2.1 The Winter of 2014-15 - A Season of Extremes

Tuesday, 12 January 2016: 11:00 AM
Room 338/339 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
David R. Novak, NOAA/NWS, College Park, MD; and P. J. Kocin

The winter of 2014-15 will be remembered for its extremes. The Midwest and Northeast U.S. experienced one of its most severe winters in decades, with record snow and cold. Boston and other New England cities set seasonal snowfall records (an amazing 96 of snow fell in little over a month in Boston between late January and February: the last snow pile in Boston melted in July). February was the coldest on record in Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, and Bangor, and Boston recorded their second coldest February, while New York City recorded their 3rd coldest. However, the western U.S. experienced heat and dryness with Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Tucson recording their warmest winter on record. The California drought intensified, marked by snowless peaks in the Sierras.

Two particular high-impact events stand out. The southern suburbs of Buffalo, NY were buried by more than 8 feet of snow in two epic lake effect events from November 17-21, 2014. Although well forecast, the intense epic snowfall paralyzed the region, shutting the NYS thruway and prompting calls for assistance from the National Guard. Later in the season an intense blizzard affected New England on January 26-28, 2015, setting a record snowfall of 35.5 in Worcester, MA. Although earlier forecasts called for a crippling blizzard in New York City, only 10 fell as the heavy snowband set up just east of the city. This event prompted an intense community discussion of the need for communicating uncertainty.

This talk will review the impacts of this extreme season, with particular attention to forecast and communication lessons learned from the specific events.

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