Saturday, October 26, 2013

One Year Ago, Superstorm Sandy - A Look Back

Its hard to believe but its almost been a year since Superstorm Sandy started reeking havoc along the eastern seaboard. Now its time for a look back.
I’ve always used my blog as a diary chronicling my thought process on different topics each day. Often times, I write about what I call “behavioral meteorology” or the study of how we each perceive the weather through our own biased lenses. This time last year, my attention was significantly diverted to the increased potential of a major east coast storm. My passing interest was driven by purely science. The reality sunk in that this storm could directly affect one of the largest population centers on the planet. My interest quickly shifted to documenting every weather detail as they unfolded.
Below are all 9 blog posts I made from October 22nd to November 1st of last year (2012).
Late October Atlantic Hurricane…Potential Storm Next Week
Hurricane Sandy Update #1 of 3- Impacts on North Carolina Coast
Hurricane Sandy Update #2 of 3 – Landfall Projections, New England Impacts
Hurricane Sandy Update: 3 of 3 – Northeast Ohio Impact
Hurricane Sandy – Monday Update – Northern Ohio Forecast
Historic Northern Ohio Winds/Lake Erie Waves/Snowfall as Sandy hits Ohio

Thursday, October 24, 2013

October Snow in Northern Ohio

Lake effect snow in northern Ohio is common....but usually not before Halloween. Here is what our classic lake effect skies look like in Cleveland:  Sunshine west; heavy, low and unstable cloud cover with rain and wet snow east

Here are the best of the best October snow photos! You can always email me weather photos at

Snow in Mayfield Heights

Snow on a pumpkin in Middlefield, Ohio
Parma, Ohio
Beachwood, Ohio accumulations
Garfield Heights, Ohio
Andre Bernier's photo of 5" in Chesterland, Ohio
Lyndhurst, Ohio snow
Snow on the west side...Westlake, Ohio
Jefferson, Ohio near Lenox Township
Branches down in Highland Heights
Snow in Newbury, Ohio

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How Do We Define a Cold, Snowy Winter?

How often have we heard the saying "Perception is Reality"?  
No other phrase describes the weather better than this one. We look at past winters through our own lense molded by our own experiences in that weather. Maybe we were on our way to a Christmas party in a snow storm. That storm will leave an indelible mark in our minds because of its proximity to Christmas. This memory often places more emphasis on the current weather than a more innocuous event. We might perceive the winter to be more harsh as a result. 
I've often heard people talk about how mild last winter was here in northern Ohio.  Yet when I site the data which shows that the average temperature from early November to March 31st last winter was SLIGHTLY COOLER than the 20 year average, people are skeptical.
There must be a more detailed story behind the typical winter narrative we are used to. Generalizing degrees of cold and snow just doesn't cut it. So how do we quantify why we remember a winter to be COLD or NOT SO COLD; SNOWY or NOT SO SNOWY?  
As I stated above, sometimes the average temperatures or total snowfall don't tell the complete story. For example, last year's overall average temperatures were SLIGHTLY BELOW THE 20 YEAR AVERAGE! Hard to believe but its true. 
The 5 month average is misleading to be sure. How about snow...we had more snow last year than the year before right?

Now let's dig a bit deeper beyond the generalities and averages.  The number of days at or below 30 degrees during was more than DOUBLE the year before
...and we had a week's worth of nights in the single digits well above the winter before.
...and we had almost 3 weeks MORE with at least one inch of snow cover!
I mention all of this to people and its still not enough to convince them that this past winter wasn't as "mild" as how they perceived it. Digging deeper still into the data shows the most important stat of all: The number of days at or above 40 was pretty high on the list. We probably remember those days more than the run-of-the-mill 30 degree days.
What can we learn from this in determining how we personally define a "cold and snowy" or "not-so-cold and snowy" winter?  
*  We remember the weather extremes better than the run-of-the-mill "typical" winter weather. 
*  We easily forget the single digit nights and the consistent snow cover vs the winter before. 
*  We diminish the importance of the days when the temperatures stayed in the 20s. 
We chalk all of this as normal.
Coming off of several winters with below normal snowfall and milder temps, we involuntarily assign more importance to the winter days above 40 degrees--the warmer extremes--so the memory becomes stronger as a result.  
What will stand out in the months ahead in solidifying our memory of this winter?