Winter Storms by Paul Kocin Winter Storm Expert The Weather Channel and Dr.

Gerry Bell Climate Prediction Center

Outline
1. 2. 3. 4. Winter Weather Impacts Winter Forecast Issues Northeastern U.S. Snowfall Impact Scale Climate factors influencing winter storms

Winter Weather Impacts

Each year, automobile accidents claim an incredible amount of lives, cause injuries and property damage.

The average/year of auto accidents: ² 41,000 deaths, ² 3 million injuries, ² billions in damage. ² About 15% is weather-related

‡ Weather related: ‡ 7,000 deaths ‡ 800,000 injuries ‡ and billions of dollars in damage per year!

‡ Adverse weather is associated with over 1.5 million auto crashes per year.

‡ Snow and ice make up a significant component of the dangers posed to transportation nationwide.

‡ Examples: In 2001
² 5400 deaths linked to rain-slicked roads

² 1100 deaths linked to snow and ice
² 670 deaths linked to fog

‡ Dept. of transportation cost estimates
² Injuries, loss of life, and property damage cost an average of 42 billion dollars annually just for snow and ice!

Winter Forecast Issues

Winter forecast issues
‡Precipitation type forecasts can be very difficult, especially a day or more into the future Rain vs freezing rain vs sleet vs snow ‡Model forecast uncertainty: Different models can often show significantly different forecasts beyond a few days.

The main issue: rain vs freezing rain vs sleet vs snow

Problems with forecasting heavy snow
o o o It often occurs close to the rain/snow line It sometimes occurs close to the snow/ no snow line 50-mile errors in location produce big problems!

Predictability
Some storms are easy«««. Affect one small region ² it·s well forecast Life is GREAT Most storms are widespread, multi-day, multi-form events««««..forecasts can be good one place, Lousy others

More predictability
‡Whether big or small, winter storm predictability is very variable. ‡Some winter storms are amenable to prediction ² even several days in advance ‡Other winter storms seem to be unpredictable even up to the day of the event

Mean = 4.80

5 Top Ranked Snowfall Events

‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡

Rank 1 2 3 4 5

DATE NESIS 12-14 MAR 1993 12.52 6-8 JAN 1996 11.54 15-18 FEB 2003 8.91 11-14 MAR 1888 8.34 11-14 FEB 1899 8.11

Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS)

Paul J. Kocin & Louis Uccellini The Weather Channel & NWS/NCEP

Fujita and Saffir-Simpson Scales
‡ Measure potential for DESTRUCTION to property and loss of life from tornadoes and hurricanes

NESIS
‡ Measures potential for human and economic

DISRUPTION
‡ Categories (1 thru 5)

SNOWSTORM IMPACT DUE TO:
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ SNOWFALL WIND SPEED TEMPERATURE DURATION SNOWFALL RATES STORM INTENSITY GROUND TEMPERATURES

What NESIS is
‡ A measure that is based on the integrated effects of storm snowfall in the Northeast United States

‡ Based on areal coverage of snowfall amounts and population affected

‡ LOOKED AT 30 CASES ² 1950-2000 ‡ CONTOURED SNOWFALL at 4µ, 10µ and at 20µ intervals ‡ THOSE CONTOURS REPRESENT: (1) an AREA (2) an AFFECTED POPULATION

Feb 1978

Mar 1993

Mostly 4-10µ, small 10µ+

NESIS VALUES Close to 1

Small 4µ, Larger area of 10µ+, small 20µ+

NESIS VALUES Close to 3

Even larger area of 4µ+, 10µ+, 20µ+

NESIS VALUES Greater than 8

NESIS CATEGORIES
CATEGORY NESIS VALUES ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ 1 2 3 4 5 1 ² 2.499 2.5 - 3.99 4 ² 5.99 6 - 9.99 10.0 + # of CASES 23 22 16 7 2 DESCRIPTION ´NOTABLEµ ´SIGNIFICANTµ ´MAJORµ ´CRIPPLINGµ ´EXTREMEµ

Being tested at NCDC for possible NWS operational use

Climate Factors Influencing Winter Storms
1. El Niño/ La Niña cycle 2. North Atlantic Oscillation

El Niño and La Niña

SST(°C) and Departures

28

28

28oC is approximate threshold for deep tropical convection

ENSO Tropical Rainfall
EL Niño Enhanced Convection

La Niña suppressed convection

El Niño: Tropical convection, jet stream extended eastward La Niña: Tropical convection, jet stream retracted westward

El Niño: ‡Extended Jet Stream ‡More zonal flow over U.S. ‡South shift of storm track ‡Weaker Hudson Bay Low ‡Fewer arctic outbreaks

La Niña: ‡Retracted Jet Stream ‡More meridional flow ‡Blocking over N. Pac ‡Stronger Hudson Bay Low ‡More arctic outbreaks

North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)

NAO Air Pressure and Winds at 30,000 ft

+

+

-

1980¶s- 2001

1950¶s-1960¶s

‡NAO affects the Atlantic jet stream/ storm track ‡Tremendous differences in poleward heat transport and temperatures at high latitudes

Positive (warm) Phase of Wintertime NAO Temperature Precipitation

Warmer

Colder

Wetter

Drier

NAO: DJF Time Series

50

55

60

65

70

75

80

85

90

95

00

Positive: 1980¶s-present Weaker Hudson Bay Low Arctic air confined to Canada Milder Temperatures

Negative: 1950¶s-1960¶s Stronger Hudson Bay Low More Arctic outbreaks Cooler Temperatures

El Niño ± NAO Temperature Composites
Moderate-to-Strong El Niño¶s Negative NAO: Cooler in SE, Mid-Atlantic, NE Positive NAO: Warmer in SE, Mid-Atlantic, NE

Negative NAO establishes cold air regime and increases snow threat. Several major Northeast snowstorms have occurred during strong - NAO episodes

Daily NAO Index

Summary
1. 2. Winter Weather Impacts are significant. Winter storm forecasting remains a challenge, especially Rain/ snow line and snow/ no snow line. Northeastern U.S. Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS) may be useful scale for categorizing winter storms and their impacts. Climate factors influence winter storms and snowfall throughout the U.S. Also cause year-to-year and multi-decadal cycles in winter storm activity.

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