Hurricane Sandy and Winter

Jan 29, 2016
Hurricane Sandy and Winter


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Did you know that originally weather services said that Hurricane Sandy would die off when it left the Caribbean Sea?

A pattern called the “Greenland High” was creating winds that would shear off the top of the storm. Instead, the extraordinarily hot waters of the Atlantic kept Sandy alive and the shearing winds pushed Sandy straight into New Jersey.

Click to enlarge image.

The same winds that steered Sandy into the East Coast will be helping to shape the weather in early winter. Source: NOAA

Sandy is gone. The “Greenland High” however will be coming back and helping to shove more wet weather into the East Coast early this winter. No, not hurricanes, winter storms with snow, that white stuff that we didn’t see last winter.

Let’s explain. The hot waters of the Atlantic are still unusually warm off the Northeast coast. They were unusually warm all spring and summer and it will take a while to cool off. This means that when cold continental air hits this hot marine air, you get wet energetic storms. We saw this with Sandy, which was horrendously damaging despite only reaching Category 1 in wind power. It acquired energy from the cold front that was hitting the East at the same time. (See that line of clouds in the satellite picture? That’s the cold front that blended with Sandy to make a hybrid “Frankenstorm.) We will see this wet crash of warm and cold air until the Atlantic finally cools.

Secondly, when you get a hot Atlantic, it creates a weather pattern called a negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the North Atlantic Oscillation acts like a crossing guard. When it is positive, it lets cold storms leave North America and cross the Atlantic. When it is negative, it blocs the storms. The cold fronts remain in North America.

Click to expand image.

Warm Atlantic waters tend to encourage the development of negative NAOs and blocking Greenland High air pressure. Source: NOAA

This Halloween we had a negative NAO. It blocked Sandy from drifting out into the Atlantic. It created an atmosphere pattern with the Greenland High that turned shearing winds into steering winds and steered Sandy into the East Coast.

History suggests that Negative NAOs are more common when the Atlantic is warm. So expect the same blocks that affected Sandy to affect many of this winter’s storms. They will form Nor’easters and linger on the East Coast. This doesn’t mean that early winter would be astonishingly cold but it will be snowy.

So it looks like you will be able to build some snowmen this winter.

NOTE: I always try to write an upbeat blog. However, it hurts to see the damage that Sandy has done. My best wishes to everyone trying to recover.

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to "Weather Whispers" by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these blog posts. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.

Reader Comments

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I'm an employee of The Old

I'm an employee of The Old Farmer's Almanac General Store. While trying to push the new 2014 Almanac, we're constantly asked whether or not the booked predicted Sandy would hit. From what I'd seen, it didn't look like it did. Am I missing something? Thanks for the help!

Supervisor at The Old Farmer's Almanac General Store, Bethlehem,PA

Hi, Eric, You're not missing

Hi, Eric,
You're not missing anything! We did not predict it‚ and neither, it seems, did much of anyone else, including forecasters in the days preceding. Sandy was a unique confluence of events.
--Your OFA editors

Last month in October, we

Last month in October, we ended the streak of above average warmth and November is bringing something quite the same.. powerful snowstorms moving up the east coast bringing winter blasts then the cold will bite the west (there is alot of snow out west right now) and the east has a mild break. Now im hearing the pattern will reverse itself and biting cold will move away from the west and bother the other folks in the midwest and east coast. Is this the pattern we'll see this winter? Everybody will have their fair share of wintry blasts and snow. I commented on your last blog and asked something about Sandy. Well were all fine! The northeast is doing quite well recovering as well.

The weather patterns between

The weather patterns between winter and spring have become a month later, with snow towards January and with snow possible late April. There hasn't been a normal pattern for several years. Snow is an insulator around your foundations and rooftops, heating bills are reduced as the drafts from non-snow days are blocked. Hopefully, we will get snow for the economic benefit, just not foot measures of it.

Its been too cold here in the

Its been too cold here in the northeast. Im going to get outdoors and enjoy the nice fall days while we have them. When they say 70 degrees in November.. you take it!!! I dont even think itl be this warm again until spring. Ive been hearing many many many times that this winter the cold is indeed coming and winter is 43 days away so we better get some work done, just as a warning in advance when will the -NAO come back? Brrrrrrr..

Should I give up hope on

Should I give up hope on winter now, its supposed to be unusually warm the next 2 weeks in Virginia. Its just such a crime to have cold weather now. I miss winter oh so much. When will the warm weather leave us alone?! I dream of a cold December afternoon with snow glistening in the sunlight, that would actually be my christmas present (I guess that was before 2011)

Actually a cold front is

Actually a cold front is going to move through your area in the mid atlantic and northeast. It will knock down the temperatures into the 50s next week so enjoy one more warm day!!
And theres clues the cold will be back by Thanksgiving. Dont give up on winter. Just like Evelyn said.. this winter will be much much colder than last. This pattern we're in now is favoring colder weather and storms on the east coast. Odds are, you will get your December afternoon you dream of :) Have a GREAT holiday season and enjoy your winter that is officially less than 6 weeks away
You see that the -NAO is setting up (thats good news for you) My uncle used to be a weatherman and I know quite a bit about the weather myself

How about the Northwest part

How about the Northwest part of the country? West of The Cascades? We haven't had a good cold snap for a few years! We need a good cold winter to control all the bugs! Also, I Love the snow!

On NOAAs long range

On NOAAs long range temperature predictons they're calling for above normal temperatures all the way up until November 21!! (the farthest we can see) Is this gonna be yet ANOTHER unusually warm Thanksgiving and holiday season? I want the cold to come back to the lower midwest and east coast soon. I too agree the holiday season last year was ruined by spring-like warmth

Does this mean it will reach

Does this mean it will reach as far as Southwestern Ontario Canada again also?

I hope that West Virginia

I hope that West Virginia gets a lot of snow !!! What do think will we ??

Certainly more than last

Certainly more than last year!

One word.........HAARP

One word.........HAARP

one word HAARP

one word HAARP

There may have been more than

There may have been more than 'shearing winds' involved here.
See this :

It surprises me to no end

It surprises me to no end that the current power structure continues to block, obfuscate and blatantly lie about what is happening here on Earth. Obviously you have not taken the time nor effort to read anything other than what you have been told that you can read. I will help you out;
Also, it would be prudent to take into consideration the Solar Storms that have been bombarding Earth;

And let us not forget this elephant in the room;

Our "Science" is antiquated and becoming irrelevant in a world that is changing faster than our ability to allow new information into our thick heads.
It is a shame and a crime ( in my opinion ) for those who hold doctorates or degrees in the field of science to withhold new information that might help mankind to 1) Understand the connection between our Sun and weather patterns, and 2) To help us to prepare for more catastrophe.Everyone seems to have lulled themselves into a false sense of security...or a state of utter ignorance. Those who did not prepare for such an event have only themselves to blame because people ( like me ) have been sounding the alarm bells for nealry a decade now.

Prepare yourselves for more catastrophic weather related events, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions...what can you lose if you do? If you need that question answered then I would ask the people of Haiti, Japan, Chile, New Zealand, Joplin, Missouri, Dothan, Alabama, Australia, Pakistan, Indonesia and many, many other sites across the world that are experiencing life altering events related to Earth ( actually they are happening all throughout our Solar System....but that does not affect us...or does it??? ) Changes.

For utter shame on the "Scientific" Community! Lives are at stake here!

You will find that Old

You will find that Old Farmer's Almanac has been considering the solar impact for decades.

Remember, a short 400 word blog does not summarize everything that has been studied. A look at my Browning Newsletter shows more complex understanding than a friendly essay.

Please keep your passion for studying the multitude of influences on weather and climate. It is a science that saves lives.

Thank you for all you do. I

Thank you for all you do. I have read things that say we have entered a galactic plane and that it's energy and debris is affecting our galaxy, by way of expansion, solar flares, tectonic plate movement, et cetera. What is your take on this? The Sumerians, Mayans, etc, talk about this happening long ago, made underground preparations, 3 days of darkness, etc. I would love to know what you think about it planetary wise and also what you think about our vibrational change. Thank you so much.

I agree that the leaders and

I agree that the leaders and scientist do not speak of it to the public, as they think it will cause mass hysteria. It is my belief that we have entered a galactic plane who's energy is having strong effects upon our galaxy, i.e, tectonic plate movement which triggers earthquakes, volcanos, drops and risings in water levels, etc. They are not telling earth's population, but I believe "they" are well aware of it. One only has to genuinely look at what is going on, Indonesia is sinking, volcanoes are erupting everywhere, EQ's, solar flares. Many people will die because our "world leaders" chose not to warn them. I wish you all the best, enjoy and love each and every moment you breath. Peace and love to you all.

I so enjoy reading your

I so enjoy reading your forecast updates. Sandy affected us (Delaware) not as badly as NJ and NYC.

What are the chances for

What are the chances for snowstorms in North Carolina? The best pattern for snowstorms is when the storms come from the deep south then clash with cold air. Last year we had little clippers that came from the west that were tiny. I want my North Carolina winters back!!

Everybodys been talking about

Everybodys been talking about a pattern change coming to the east coast. This bitter cold we've been dealing with is going away.. and temperatures are going to be well in the 60s by this weekend. I know, its nice to have some milder breaks but I dont want it to be like last year where its not just a "break". I love the chill in the air, though. Hopefully by mid-late November we can sit by the fireplace on Thanksgiving Day then put our Christmas stuff up and relaize "Its almost December" If we do have mild spells will they be short lived? No calender confusion this Christmas or New Years haha!

Last year had some conditions

Last year had some conditions that only occur every century or so. This winter should be much closer to normal with storms and breaks.

My heart goes out to those on

My heart goes out to those on the east coast who were battered by Sandy.
While the east has had a very active weather pattern, here in the upper midwest we've been locked in an extremely dry pattern. At best we have had light mist for moisture. Last winter was very mild with very little snow. Do we have any chance at some "normal" winter weather?

One word -- YES! Second word

One word -- YES! Second word -- HOORAY!

I live in Florida but I grew

I live in Florida but I grew up in upstate NY, just because ive been here for 25 years doesent mean ive lost that New Yorker heart in me. It completely devestates me to see the place I grew up at be shattered by Sandy. I will always be a New York child that loved the snow and the nice beautiful winters. Not even Sandy, she will NOT take everything away. The mid atlantic and northeast will recover.. (my sister in Fairfax, Virginia sent me a picture of a tree uprooted in her yard and fell on her back window) but this can be fixed, NYC can be fixed and this country has been through enough to know how to btw whats in for northern Florida? killing frosts?

Typically El Ninos bring

Typically El Ninos bring northern Florida cooler and much wetter weather. Some El Ninos are very stormy and have even brought winter tornadoes. Good luck to your neighborhood!

Northeastern Yankees are tough. I agree they will recover -- but I hate to see how much they are suffering now. Good luck to them!

So what im getting is that

So what im getting is that the NAO will NOT go strongly positive again this year? last December was ruined by the 60 degree weather, I was looking foward to a cold Christmas and a winter wonderland but winter stood us up in the mid atlantic. I check NOAA every now and again to make sure the NAO doesent go strongly positive again. Sandy brought us snow flurries and right now as im typing this my kids are outside with scarfs, coats, stocking caps and gloves. Its a cold one right now. Last year at this time it was warm! Is a REAL winter on the way for us? with blizzards? yayy 48 more days

It probably will go positive

It probably will go positive for short periods of time. What made last winter so unusual was that it stayed positive. It looks like this winter will be more normal, with snow flurries and warmer breaks in between.


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