New Yorkers knew last January's blizzard was bad, but what they are just now learning is they lived through the city’s worst snowstorm in history.
More than three months after an East Coast blizzard hit New York City from January 22 to 23, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that a review of preliminary snow measurements for Central Park found that they were inaccurate.
Due to the storm’s historic nature and some concerns raised on initial amounts, the National Weather Service (NWS) formed a “snow team” — made up of seven meteorologists — to review the snowfalls.
The team found that the preliminary total in New York City of 26.8 inches was inaccurate and will adjusted upward to 27.5 inches.
Once the new measurement is certified by the NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, it will become an all-time snowfall record for the city — beating the 2010 record of 26.9 inches.
According to the NOAA, the inaccuracy was due to a communication error between the weather forecast office in Upton, NY and the Central Park Conservancy, which volunteers to take the official measurements at the Manhattan park.
The team found the mistake in snow total after reviewing the Conservancy’s logbook.
“Snow measurements are extremely difficult to take because precipitation is inherently variable, a problem compounded by strong winds and compaction during a long duration event,” said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., director of the NWS. “Still, it’s important that we scrutinize questionable measurements and reject those that scientists deem invalid to ensure the public’s continued confidence in the U.S. climate record.”
Through the review process, the team looked at snow totals at eight official snow measuring locations between Washington D.C. and New York City and also evaluated if standard procedures, which are developed by the FAA and based on NWS guidelines, were followed to measure the snowfall.
The meteorologists found that although the recorded total of 17.8 inches at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington D.C. was accurate, the initial reading for New Jersey’s Newark International Airport was too high.
According to the NOAA, the measurement of 28.1 inches was invalid because snow was measured hourly instead of the standard method of measuring every six hours. Meteorologist at the National Weather Service will now go through trying to figure out the accurate total before sending it to the NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information for approval. As a result of the inaccuracy, the 27.8 inches of snow measured in 1996 for Newark will remain the record.
Measurements at the other sites which were part of the review — which included Dulles International Airport in Virginia, Baltimore/Washington International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Philadelphia International Airport — were all determined to be accurate.
According to John Bolaris, meteorologist and Metro weather columnist, the inaccuracy in the measurements is common due to the nature of the conditions during the snowstorms and also what he calls “primitive” measuring methods.
“Anytime you are measuring snow, especially if there are blizzard conditions, you are never going to have a 100 percent accurate snow amount,” he said. “You take it with a grain of salt.”
He added that the way meteorologists use to measure snowfall – using what is called a measuring snowboard -- is still very antiquated and needs to develop in order to reach more accurate totals.
“Weather is not an exact science, measuring the snow is not exact,” he said.