 1. A drive through the ice storm-devastated roads of Slovenia on February 4, 2014. The tree damage is astonishing. Thanks to wunderground member aislinnpaps for posting this.

At higher elevations amazing snowfalls, said to be on the order of a once in 75-100 year event magnitude, have occurred in southern Austria and northern Italy. In Austria Dellach saw 92 cm (36.2”) of snowfall in 24 hours February 1st and 116 cm (45.7”) in 48 hours. Kotschach picked up 102 cm (40.2”) in 24 hours and Lienz saw 71 cm (28.0”) in 24 hours and 96 cm (37.8”) in 48 hours. Lower elevations in Italy have seen flooding rains where Rome picked up 240 mm (9.45”) in the four-day period of January 31-February 3. At least four lives have been lost due to flooding in central Italy so far.

The Arno River in the Italian city of Pisa is threatening to overflow its banks as a result of days of heavy rainfall. Photo from AFP (Agence France Press).

Blizzard conditions have also paralyzed southeastern Romania including Bucharest. Even in normally temperate Azerbaijan up to 1 meter (39”) of snow has fallen at Lankaran on the shores of the Caspian Sea south of Baku.

Record cold and snow in Central Asia

Further to the east a cold wave and snow have enveloped portions of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. An all-time record low temperature of -21.7°C (-7.1°F) was measured at Termez, Uzbekistan on February 3rd and even Mazar el Sharif in Afghanistan (at a low elevation of just 350 m/1,150’) reached -19.0°C (-2.2°F) with a 23 cm (9”) snow accumulation. Normally mild Kandahar has seen a significant snow accumulation (about 5-10 cm/2-4”), said to be the heaviest in 30 years. In Tajikistan, news reports claim 80 cm (31”) of snow fell at one (unidentified) location in just “a few hours”. The record cold and snows are only notable for the low elevations at which they are occurring since, of course, cold and snow are common in the higher elevations of these nations.

A rare heavy snowfall dropped 5-10 cm (2-4”) of snow on the restive southern Afghan city of Kandahar this past week. Photographer not identified.

KUDOS: Thanks to Michael Theusner for Austrian snow data and Maximiliano Herrera for information on Central Asia.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Cold Snow Flood

Updated: 7:17 PM GMT on February 06, 2014


January Record Wet Month for South-central England, Record Dry for California

By: weatherhistorian, 8:09 PM GMT on February 03, 2014

January Record Wet Month for South-central England, Record Dry for California

January was the wettest winter month on record for south-central England and the driest January on record for California. A persistent powerful jet stream across the North Atlantic was responsible for the former and a persistent powerful ridge of high pressure over the Eastern Pacific responsible for the latter. Here are some of the details.

The Radcliffe Meteorological Station at Oxford University in the U.K. measured 146.9 mm (5.78”) of precipitation this past January, the wettest winter month ever observed here since records began in 1767, one of the longest POR’s for precipitation in the world. The previous January record was 138.7 mm (5.46”) in January 1852 and the wettest winter month was 143.3 mm (5.64”) in December 1914. Other sites in southern England that have also endured their wettest January on record include:

Reading with 137 mm (5.39”), former record 129 mm (5.08”) in 1995

Dorcester with 254 mm (10.00”), former record 213 mm (8.39”) in 1906

Bournemouth with 248 mm (9.76”), former record I’m not sure of.

Precipitation departures from normal for the U.K. as of January 28th. A final monthly report will be issued by the U.K. Met Office on February 6th. Map courtesy of the U.K. Met Office and copyright of the Crown.

A graph of January rainfall for southeast and central England from 1910-2014. Graphic courtesy of the U.K. Met office.

Incessant rainfall and a series of storms have been lashing the British Isles since early December resulting in some of the worst flooding seen for decades in portions of southern England. The region around Somerset resembles a vast lake. At least 150 homes have been flooded. More stormy weather is forecast for this week.

British military units have been active in flood rescue efforts in the worst affected regions such as Somerset. Photo credited to SWNS.

Warmest and Driest January on record for California

Jan Null of Golden Gate Weather Services has compiled a preliminary short list (below) outlining some of the weather statistics for some major cities in California this past January. Although the average maximum temperatures have smashed the previous records for such, it is not yet clear if the overall average temperatures have been record-breakers, since the dry air resulted in some very cool nights mitigating the overall temperature averages. (NOTE: the temperature figures for Los Angles appear to be incorrect—see chart following list below).

Jan Null’s preliminary list of some California January temperature and precipitation data. Jan Null, Golden Gate Weather Services.

Some of the January climate statistics for southwestern California complied by the NWS office at Oxnard.

I’ll have a more comprehensive overview of the drought and January warmth in California once the information becomes available.

KUDOS: Stephen Burt for the U.K. precipitation data and Jan Null for the California information.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Precipitation Records

Updated: 2:29 AM GMT on February 04, 2014


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

Ad Blocker Enabled

Weather Extremes

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.