The Record Blizzard of 2016

2016-blizzard-NASAThis past weekend’s snowstorm was one for the record books. Many will refer to it as The Blizzard of 2016″.

So what is a blizzard, anyway? The National Weather Service defines a blizzard as a severe snowstorm characterized by strong winds causing blowing snow that results in low visibilities. So the difference between a blizzard and a snowstorm is the strength of the wind, not the amount of snow.

To be a blizzard, a snow storm must have sustained winds or frequent gusts that are greater than or equal to 35 mph with blowing or drifting snow which reduces visibility to 1/4 mi or less. These conditions must persist for three hours or more.

Last weekend’s storm certainly met the wind and visibility criteria, but amazing amounts of snow were produced. Above normal water temperatures off the mid-Atlantic coast helped enhance moisture transport into the storm as the fuel for its “snow engine”.

This storm is also noteworthy for bringing snow totals at or nearing all-time records in multiple large metro areas. Other snowstorms have have higher totals, but none were as widespread. Highest totals include…

New York City – John F. Kennedy Airport 30.5 inches, all-time record
Central Park 26.8 inches 2nd highest of all time

Baltimore – 29.2 inches, all time record

Washington, DC – 17.8 inches 4th largest on record

The satellite image above (from NASA) shows the development of the storm over south Texas as it moved north and east over several days.

Jim Purpura, CCM
Meteorologist, WeatherExtreme Ltd.