Boots or shoes? It was a decision I met on Thursday morning when I left my apartment on the Upper West Side in New York City. I am a long-term meteorologist. I really saw the warning signs. I knew we could see half a foot of snow. But even with my extensive knowledge of snow storms and New York City weather, I still thought, "It's November, what are the chances?" So maybe against my better judgment I went with shoes. Let's just say that my walk home was not nice. It looked like Columbia University at 1 7:00 today. Broadway a snowy mess! But the campus was picturesque! pic.twitter.com/u3m84Dtkfp – Jeff Berardelli (@WeatherProf) November 16, 2018 The disturbances of this # Snow Snowstorm dropped New York City and other parts of the northeast with the boots of Normally were long evening evenings to nightly, angry things. One of the worst commutes I've seen during my traffic reporting career. The roads are still in a terrible shape and traffic is literally still in the tri-state area. I will be on until 10:30 pm and stay up to date on the latest terms @ wcbs880traffic #FirstSnow #Snowvember pic.twitter.com/5eV6LxmyS8 – Kelly Dillon (@ kelly_dillon) November 15, 2018 To be fair, a snowstorm of this greatness is this early in the season with very little precedent. Central Park officially measured 6.4 inches of snow, the heaviest early season and the daily snowfall in November, since record management began almost 150 years ago. But I…
Boots or shoes? It was a decision I met on Thursday morning when I left my apartment on the Upper West Side in New York City. I am a long-term meteorologist. I really saw the warning signs. I knew we could see half a foot of snow. But even with my extensive knowledge of snow storms and New York City weather, I still thought, “It’s November, what are the chances?” So maybe against my better judgment I went with shoes. Let’s just say that my walk home was not nice.
The disturbances of this # Snow Snowstorm dropped New York City and other parts of the northeast with the boots of Normally were long evening evenings to nightly, angry things.
To be fair, a snowstorm of this greatness is this early in the season with very little precedent. Central Park officially measured 6.4 inches of snow, the heaviest early season and the daily snowfall in November, since record management began almost 150 years ago.
But I would lie to you if I said we did not last with the meteorologists to the warning sign in advance. As late as Wednesday, November 7, many computer models showed signs of a full-blown snowy Nor easter for the period from Wednesday to Friday of the week. After a quick turn, the storm disappeared either from most models or turned out to be too hot for any meaningful snow.
But since this Monday the storm came back on the models, including the infamous European model, undoubtedly the best medium available forecast model. Since then, Europe has been rock-fast, driving after driving day after day, forecasts a half-foot snow for New York City.
IBM’s Deep Thunder model was also aggressive, showing several inches. Other models, including The American models, sometimes also announced significant snowfall.
To add the proof to us, most forecast models showed a shed of heavy snow that lasted a few hours with temperatures close to or just above the freezing point. It’s just the kind of atmospheric setting that quickly can cool the atmosphere and quickly jump up the snow.
But contrary to the European model, many others were not so consistent. Either flip-flopping on snow totals, or waiting for the end to feel Again the potential. The forecasters were more keen to believe in the less aggressive models for naysayer because that’s what we expect from November.
The National Weather Service (NWS) area, in Upton, Long Island, began to mention measurable snow in the forecast on Tuesday. Given that the models had evidence to support this on Monday, 24 hours were a reasonable time to wait for signs to be clear before predicting a snowfall at the beginning of the season. But when the storm went closer, their forecast was slow to develop.
On Wednesday, the Upton NWS office still required only one inch of snow in the city. Counseling was not issued for New York City’s five villages until the real morning of the storm, and even then the NWS forecast map showed only 1 inch of snow in the city and a zero percent – zero! – chance of achieving 6-inch accumulation.
NWS issued winter weather warnings and advice for the New York subway station, saying that 4-8 “snow was waiting for the warnings and 2-5” for the advisory areas.
There is no doubt that the delays in issuing official advice played into an apparently underprivileged urban response, although New York mayor Bill de Blasio mentioned NYC. Sanitary preparations took place the night before the snow began.  It’s a good chance we’ll have our first snowfall of the season tomorrow. Crews of @NYCSanitation have issued a snow alarm and are ready to handle whatever happens. Be prepared and be careful during your commute tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/Bux8UwTjdE
– Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 14, 2018
Assessing the state of the snowy traffic jams and overwhelming public transport systems, get if anyone expected that followed.
So what happened? Why did forecasters assess this storm?
The answer is simple. All our experience tells that mid November is just too early for a disturbing snowstorm like this in New York City. Sure, we know it may snow in November. Sometimes there is heavy accumulation, but almost never near the coast. The ocean is very influential and the water temperature is still in the 50’s. And even if it should accumulate, rationalize forecasters, the hot city streets and highways will melt the snow on contact. So maybe there will be a few inches on the grass, but the streets will not get worse than a little slushy. As a predictor, I can tell that this thought process went through the most educated meteorologists’ minds just before the storm.
These are all major rationalizations. Ninety percent of the time they will be right. But that was 1 percent.
In this case, our life experience outweighed our forecast experience and training. We’ll let ‘what’s the odds for this happening in November?’ pave the way for what should have been a challenging but feasible forecast. If the exact same pattern occurred on the models in January, the forecast would have come with a lot of warning and higher cutting potential. Statistics and human psychology would not have come in the way.
But maybe it’s time for forecasters to expect the unexpected? These snowy snow seem to occur more often in this area. In fact, this is at least the third time since 2011.
On October 29, 2011, New York City retrieved 2.9 inch snow in what became known as #Snowtober or the 2011 Halloween Nor easter. Otherby over 30 inches! For New York City it was by far the heaviest snow on record in October and only the third time since 1869, the measurable snow was recorded in October.
Next year up to 2 meters of heavy snow fell under the hurricane Sandy in Appalachians. Just a week later, 7-8 November 2012, while the coastal areas affected by Sandy had just begun to pick up the pieces, up to a foot of heavy snow that was on the Jersey Shore.
While I grew up in the 1970s and 80s in New York City, it was really just a meaningful snowfall for the early years. It was Thanksgiving Day on November 24, 1989, when almost 5 inches of snow fell.
The point is that significant snowstorms in New York City are very rare before December. But three have occurred in the past seven years. So is that chance? Or is it possible that our changing climate becomes unexpected to something more common?
It is true that the world sees extremes, it is too early to draw conclusions about snowworms in early years like this. But as a meteorologist with a lot of experience under my belt, I can say that things seem cooler.
In recent years, evidence has been built among climate researchers for a more irregular jet stream ] that controls storm tracks. Many scientific articles have been published with reference to current and projected changes in storm tracks. Last winter’s patterns gave a lot of ammo for the argument of evil long-lasting cold over the east of the United States, followed by a long stretch of very hot weather. Since March, Northeastern suffered four Norse easter in just three weeks – an amazing atmospheric achievement!
Penn State Climate Researcher Michael Mann has studied climate change for air currents for several years. He wrote about the theory last winter:
“… new research indicates that climate change can favor this contrast in temperature by causing the beam current to wander in a certain pattern with an upward meander or” hill “in the west warm air up from the south and a downward meander or “trough” to the east, which gives cold air from the north. Some researchers believe that the dramatic loss of sea ice in the Arctic can benefit this jet flow pattern. “ Although there are still some disagreements about how climate change changes the beam current, it is very good agreement that climate change has an effect and will continue to change the current in the future. When extreme weather events increase, researchers are better at detecting climate change signals using attribution studies.
In the case of these oddball early snow the jury is still out. Perhaps climate scientists will deal with this issue next?