The meteorological winter is drawing to a close tonight as we enter March. The meteorological winter goes from Dec. 1 to Mar. 1 each year. We often hear of the first day of winter being Dec. 21 and the first day of spring being March 20 (this year). These are the first days of astronomical winter and spring. Dec. 21 is the longest night of the year and on March 20, the day and night are about equal. At solar noon, the sun will be over the equator, that is why it is called the Vernal Equinox. Anyway, before the winter started, I made some predictions about how the weather would go in Toledo. I even made predictions back in the summer. For anyone that I told, if you remember, I had trouble making the prediction. When the Pacific Decadal Oscillation went negative a few years ago, it meant more cold winters in the Great Lakes. But, this year was an El Nino year. In the summer it was tough to tell how strong El Nino would be. Well, the US did feel the effects of El Nino with storms coming into California and going across the south and then up the east coast. That is why there was so much snow in the south and the east coast. Most of the drought conditions in California, Texas and Florida have been eradicated. That’s cool. So, I predicted a colder than average winter with much hesitation. So, I was wrong by not that far off.
The winter in much of the US was colder than normal. In Toledo however, we were just slightly above average by 0.33 degrees F. That is pretty much average if you ask me. I have been keeping track of the monthly average temperature values in Toledo since 2008. If we look at the past couple of years, 2008 was warmer than average by 0.33 degrees F for the entire year and the winter temps were slightly above average as well. 2009 was right on average for the entire year but the winter was much below average in particular because January was a very cold month (7 degrees F below average).
Today my wife and kids had a snow day from school. I had to go to work of course. But, they got the day off. It was a big surprise. We ended up getting about 4 inches of snow in Toledo, OH. That’s not a lot of snow, but I think school was closed because of the drifting of snow. The winds were fairly strong and the snow drifted over the roads. Where did this snow come from? It came from the coastal storm that was affecting New England. The weather forecast models predicted the storm. I was emailing back and forth yesterday with Art Samel who is a professor at Bowling Green State University. The models were showing between 3 and 5 inches of snow for this area. We did not believe it. But, it ended up being correct. I don’t think the weather forecasters for the National Weather Service or on TV believed the models either. Well, the new snow has given me a chance to take my kids sledding today.
You can see in this radar image the snow echoes coming across Michigan down into Ohio.
It looks like everyone is getting in on the act this winter. New England had been left out of all of the snow for the most part. Most years they have a lot. But, the storms were going to the south. Well, this week, they will get it from Albany, NY to Vermont to New Hampshire. There are a series of coastal lows that will form and bring moisture into New England. Along the coast it is going to be too warm to snow; it will be rain. Also, you can see that there is another system moving across Texas. This one will go quickly across the south and produce a little snow but then when it hits the coast it is going to come up the coast to hit New England again. Finally, there is a storm coming into California. This one has the potential to produce a snowstorm for New England next Tuesday.
2-21-2010 Here comes the next snowstorm across the US after a little lull in the pattern. In the Toledo area, our snow has been slowly melting. There are places that the ground is bare and others with only a few inches (about 5 cm) of snow. There are only a few drifts and piles of snow where it is deeper than 2 inches (5 cm). I had the chance to get out on my cross country skiis this afterrnoon. I joked to my familiar that I won the 2 K cross country skiing race on Rauch Rd. in Temperance, MI. Of course, I was the only one in the race. This next snowstorm could get us pretty good in the Toledo area. It will all depend on how much freezing rain, sleet and just plain rain that we get. The storm is forecast to come right over Toledo so the rain/snow line will be close. In Columbus, OH it is likely to be only rain. Then, the low pressure system is expect to develop off of the east coast which is very common with this type of winter storm. The question for Washington, DC will be whether there is enough cold weather in place to support snow.
Snow cover is quite extensive around the world (see the figures below).
Snow cover in Europe and Asia and sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean. Note that the snow cover is pretty extensive. Also, I have highlighted with arrows where ice is growing fast 1. in the Sea of Okhotsk near eastern Russia and in the Barents Sea north of Scandanavia. The Barents Sea has had trouble freezing up for about a decade now possibly due to warmer than average currents coming up that way.
You can see in this figure from the National Snow and Ice Data Center that the area of the Arctic of northeastern Canada including the St. Lawrence Seaway is not very ice covered. It will be interesting to see if this area gets ice before the melt season starts around March 1.
El Nino seems to be slowly on the decline. The figure below shows that the warm pool of water in the equatorial Pacific is about 2.23 C warmer than the long-term mean. This is less than it has been in several months though. I had seen forecasts from NOAA that predict El Nino to dissipate by the summer. It looks like El Nino brought us a very warm January. According to some accounts, it was the second warmest January worldwide. Jeff Masters wrote about it in his blog on the Weather Underground http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1433.
This has certainly been a memorable winter for many areas of the United States (but maybe not Toledo). We have had cold temperatures go all the way down to Florida that threatened strawberries and oranges in January. Several Mid-Atlantic cities saw two blizzards in one week and have broken the all-time snow records for the total amount of snow. And, at one point last week, 49 out of the 50 states had snow in them, all but Hawaii.
So, are the snowstorms in the south due to Global Warming? A friend of mine from graduate school, Jeff Masters, writes a blog for the Weather Underground http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1431. He says that the snow is consistent with climate models. And, some scientists have published research that shows that under global warming, the stratosphere cools and that leads to stronger jet stream and stronger storms. I’m not sure I agree with this. Not using a climate model but using basic science concepts, I would expect storms to be weaker with global warming. The storms in the mid-latitudes are due to the temperature difference between the poles and equator. With a warmer Earth, the poles will warm more than the equator. That would make storms not as strong. It is an interesting scientific discussion. Dr. C
Today was a SNOW DAY for many of you in the Toledo area. Interestingly, my kids and wife had school though. They are in Ida, MI and Erie, MI respectively. The snow hadn’t made it that far north when the superintendents needs to make the decision about whether to hold school or not. It has been snowing pretty good all day. The University of Toledo even cancelled its classes from 3 pm on. That does not happen often. We may get a total of 10 inches of snow here. I guess I’ll have to shovel the driveway. There may be a brief break in the snow this afternoon in the Toledo area as the dry tongue moves in. The dry tongue is an area to the south of a low pressure system, denoted by a L in the figure, in which the dry air gets wrapped into the circulation of the storm. See the figure below.
I just can’t believe that the Washington, DC area is expected to get another 10 to 15 inches of snow. The next storm looks like it is going to give the south snow, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. February is turning out to have some good winter in it. Also, we can expect temperatures to be below average for the next 10 days. Why? The Arctic Oscillation has turned negative. http://jisao.washington.edu/ao/
Well, the snow storm in Washington, DC turned out pretty much as advertised. This really shows how good the weather forecast models are getting. Snow totals were up to 40 inches in Colesville, Maryland just north of DC. Baltimore had its 3rd highest snowfall on record with 28.4 inches. Philladelphia, Pennsylvania had 28.5 inches of snow which was its 2nd heaviest snowfall on record. Amazing stuff. DC was spared to some degree. The official amount at Reagan National Airport was 17.8 inches of snow which was the 4th heaviest snowfall on record. Most of us have never had to shovel 28 or more inches of snow. I had to do it once in 1983 when I lived near Buffalo. We had 39 inches of snow and sleet overnight. It was a hard as a rock and was not easy to shovel or plow.
Now t hat there is a thick snow cover, we might expect some very cold nighttime temperatures in the region, if the skies are cloud free and the winds are calm. In Pennsylvania last night where snow depths were around 2 feet, temperatures fell to near zero. They were getting close to record lows. It is possible that some record low temperatures will be set in the region tonight.
I have heard people complain that the weather is weird. There is snow in the south where it should not be and very little snow in more northern locations like Toledo where it should be. Well, the next storm coming across the United States is expected to take a more northern route (figure below). One of the questions with this storm is how much moisture it can draw into it. Right now some of the models show that it the storm will not have much moisture.
NASA has teamed with USA TODAY Education to create the “No Boundaries” project and national student competition. This project is designed to help students explore careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The effort also offers students the opportunity to learn more about NASA. Working at NASA is like exploring space. No boundaries define what professionals do; knowledge and skill sets are constantly expanding. Becoming a NASA professional is challenging, but it is also achievable. If an individual has the curiosity, creativity, determination and problem-solving skills necessary, then the opportunities at NASA are limitless. The goal of this project is for students to work in small groups to develop a creative project (Web site, video, podcast, song, etc.) that markets careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to teens. These student groups will then present their projects to their classmates and a class of younger peers. The No Boundaries Web site includes a Teacher Toolkit and step-by-step instructions for teachers to implement the project in the classroom. Background information and links to Web sites with career information are also provided. After presenting their projects, groups are encouraged to enter them in the No Boundaries National Competition. All contest entries must be submitted to USA TODAY Education no later than April 15, 2010. To learn more about the project and contest, visit the No Boundaries Web site at http://www.usatoday.com/educate/nasa/index1.html . Please e-mail any questions about the No Boundaries Competition to Maria Dubuc at email@example.com.
The Fundamental Aeronautics Program has announced its new competitions for the academic year. Students from high school grades through graduate school are invited to research and design an amphibious tiltrotor vehicle with civilian applications. The competition has two divisions: High School and College/University. Teams or individuals may enter either contest, and the program encourages interdisciplinary partnerships.
High school participants must be enrolled in an accredited high school, secondary school or home school. For the high school division, the deadline for final projects has been extended to March 15, 2010.
Undergraduate and graduate participants must be enrolled in an accredited college or university. For the college and university division, the deadline for final papers has been extended to May 10, 2010.
International students may participate, but they are not eligible for certain prizes.
For more information about the contest, visit http://aero.larc.nasa.gov/competitions.htm . Questions about the contest should be directed to Dr. Elizabeth Ward at Elizabeth.B.Ward@nasa.gov .
I’m getting jealous of Washington DC. They are going to get their 3rd snowstorm in a week. In Toledo, we don’t even have a full inch of snow on the ground. In fact, this winter I have not even shoveled the driveway. I haven’t had a chance to go cross country skiing because there hasn’t been enough snow. OK, time to stop complaining.
This is a storm to watch. It is a Nor’easter that is going to explode once it hits the ocean. The ocean acts as an energy source. Once the low pressure system hits the coast, the central pressure drops which causes the winds to blow stronger and which causes moisture to be pulled in off of the Atlantic Ocean. A Nor’easter is called a Nor’easter because the wind comes around the low pressure system and from the Northeast off of the ocean.
I have been in a couple large storms in the DC area. The top 5 storms in DC on record are:
1. January 27-28, 1922 – 28 inches
2. February 11-13, 1899 – 20.5 inches
3. February 18-19, 1979 – 18.7 inches
4. January 6-8, 1996 – 17.1 inches
5. February 15-18, 2003 – 16.7 inches
This storm has the potential to make the top 5 snow storms in DC.
For the 4th heaviest snowfall, I lived in Odenton, MD which is outside of DC. I worked at the University of Maryland. The 17.1 inches of snow parallized the area for an entire week. No one had shovels. I shoveled my car out with a small garbage can. But, I could not get out of my apartment complex parking lot because no one plowed the parking lot for 5 days. It was great staying home from work. I love a snow day, always have.
In 1995 I was driving from Ann Arbor, MI to Annapolis, MD to see my wife. It was our first year of marriage and with lived in different cities because I was still in graduate school at the University of Michigan and my wife had a job in DC. I thought I was going to beat the storm being a meteorologist and all. It normally takes 8 hours to make the drive. But, when I got into the mountains of Pennsylvania, the snow started to come down. I had white knuckle driving for he rest of the trip. It took me a total of 13 hours. I arrived in MD just as the sun was rising. I was almost out of gas and all of the gas stations were closed. It was pretty scary. But, I found a gas station and made.
Another time I was in the DC area for a meeting and stayed at Kathleen’s Uncle and Aunt’s house in Annapolis, MD. I was planning to leave in the morning. When I woke up, the snow was pounding down. I hurried up and got in my car and started to drive. Luckily I did. Annapolis got 17 inches of snow. I would have been there for another 3 days. On that trip, the snow was pounding down on the ridges as I drove through Maryland. On one, cars and trucks started to slip and had trouble making up the hill. I was lucky that some of us were able to get traction and get by. I love winter weather!
Sometimes a Nor’Easter will produce a pretty good amount of snow in Toledo. But, from this storm, I don’t think we will. It looks like this storm is going to move out to sea and not hit the Northeast much either. And, sometimes in Toledo we will get lake effect snow off of Lake Erie from a Nor’easter. But, this time, Lake Erie is pretty much frozen over.