Extreme weather: Arctic air mass buffets US East Coast

Testing blizzard conditions swept across large swathes of the US East Coast over the weekend, as weather experts once again pointed their finger at a changing climate.

Hurricane-force wind gusts battered much of the East Coast, with heavy snow that making travel treacherous or impossible and flooding coastlines.

Parts of 10 states were under blizzard warnings at some point: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, along with much of the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

The US National Weather Service considers a storm a blizzard if it has snowfall or blowing snow, as well as winds of at least 35 mph that reduce visibility to a quarter-mile or less for at least three hours.

Boston tied its record for the biggest single-day snowfall, with 23.6 inches, the US National Weather Service said.

Winds gusted as high as 83 mph on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Southwest of Boston, the town of Sharon, Massachusetts, had received more than 30 inches of snow by Saturday night, while Islip, New York, and Warren, Rhode Island, both saw more than 24 inches.

New York City and Philadelphia still saw significant snowfall, with at least 7.5 inches in New York’s Central Park and at Philadelphia airport.

Many flights at airports serving New York, Boston and Philadelphia were cancelled, while rail operator Amtrak cancelled all its high-speed Acela trains on the busy Boston-to-Washington corridor.

Over 120,000 homes and businesses lost power in Massachusetts, according to reports.

Climate change, particularly the warming ocean, probably influenced the strength of the storm, atmospheric researchers said, which has been caused by the movement south of a severely cold arctic air mass.

Much warmer ocean waters “are certainly playing a role in the strengthening of the storm system and increased moisture available for the storm,” said University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado, though he stressed that climate change is not the sole factor at work here.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul advised people to stay home and warned of below-zero wind chills after the storm passes, with the state having declared a state of emergency on Friday evening (28 November).

Winds gusted as high as 83 mph on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Southwest of Boston, the town of Sharon, Massachusetts, had received more than 30 inches of snow by Saturday night, while Islip, New York, and Warren, Rhode Island, both saw more than 24 inches.

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