A look at weather extremes and the big-picture climate connections.

‘Snowpril’ Dumps Nearly 2 Feet of Snow in Northeast

The late-season winter storm, dubbed "Snowpril" via social media networks, dropped heavy, wet snow on portions of West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York into early Tuesday morning. The storm also brought several inches of beneficial rainfall to coastal areas all the way northward to Maine, which have been suffering from moderate to severe drought conditions.

Image taken from the webcam facing Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania. The resort reopened Tuesday for the latest day of skiing in its history, after receiving about a foot of snow Monday.

While snowfall amounts underperformed compared to initial forecasts in cities such as Buffalo and Pittsburgh, higher-elevation regions that had colder temperatures received more significant amounts. The jackpot was in Laurel Summit, Pa., which recorded an impressive 23.2 inches of snow. Sylvania, Pa., received 11 inches, and Newfield, N.Y., saw 10 inches of snow. Buffalo had 0.9 inches, enough to break the daily maximum snowfall record for that date, which was 0.8 inches set in 1927. 

Interestingly, Rochester, N.Y., set both a daily maximum rainfall and a daily maximum snowfall record, with nearly 3 inches of snow falling there after the rain changed to wet snow. Chautauqua and Erie Counties in New York were also hard hit, with a foot to nearly a foot and a half of snow falling. 

The snow brought down trees and power lines and caused widespread power outages, but they were not as extensive as what resulted from "Snowtober," which strangely enough was the only other significant nor'easter of 2011-12. It's extremely unusual to have a winter season that is bookended by major snowstorms in the fall and spring, with very little snow in between during the actual winter months.

The late season snow even allowed the Seven Springs Ski Resort in Pennsylvania to reopen for the latest day of skiing in its history. Ironically, it had closed early this year due to a lack of snow.

Although it might seem as if a spring snowstorm is inconsistent with the effects of manmade global warming, precipitation extremes - both rain and snow - are already increasing in the Northern Hemisphere, since warmer air and sea surface temperatures cause more water vapor to be present in the atmosphere. This may tip the odds in favor of heavier snowstorms when temperatures are cold enough for snow. Even with a warming climate, temperatures cold enough for snow are expected to continue to occur.

This NOAA satellite animation shows the evolution of the snowstorm.

« Extreme Planet