Thanksgiving Nor-Easter

Unwelcome Nor’easter Poised to Snarl Wednesday Travel

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:44 PM GMT on November 25, 2014

After basking in record warm temperatures in the 60s and 70s on Monday, the Northeast U.S. is bracing for a Wednesday winter onslaught, as a significant Nor’easter will bring heavy snows to the roads at the same time that millions of people hit the roads in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday. The unwelcome storm will form off the coast of South Carolina Tuesday night and track north-northeastward, parallel to the coast, on Wednesday. Snow will begin in the Southern Appalachians late Tuesday night and spread northeastwards on Wednesday. Areas to the east of the I-95 corridor will start off with heavy rain, but the rain will transition to wet, heavy snow on Wednesday afternoon as cold air spills southwards along the coast. Little or no accumulation is likely in Washington D.C., which hit a pleasant 74°F on Monday. The story is different, though, in Philadelphia, where a Winter Storm Watch for 2 – 3 inches of snow was posted on Monday–even as the temperature rose to a record high for the date of 72°F. Higher snowfall amounts of 4 – 8″ are possible in New York City, which also experienced a record high on Monday–64°F at Kennedy Airport. Boston will also be severely impacted beginning late Wednesday afternoon, with snows of 4 – 6″ possible. Portland, Maine, which hit a record 63°F on Monday, is under a Winter Storm Watch for 4 – 8″ of snow. The heaviest snows will come Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday evening in the big cities, and may take some time to accumulate on the roads due to stored heat from the warm temperatures of the past few days. Traveling earlier in the day Wednesday is definitely recommended if you have the flexibility, as road conditions will steadily deteriorate through the afternoon into evening. The worst conditions will be experienced inland from the coast, where widespread snow amounts of 6 – 12 inches are likely along a swath from Northeast Pennsylvania and Northwest New Jersey into Maine, including Hartford, Connecticut and central Massachusetts cities like Worcester. As usual with a storm of this nature, small changes in the forecast track of the system can cause large changes in the amount of snowfall near the coast, so stay tuned to the latest forecasts.

Figure 1. Snowfall forecast for the New York City area made on Tuesday morning, November 25, 2014. Image credit: NWS New York City.

Figure 2. Snowfall forecast for the Boston area made on Tuesday morning, November 25, 2014. Image credit: NWS Boston.

Figure 3. Snowfall forecast for the Philadelphia area made on Tuesday morning, November 25, 2014. Image credit: NWS Philadelphia.

Air travel will be heavily impacted
Heavy rains will cause flight delays at the large airports of the Northeast beginning Wednesday morning, and these delays will increase on Wednesday afternoon as the snow flies. All of the major airlines are allowing people to change their tickets for free at the airports expected to be affected by Wednesday’s storm; here is one such list of cities from United:

Albany, NY (ALB)
Allentown, PA (ABE)
Atlantic City, NJ (ACY)
Baltimore, MD (BWI)
Bangor, ME (BGR)
Boston, MA (BOS)
Buffalo, NY (BUF)
Burlington, VT (BTV)
Harrisburg, PA (MDT)
Hartford, CT (BDL)
Manchester, NH (MHT)
New York/Newark, NJ (EWR – Liberty)
New York, NY (JFK)
New York, NY (LGA – LaGuardia)
Philadelphia, PA (PHL)
Portland, ME (PWM)
Providence, RI (PVD)
Rochester, NY (ROC)
Syracuse, NY (SYR)
Washington, DC (DCA – National)
Washington, DC (IAD – Dulles)
White Plains, NY (HPN)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA (AVP)


Northeast to be Hit by Potent Storm NEMO

I guess, the folks in the Northeast will not need to find Nemo.  It seems Nemo is finding them:

Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog

Historic Nor’easter poised to slam Boston and the Northeast U.S.
Posted by: Dr. Jeff Masters, 3:43 PM GMT on February 07, 2013 +18

A potentially historic Nor’easter is brewing for the Northeast U.S., where blizzard watches are up for much of eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The storm, dubbed “Nemo” by the Weather Channel, is expected to bring heavy snows of 1 – 2 feet, coastal wind gusts over hurricane force, and moderate to major coastal flooding. During the peak of the storm, Friday night into Saturday morning, snowfall rates of 2 – 3″ per hour can be expected. These intense bursts of snow may be accompanied by lightning and thunder. The cites of Boston, Hartford, Providence, Portland, and Burlington are all likely to get more than a foot of snow, and two feet of snow will probably fall along a swath from the western suburbs of Boston to Southwest Maine. With the Nor’easter generating these heavy snows expected to bomb out with a central pressure of 972 – 976 mb, the rapid flow of air around this low pressure center will generate ferocious sustained winds near 50 mph at the coast, with wind gusts in excess of hurricane force–74 mph. The combination of heavy snow and high winds will make travel extremely dangerous or impossible, with near-zero visibility in white-out conditions. Total snowfall from the storm is likely to rank in the top ten for Boston since weather observations began at Logan Airport in the 1950s. Here is the current top-10 list for Logan Airport:

1. February 17-18, 2003 27.5″
2. February 6-7, 1978 27.1″
3. February 24-27, 1969 26.3″
4. March 31-April 1, 1997 25.4″
5. January 22-23, 2005 22.5″
6. January 20-21, 1978 21.4″
7. March 3-5, 1960 19.8″
8. February 16-17, 1958 19.4″
9. February 8-10, 1994 18.7″
10. January 7-8, 1996 18.2″
10. December 20-22, 1975 18.2″
10. December 26-27, 2010 18.2″

Figure 1. Predicted wind speeds in knots at 7 am EST Saturday, February 9, 2013, from the 00Z February 7, 2013 run of the European (ECMWF) model. The model is predicting sustained winds of 50 knots (57.5 mph) will affect Cape Cod and Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. Multiply by 1.15 to convert knots to mph.

Serious coastal flooding expected in Massachusetts
The high winds from the storm will drive a damaging storm surge of 2 – 4′ along the coast of Eastern Massachusetts Friday night and Saturday morning. Of particular concern is the flooding that will occur during the Saturday morning high tide cycle, as that is the time of the new moon, which will bring the highest tide of the month. The ocean’s height in Boston varies naturally by about ten feet between low tide and high tide, so it matters greatly when the storm surge arrives, relative to the tidal cycle. Thus we speak of the “storm tide”–how how the water gets above the high tide mark, due to the combination of the storm surge and the tide. During Hurricane Sandy, on October 29, 2012, a potentially very damaging storm surge of 4.57′ hit Boston, but arrived near low tide, so the water level during the peak surge did not rise above the normal high tide mark. As of noon EST on February 7, 2013, the latest storm surge forecast from the GFS model is calling for a storm tide of about 3.4′ above high tide (MHHW, Mean Higher High Water) on Saturday morning, which would cause only minor flooding in Boston. This would be the 10th highest water level on record in Boston since tide gauge records began in 1921. According to former NHC storm surge expert Mike Lowry, who now works for TWC, the official top 5 storm tides at the Boston tide gauge, relative to MHHW, are:

1. 4.82′ – February 7, 1978 (Blizzard of 1978)
2. 3.92′ – January 2, 1987
3. 3.86′ – October 30, 1991 (Perfect Storm)
4. 3.76′ – January 28, 1979
5. 3.75′ – December 12, 1992

More serious flooding is expected in Cape Cod Bay to the southeast of Boston, where the northeast winds from the storm will pile up a higher storm surge. A storm surge of 3 – 4′ is predicted from Scituate to Sandwich Harbor Saturday morning. The surge will be accompanied by battering waves 20′ feet high, and major flooding and coastal erosion is expected. Major coastal flooding is also expected on the east end of Nantucket Island.

Figure 2. Coastal flooding hazards during the high tide cycle on Saturday morning, February 9, 2013, as predicted at 12 pm EDT Thursday, February 7, 2013, by the NWS Boston.

I’ll have an update on the storm Friday morning.

Jeff Masters


Winter Storm Athena Heading for East Coast

First Hurricane Sandy, now Winter Storm Athena for the Eastern U.S.

Published: 2:57 PM GMT on November 07, 2012

Winter Storm Warnings are up for Southwest New Jersey, Northern Delaware, and Southeast Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, PA, where Winter Storm Athena is expected to drop 3 – 5″ of snow today through Thursday morning. Slushy accumulations of up to 1″ are likely in Baltimore, and non-accumulating snow will fall as far south as Washington, DC. Athena, the season’s first Nor’easter and first winter storm to get a name under The Weather Channel’s new naming system, is spreading rain and high winds into Southern New Jersey and Eastern Long Island, NY this morning. Winds at buoy 44025, about 40 miles offshore from the coast of Central New Jersey, reached 40 mph, gusting to 49 mph, with a significant wave height of 14′, at noon EST. Winds at Nantucket, MA have gusted as high as 54 mph this morning. Athena is building a storm surge that has already reached 2.2′ at Atlantic City and 1.8′ at New York City as of noon EST. A storm surge of 2 – 3.5′ is likely along the section of coast most heavily damaged by Sandy’s storm surge, and battering waves up to 20′ high will cause moderate beach erosion along much of the New Jersey and New York shoreline. The storm surge will cause minor to moderate flooding during this afternoon’s high tide cycle near 1 pm EST, and again at the next high tide, near 1 am EST Thursday morning. Fortunately, the high tides this week will be some of the lowest of the month, since we are midway between the new moon and full moon. Wind gusts from Athena will likely reach 50 mph along the coasts of New Jersey and Southern Long Island, NY, and could hit 60 mph on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I expect that Athena’s winds, rains, and wet, heavy snows will cause up to 50,000 new power outages today. As of early Wednesday morning, 676,000 customers were still without power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy (down from a peak of 8.5 million customers.)

Figure 1. Winter Storm Athena as seen at 9:01 am EST November 7, 2012. Image credit: NOAA/GSFC.

Figure 2. Predicted storm surge at Sandy Hook, NJ, for Winter Storm Athena, from the experimental Extratropical Storm Surge model, run by NOAA’s Meteorological Development Laboratory. This model used winds from this morning’s 6Z (1 am EDT) run of the GFS model. The peak storm surge (yellowish-brown line) is predicted to be 3.4′, occurring Wednesday evening. High tide (green line) occurs near 1 pm Wednesday afternoon, resulting in a peak storm tide of approximately 7.2′ around 1 pm Wednesday (black line). For comparison, Sandy delivered a 8.6′ storm surge to Sandy Hook before their tide gauge failed, with the storm tide reaching 13.2′ above MLLW (Mean Lower Low Water.)

The decision to name Athena
The Weather Channel announced in October that they would begin naming winter storms this year, in an effort to aid in raising awareness and reduce the risks the public faces. One of the main criteria for naming a storm is its impact on populated areas; the meteorology of the storm may not get it named, if the storm doesn’t affect a populated area. If Hurricane Sandy had not devastated the region of coast being affected by today’s Winter Storm Athena, it may not have gotten a name. With so many people still under recovery efforts even well inland, the combination of heavy, wet snow and wind prompted the decision to name Athena. The models have been trending towards more cold air getting pulled into this system, so it is possible Athena could drop heavier snows than currently advertised. The National Weather Service will not be referring to today’s Nor’easter as “Athena”. They put out this internal directive: “The NWS does not use named winter storms in our products. Please refrain from using the term Athena in any of our products.”

Here are the peak wind gusts from Athena as of 11 am EST on Wednesday, November 7, 2012:

Jeff Masters


First Sandy, and Now, A Nor-easter

A moderate-strength Nor’easter on Wednesday looking increasingly likely

Published: 7:38 PM GMT on November 03, 2012

Storm-weary U.S. residents pounded by Superstorm Sandy may have a new storm to contend with on Wednesday: an early-season Nor’easter is expected to impact the mid-Atlantic and New England with strong winds and heavy rain. Our two top models, the European (ECMWF) and GFS (run by the U.S. National Weather Service), are now in agreement on both the track and intensity of the storm. The storm will move off the coast of South Carolina/Georgia on Tuesday evening. Once over the warm waters off the coast, the low will intensify, spreading heavy rains of 2 – 3″ over coastal North Carolina on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. The storm will accelerate to the north-northeast on Wednesday and pull in cold air from Canada, intensifying into a medium-strength Nor’easter with a central pressure of 984 mb by Wednesday evening. The European model, which did an exemplary job forecasting Hurricane Sandy, is slower, predicting the Nor’easter’s highest winds will begin affecting New Jersey on Wednesday night. The GFS model is about 12 hours faster, predicting the strongest winds will arrive on Wednesday morning. A 12-hour period of strong winds of 40 – 45 mph will likely affect the coast from Maryland to Massachusetts, accompanied by a swath of 2 – 3″ of rain. The heaviest rains will likely fall over Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The storm also has the potential to bring more than a foot of snow to mountain areas of New England. The storm is still four days away, and four-day forecasts of the path and intensity of Nor’easters usually have large errors. Nevertheless, residents and relief workers in the region hit by Sandy should anticipate the possibility of the arrival on Wednesday of a moderate-strength Nor’easter with heavy rain, accompanied by high winds capable of driving a 1 – 2 foot storm surge with battering waves. The surge and waves will potentially cause moderate to severe erosion on New Jersey coast, where Hurricane Sandy pulverized the protective beach dunes.

Figure 1. Predicted wind speed for Thursday morning, November 8, 2012, from the ECMWF model (left) and predicted wind speed for 2 pm EST on Wednesday, November 7, from the GFS model (right). Both models runs were done beginning at 12Z (8 am EDT) on November 3, 2012. Winds tropical storm-force (39+ mph) are predicted to extend from coastal Virginia to Massachusetts. The GFS model brings the Nor’easter to a point off the New Jersey coast about 12 hours faster than the ECMWF model.

Figure 2. Forecast track error for four of our top models used to predict Hurricane Sandy. The GFS model performed the best for 1 – 3 day forecasts, but the European (ECMWF) model far out-performed all models at longer-range 4 – 5 day forecasts. This may be due to the fact the model was able to successfully predict the timing of the arrival of a trough of low pressure over the Eastern U.S. that acted to steer Sandy to the north and then northwest. Image credit: Morris Bender, NOAA/GFDL.

Charities mobilize for Sandy
Sandy’s death toll of 109 in the U.S. makes it the 25th deadliest hurricane in U.S. history, and the 2nd deadliest since 1972, when Hurricane Agnes killed 122 in the Northeast U.S. The main owners of The Weather Channel have agreed to match donations of up to $1 million to the American Red Cross, with all donations to benefit people in the hard-hit areas of the U.S. To have your donation matched, please visit, or text SANDY to 90999. I also recommend my favorite disaster relief charity, They are focusing their response efforts exclusively on the post-Sandy needs of people with disabilities.Check out the Portlight blog to see what they’re up to. Sandy’s greatest devastation occurred in Haiti, where rains of up to 20 inches in 24 hours unleashed rampaging flood waters that killed at least 54, left 200,000 homeless, wiped out thousand of acres of crops, and killed massive numbers of livestock. For impoverished families in Haiti still struggling to recover from the earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Isaac in August, Sandy was devastating. These crops are the very essence of rural Haitian’s livelihoods, and there are fears widespread starvation will result. A disaster relief charity in Haiti that I’ve contributed to for many years, The Lambi Fund of Haiti, is seeking donations to help farmers purchase local seeds so that they can replant their crops in the wake of this latest terrible Haitian catastrophe.

I’ll have an update Monday, unless there’s some major change in the model forecasts for the coming Nor’easter.


On the Northeast Weekend Storm’s Effect

Why Weekend Snow Was So Destructive

Wynne Parry, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 31 October 2011 Time: 04:00 PM ET


October Snowstorm from Space. This weekend's snowstorm set records.

Snowtober’s wrath, seen from space.
CREDIT: Snowtober’s wrath, seen from space.

The surprisingly early snowstorm that smacked the East Coast this weekend picked up energy after crossing the country, producing an “extreme precipitation event” with damaging effects magnified by the fact that leaves remained on the trees.

“In many cases, this storm is unprecedented,” said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Weather Service.

The record-breaking storm set itself apart by dumping snow, measuring as deep as 32 inches (81 centimeters) in Peru, Mass., along a wide swath of the East Coast, from Virginia to Maine, at a time when conditions are usually too warm for snow.

“Usually a lot of these cities will see their first inch of snowfall in late November into December,” Vaccaro said. “This type of storm is several months ahead of schedule.”

Dozens of locations from Virginia to Maine set daily snowfall records on Oct. 29 and Oct. 30. New York’s Central Park recorded 2.9 inches (7.6 cm), the first time since record-keeping began in 1869 that an inch or more of snowfall has been recorded there during the month of October, according to the NWS.

Is global warming to blame? While it is difficult to connect a specific weather event to human-caused climate change, researchers have predicted that precipitation events, including snowstorms, will become more extreme, according to Vaccaro. [FAQ: Global Warming and Snowstorms]

“When you look at precipitation events becoming more extreme, this is an example of an extreme precipitation event,” he said.

Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the independent National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., got a little more specific.

Climate change likely increased the amount of snow by five to 10 percent, since the storm picked up moisture from the Atlantic Ocean, Trenberth said. The oceans have warmed, on average, about 1 degree F (0.6 degrees C) since the 70s, and warmer oceans means more moisture in the atmosphere to feed storms.

The storm that hit the East Coast was a re-energized version of one that hit the western part of the country almost a week earlier. Between Monday and Wednesday (Oct. 24 and Oct. 26), the high temperatures there dropped from 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) to 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) with heavy snow in Denver, Colo., for example, Vaccaro said.

The storm traveled east across the country, tapping into moisture off the coast of North Carolina at Cape Hatteras to revive itself. Meanwhile, cold air traveling from a high-pressure area over southeastern Canada probably formed the foundation for a snowstorm, rather than a rainstorm, which would have been more typical this time of year. As the developing storm moved northeast off the mid-Atlantic coast and off the northeast coast, it continued to draw cold air southward, and drop record-breaking amounts of snow, he said.

Large storms like this, called Nor’easters, aren’t common this time of year, but even more unusual was the supply of cold air that helped produce the very heavy wet snow across the region, Vaccaro said.

The timing of the arrival of the storm compounded its effects, because heavy snow collected on tree branches with leaves still on them, causing them to break and knock down power lines. News reports this morning suggest about 2.5 million people were without power from the storm.

“A bad winter storm is a bad winter storm on its own, but when you combine the leaves on top of that it makes it much more severe,” said Elizabeth Matthews, spokeswoman for ConEdison, which provides electricity to most of New York City and Westchester County in New York.


Nor’easter on the Way

Nor’easter takes aim at the Eastern United States this week

Published on October 16, 2011 11:05 am PT
– By TWS Senior Meteorologist
– Signed by SEO Officer

( – The weather pattern is changing for the Eastern United States as a strong surface low should ride the area, providing gusty winds and pounding rainfall.

On the backside of the system, say in Minnesota and Wisconsin, we probably will see those areas get light snowfall, but the ground is still warm so accumulations or sustained accumulations will not be expected.

This is not a blizzard producing Nor’easter so areas in the Northeast due not have to worry about being buried in feet of snow like with deep-winter style Nor’easters.

Areas in the Southern Gulf States (including Florida) will need to be monitored for severe weather as tropical moisture from a developing system near the Yucatan streams northward to meet the surface low and frontal zone by Tuesday through Thursday of this week.