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NOAA Ranks December Snowstorm a Category 3 on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale

By Joe D'Aleo
Monday, January 25, 2010


Snowfall accumulation from the Dec. 18-21, 2009 storm.
High resolution

To the surprise of no one affected by the Dec. 18-20, 2009 system that dumped heavy snow from the mid-Atlantic to southern New England, NOAA has rated the storm a Category 3 or “Major” winter storm on NOAA’s Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale, also known as NESIS.

NESIS characterizes and ranks Northeast snowstorms, using data calculated by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, based on the following factors: how much snow falls (must deposit at least 10 inches); the scale of the area impacted; and the population of the impacted area. NESIS ranks these storms on a five-tier scale ranging from Category 1 “Notable” to Category 5 “Extreme.”



 “While snowfall from the December storm ranked in the top ten for Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia, the storm only provided a glancing blow to the New York City and Boston metropolitan areas and overall affected a relatively small area. This led to it being classified as a Category 3,” said Louis Uccellini, director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction – a division of NOAA’s National Weather Service – and co-developer of NESIS with Paul Kocin also with NCEP in Camp Springs, Md. Both Uccellini and Kocin are published winter weather experts.



Satellite image of the snowcover enlarged here.

"Last month's storm was one of only five in the past decade that ranked Category 3 or higher," added Kocin. The others being: December, 2002 (Category 3); February, 2003 (Category 4); January, 2005 (Category 4); February, 2006 (Category 3) and February, 2007 (Category 3).

Topping the NESIS scale - and the only storms rated Category 5 - are the “Superstorm” on March, 1993




followed by the “Blizzard of ’96” in January, 1996.



The scale, developed in 2004, catalogues storms dating back to 1888. End NOAA story.



 

Blockbuster east coast storms are favored in El Nino west QBO winters, the snowiest of all ENSO/QBO pairs in the eastern cities. The QBO was in transition from west to east at the critical level (45mb) in December.











New York City February 1969

 


Rank of  37 high-impact snowstorms that affected the Northeast urban corridor.

(click on hyperlinked dates for map of storm)

Rank

Date

NESIS

Category

Description

1

Mar 12-14, 1993

13.20

5

Extreme

2

Jan 6-8, 1996

11.78

5

Extreme

3

Feb 15-18, 2003

8.91

4

Crippling

4

Mar 2-5, 1960

8.77

4

Crippling

5

Feb 2-5, 1961

7.06

4

Crippling

6

Jan 11-14, 1964

6.91

4

Crippling

7

Jan 21-24, 2005

6.80

4

Crippling

8

Jan 19-21, 1978

6.53

4

Crippling

9

Dec 25-28, 1969

6.29

4

Crippling

10

Feb 10-12, 1983

6.25

4

Crippling

11

Feb 14-17, 1958

6.25

4

Crippling

12

Jan 29-31, 1966

5.93

3

Major

13

Feb 5-7, 1978

5.78

3

Major

14

Feb 12-15, 2007

5.63

3

Major

15

Jan 21-23, 1987

5.40

3

Major

16

Feb 8-12, 1994

5.39

3

Major

17

Feb 17-19, 1979

4.77

3

Major

18

Feb 18-20, 1972

4.77

3

Major

19

Dec 11-13, 1960

4.53

3

Major

20

Feb 22-28, 1969

4.29

3

Major

21

Feb 12-13, 2006

4.10

3

Major

22

Jan 18-21, 1961

4.04

3

Major

23

Dec 18-21, 2009

4.03

3

Major

24

Dec 23-25, 1966

3.81

2

Significant

25

Feb 8-10, 1969

3.51

2

Significant

26

Mar 18-21, 1958

3.51

2

Significant

27

Feb 5-8, 1967

3.50

2

Significant

28

Apr 6-7, 1982

3.35

2

Significant

29

Mar 15-18, 2007

2.55

2

Significant

30

Jan 24-26, 2000

2.52

2

Significant

31

Dec 30-31, 2000

2.37

1

Notable

32

Mar 31-Apr 1, 1997

2.29

1

Notable

33

Mar 18-19, 1956

1.87

1

Notable

34

Mar 1-3, 2009

1.65

1

Notable

35

Feb 22-23, 1987

1.46

1

Notable

36

Feb 2-4, 1995

1.43

1

Notable

37

Jan 25-26, 1987

1.19

1

Notable

 

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