5 January 2018

Thoughts and Images of The Great Blizzard of 2018

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Working on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, you might imagine I have been rather busy over the last few days and that is beyond an understatement. I was brought to work today in a four-wheel drive jeep and I have 11″ of snow on my sidewalk!

This was a memorable storm and perhaps what makes it more so is how fast the pressure in the storm dropped. The pressure in the surface low moving up the coast fell 59 millibars in 24 hours. Anything more than a 24 millibar drop is called a “bomb” because on weather maps it looks like a bomb crater! This name is actually used in the literature and I first heard the term back in the late 1970’s as an undergrad student at the University of Oklahoma.

The NWS put together a nice comparison of this storm with another on the same day back in 1989:

This storm was full of surprises and was unusually hard to predict, with the normally reliable model guidance doing a lousy job, while the guidance that usually over forecasts snow amounts being closer to reality. Everything came together just right for a major event with a  larger shield of snow around it than we expected. Here on Delmarva, we did a decent job of forecasting where the heaviest snow would fall, but we were 2-4 inches too low on the amounts. A storm that performs above expectations is often called a boom storm by forecasters like me, but this one became a super-boom storm.

The intense low made for some amazing satellite images and the new GOES-16 gave us an unprecedented view of it. GOES told me last night that this storm was exploding and we started raising the snowfall totals as it did so. The picture to remember for most though will be the view from the Suomi Satellite in true colour this afternoon from a much lower orbit. I grabbed a high-resolution view of it and you can see it below.

Suomi Satellite view of the nor’easter on the afternoon of 4 January 2018.

Now, that is meteorological eye candy. 

Oh, one other thing: not one email today from anyone about the “10 inches of global warming” in their yard. Those of us who do science communication did a good job of showing how ridiculous that kind of thinking is last week. In case you are still confused, look how warm the planet is today, courtesy the Univ. of Maine.

An admission: While shovelling my car out this morning, I almost questioned my belief that there’s no such thing as too much snow. I quickly came to my senses though!