27 December 2010

Boxing Day Blizzard Blasts Northeast Coast

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Surface Weather Chart from NOAA at Midday Monday. Notice the intense low off the coast of Maine.

Meteorologists call it a bomb. A couple of reasons for that I suspect.

1. The weather map looks like it has a bomb crater on it.

2. The pressure in these intense storms that go up the East Coast usually drops incredibly quickly. In other words, it drops like a bomb. This storm saw a pressure drop of around 19 millibars in 12 hours.

GOES IMAGE at midday Monday showing the intense low off the coast of Mass. Image courtesy NOAA/NASA MSFC. Click for full size..

The day after Christmas 2010 will long be remembered in Eastern America. It started early Christmas Day with a heavy snow over North Alabama. An incredibly rare White Christmas in the Deep South. It was a beautiful snow that covered everything.

Then it got mean.

As the low pressure moved out over the warm water of the Gulf Stream, it picked up incredible energy. The temperature differences in the atmosphere are what makes low pressures develop.

If you put a low over warm moist ocean water and then bring cold arctic air down to the west of it, watch out. That is the same as throwing gasoline on a fire. The low pressure will explode into an intense storm. The pressure dropped to less than 964 millibars! You see that kind of pressure in a hurricane!

This image from NASA Goddard was taken during the height of the blizzard at 11:45 PM EST Sunday. Click for full res.

This kind of explosive development was expected and well forecasted. I mentioned several times on air, starting Christmas Eve, that the East Coast was going to get pummeled.

Did they ever!  (Update: Added a pic from an old friend in Maine)

Bobby Alverson clears the snow in Maine. Thanks for the pic Bobby!

Central Park has 20 inches of snow on the ground. Winds gusted to over 65 mph along the coastal areas, and travel is at a stand still to the North of D.C. You can look at snowfall totals from the NWS in New York here. They are amazing. Some wind reports from the NWS office in Boston are here.

People in the Northeast USA usually name the huge storms. They are so big that everyone remembers them. My vote is for the great Boxing Day Blizzard of 2010.

Boxing Day is not as well known here in the States as it is in the UK and Canada, but I think it’s a good name for the storm. Some young children of today, will still remember it at the beginning of the 22nd century!

Update 8:26 PM Monday: The pressure at Nantucket dropped to 963 MB as the low passed nearby.