Saturday, April 30, 2016

Some Of The Measurements Of That Epic Jahuary Blizzard Was Wrong

Washington DC in January's epic blizzard  
We're on the cusp of May, so a lot of you don't want me talking about snow, but I'm going to anyway.

To my Vermont readers, relax. There is a bunch of precipitation in the forecast, but unlike last week, anything that comes out of the sky Sunday and Monday will be rain. Not snow.

Except for a possible few snowflakes Sunday morning in north central and northeast Vermont.

You can never be free of snow in Vermont, it seems.

Hey you, over in western Nebraska! Sorry about that winter storm warning you're experiencing this morning.

Actually, the snow I'm talking about today is the long-ago melted piles left by an epic January 23 blizzard in the Middle Atlantic states that crippled the region.

The National Weather Service has re-examined some of the measurements, which in turn adjusts some of the records that might or might not have been set, reports the Associated Press

The adjustments, which I'll get into in a minute, highlight the difficulty of measuring snow. It blows around, compacts, drifts, moves.

You'll always get these precise measurements from snowstorms. "Hey, that storm dropped 19.1 inches of snow!" Really, the best you can do is say you got about 20 inches in that situation.

But, the National Weather Service likes precision, which is a good thing. And they have standards on how to measure snow, so at least there's consistency in the methodology.

To properly measure snow, the National Weather Service says to let it accumulate on two foot square white boards, and take measurements once every six hours to get an official snow total.

New York City's Central Park now has a new record for biggest snowstorm on record. Initially, Central Park reported 26.8 inches of new snow during the blizzard, which fell short of the largest snowstorm record.

But it turns out 27.5 inches fell, so it WAS the largest snowstorm. Congrats New York!

The New York error came because of a miscommunication between Central Park Conservancy staff, who correctly measured the snow, and the National Weather Service New York staff, according to the AP.

Newark, New Jersey reported more snow than they actually got. During the blizzard, they recorded 28.1 inches. But they measured the snow every hour, not once every six hours. That didn't allow for normal compaction of the snow, so their method inflated the actual total.

It turns out they've probably been measuring the snow incorrectly in Newark since 1996. People there have since been retrained.

Another snow total that was looked at was at the Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. They measured 17.8 inches during the storm.

People questioned that, because some nearby areas received far more snow. Adding to the questions, was the person who was measuring the snow temporarily lost where the boards were because the snow was so deep, says the Associated Press

But an investigation revealed that the person taking the measurements managed to get it right, so the 17.8 inches stands.

They're going to recommend adding yellow flags to measuring sites so that they can be found in deep snow.

Let's just hope we won't have to measure snow until late next fall or winter!

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