The Storm That Ate the Atlantic

Jan 29, 2016
Monster Spring Storm 2013


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Spring 2013 came. So did a blizzard. The spring storm rumbled through North America, and left snow in 44 of 50 states and all of Canada.

Then it rolled into the Atlantic Ocean and became a real monster! By the last day of March, the storm stretches across the entire ocean, from Canada to Spain, Greenland to the Caribbean. It became a storm on steroids.

This giant storm now reaches from Greenland to the Caribbean, Canada to Spain. Source: NASA

The storm is much more powerful as well. The Atlantic is unusually warm and it has been using this energy to grow. Now, its 75mph (120.7 kmh) winds are as strong as a Category 1 hurricane. It is creating waves 42 ft. (13 m.) high.

Here's some insight …

When the Atlantic is hot, it energizes storms two ways.

  • First, heat provides energy and moisture, which helps storms grow.
  • Secondly, it creates a blocking pattern, called the Greenland High, which slows storms down and keeps them from drifting east. (This same blocking pattern in October drove Hurricane Sandy towards New Jersey.) Normally the late March blizzard would have raced across the Atlantic, but the Greenland High pinned it in the North Atlantic.

Ultimately, several more low pressures drifted into the storm strengthening it. Meanwhile it was fed by heat from the south and Arctic air from the north.

The Greenland High blocked the storm, so it gathered more cold fronts and grew!

Think of it as a Frankenstorm—a giant made from the parts of several storms and energized by ocean heat and Arctic wind.

Fortunately, for Europe, scientists expect the storm will fall apart. They predict it will fragment into several fronts before it reaches Portugal later this week. In the end, Europe should only feel a series of minor storms. But for now, there is a monster swirling in the Atlantic.

The spring blizzard that left snow in 44 0f 50 states Source: NOAA

Did you experience the storm? Please share your thoughts.


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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Can we just get through

Can we just get through spring 2013 without the severe weather? March was so quiet! It was wonderful. Im from the south and were known for our severe weather in the warm months. 2011 was horrible, it was a very tragic year. Will 2013 be anything like 2011? It was among the worst times for folks trying to live through such horror

I know last year was

I know last year was extremely abnormal for Kentucky, with temperatures far above where they should have been. I've seen flukes throughout my 54 years in this area, but generally speaking it has gotten progressively warmer since my youth, with less Winter and downright oppressive Summer heat. The fact that the TV weather folks changed the way they determine "normal" temperatures several years ago (by averaging the temps of the last ten years only) makes it confusing for younger people who weren't familiar with the real Winters we had back in the '50's, '60's, and '70's.

According to some scientists,

According to some scientists, we will be seeing some of the conditions we saw in the '50s. If they are right, Yikes!

It's not us TV weather folk

It's not us TV weather folk who change the "normals"...the National Weather Service updates these every ten years using the past 30 years of data. So the "normals" you currently see on your local TV news should be the averages from the 1981 to 2010 time frame.

Spring 2013 came but Winter

Spring 2013 came but Winter still refuses to leave. Old man winter is just saying to us "It may be April, but I'm not done yet." Winter has definitely showed its existence.
We had 8 inches of snow where I live in Virginia. My sister from Florida flew in last Monday and she started off by saying "Seriously? There is STILL snow in Virginia?" Snow here in late March isn't that unusual, as you can imagine.. but the span area and how much snow fell was what made it historic. If it were February, then this would be normal. The stunning thing is comparing 2012 and 2013, these years are NOTHING alike!! I don't know whether its because 2013 is a cold year or 2012 spoiled us to where we expect it to be 70-80 degrees in March & April. We had 15" of snow in early March, so our winter total was impressive! More snow here than Philly, NYC and maybe even Chicago!

Remember all those readers

Remember all those readers who were wishing for snow. Now we have it. Be careful what you wish for!

The good news is that it has freeze killed the insect population and given us some badly needed moisture.


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