If you follow us on Facebook , you may have noticed our series of severe weather safety posts this week. This week is Severe Weather Awareness week in New York State. With the season changing, early May is a great time to review safety practices for a variety of severe weather which can occur during the spring and summer months.
Although most people tend to look back and on the past year around the holidays and at the beginning of a New Year, I also like to reflect back once spring has truly sprung. The sun illuminates our days even longer, the world is full of beautiful new blooms, the birds are chirping, and it seems that everything is truly “new” again. So for this week’s blog, I thought that this would be a perfect time to look back at 2018 and really take in all that happened across the U.S. weather-wise.
When meteorologist educators teach students of all levels, one of the first things we do is to distinguish the difference between weather and climate. Technically speaking, weather is the day-to-day conditions that describe the state of the atmosphere, while climate is an average of weather conditions at a particular place, generally averaged over a 30 year time period. In my classes, I always say that the best way to remember this distinction is that ‘weather impacts your daily life’. Many disruptions to people’s lives were caused as a result of a very dynamic spring weather pattern which has been present over the continental United States for the last few weeks.
A wetter than average fall and winter (thanks, in part, to heavy rains from an atmospheric river event that led to flooding along the Russian River) pulled California out of its drought last month for the first time since December 2011. Above-normal snowpacks were observed along the Sierra Nevada Range and throughout much of the West as well. In fact, on April 2, 2019, only 6% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought – one of the smallest drought footprints across the continental U.S. on record. These wet conditions from the past months, combined with cool daytime temperatures and cold nights allowed for a rare super bloom of wildflowers in the Anza-Borrego Desert .
As I sit here writing this week’s blog post, I continue to hope that *writing* about springtime will mean that actual springlike weather conditions will occur outside my (deceptively) sunny window. Now that it is April, seasonal allergies are in full swing for many, even up into the northern parts of the United States where full leaf-out is still a few weeks away (see our blog post on phenology for more information on that). Although most of us allergy sufferers are fully aware that there is a seasonal pattern to allergies, it is less commonly known why some seasons are just terrible, while others aren’t as bad.
NOAA issued its annual Spring Outlook (April – June 2019) last Thursday, March 21, 2019 which includes outlooks for temperature, precipitation, and flood risk. As those living in the upper Mississippi and Missouri River basins including Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa are still recovering from recent monumental and devastating flooding, forecasters have declared that above-average spring rain and snow will likely worsen flood conditions through May.
Spring officially began at 5:58 PM EDT yesterday, and for many of us across the country, it can’t come soon enough. Although the weather may not yet feel like spring (portions of the Northeast US may see accumulating snow within the next few days!), we can definitely notice a difference in the sun. Did you know that the sun angle we see now is the same sun angle we see in mid-October? We are also seeing the days lengthen by about 3 minutes per day in upstate New York (the exact time differs slightly from place to place).
Since we have been enjoying above normal temperatures over the past few days, it can be hard to imagine the immense blizzard that rocked the northeast 131 years ago. One of the most disastrous winter storms to ever impact the northeast U.S began late March 11, 1888 and ended in the early morning hours on March 14, 1888. Continue reading “The Great Blizzard of 1888”
This past weekend, the United States experienced its most deadly tornado outbreak since May of 2013, when a large tornado killed 24 people in the town of Moore, Oklahoma. On March 3, 2019, a series of tornadoes tracked across the U.S. Gulf Coast, impacting Alabama, Georgia, the Florida Panhandle, and western South Carolina.
Over the past few days, a powerful storm brought strong, damaging winds from the lower Midwest eastward – stretching from the southern Appalachians into the Northeast. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people have lost power across the country, numerous trees have been blown down, and many structures have been damaged. Continue reading “Wild Winds and Walls of Ice”