The Star-Herald

Fastest to 100 inches

Yup, it’s true. This winter has reached 100 inches of snow faster than any winter on record at Caribou, where they’ve been keeping records since 1939. The century mark was passed on Jan. 23, and at this writing, Jan. 30, we continue to outpace the famed Big Year of 2007-08, in which 197.8 inches fell at Caribou.

January itself has been remarkable. Today, there was another healthy snowfall of 7.2 inches, but it wasn’t quite enough, as it appears that Caribou will come up just short in the bid for the snowiest month on record — that is, unless a stray snow shower drifts over Caribou between now and midnight on the 31st. Based on 30-year averages, Caribou received 25.2 inches of snow in the month of January. But January of 2019 has seen a whopping 58.8 inches, just 0.2 inches shy of 5 feet. And January nearly became the snowiest of any of the winter months on record, but it looks like the record holder will, just barely, remain December of 1972, when 59.9 inches bombarded Caribou.

Also very notable: Caribou’s 7.2 inches of snow today put the city past its average annual snowfall for an entire winter, which is 108.7 inches. Caribou presently stands at 111.6 inches. If, from February 1st, through the rest of the snow season, Caribou were to received its 30-year average amount of snow, another 48.4 inches would fall, bringing the season’s total to exactly 160 inches, which would be the third snowiest season on record, but still a bit more than three feet behind the Big Year!

Moving along, I recently came across an incredible shot of what is known as sea smoke. You may have seen it before. It occurs on very cold mornings above open water.

Sea smoke looks like lots of wisps of steam coming off of the water. Here’s what’s going on when it forms.

Water evaporates from the water surface. As it rises, it immediately condenses, due to the fact that very cold air has a greatly reduced holding capacity for water vapor. So you get those wispy, near-surface tendrils, that almost look like smoke, thus the name, “sea smoke”. At sunrise and sunset, sea smoke photos can be especially stunning.

Another weather wonder occurred since last we met, the thundersnow on the evening of Jan. 27. Lightning and thunder occurred in a number of places in a fairly tight time window, between 10:30 and 10:55 p.m. EST, as I recall. Among places reporting lightning and thunder while it was snowing were Mars Hill, and Centerville, New Brunswick, but there were numerous other reports, which you can still read by going back to that date on my WAGM Facebook page, facebook.com/tedsweather.

The thunder and lighting came from low-topped thunderstorms in advance of a strong cold front, which is the exact mechanism that generates some of our thunderstorms in the summer. It’s just that winter cold front thunderstorms are a lot less common. Incidentally, the new GOES 16 weather satellite, which is 22,000 miles up, was able to detect the pulses of light from the lightning during the thundersnow event.

I’ll close this week by noting it is the anniversary of the Blizzard of ’78, nicknamed the White Hurricane in southern New England due to the destruction it caused along the coast, in places like Scituate, Mass. If you have never read about the storm, or want to learn more about it, check out this URL:  http://archive.boston.com/news/weather/gallery/013108_78blizzard/.

Ted Shapiro holds the Broadcast Seal of Approval from both the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. An Alexandria, Va. native, he has been chief meteorologist at WAGM-TV since 2006. Email him at tshapiro@wagmtv.com.

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