National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Dangerous Heat in the Northeast and Northwest U.S.; Areas of Excessive Rainfall In the Ohio Valley and Southwest

Dangerous heat will continue to impact portions of the Northwest and Northeast U.S. through this evening. Monsoon showers and thunderstorms may result in flash flooding and debris flows from the Four Corners region into the Great Basin this week. A slow moving cold front will bring heavy thunderstorms which may produce excessive rainfall over the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic through Wednesday. Read More >


Winter Summary 2015-16
 

2015-2016 Season Snowfall

The winter of 2015-16 was anticipated to be mild, as the El Niño phase of ENSO increased in strength from the summer months into the winter months. This pool of much warmer water off the western South American coastline aided in a strong zonal flow across North America, locking colder air to the north and allowing mild temperatures to ease through much of the winter months. There was periodic weakening of the zonal flow across North America and this allowed for the cold air that was bottled up north of the region to flow southward, across the open lake waters and deliver bursts of lake effect snow and short-lived cold spells. These cold blasts were few and short-lived and the snow that did fall quickly melted. Many areas were green for much of the winter as widespread synoptic snows were held to a minimum.

The mild air temperatures limited early season snows, and what snow did fall, winds carried to the north, south and east of Buffalo which allowed for the latest first measurable snowfall at the Buffalo Airport. It was not until December 18th that the first measurable snowfall occurred, thus shattering the previous record by more than 2 weeks. 

Despite the warmer than normal winter months, there were nine lake effect snow events this season, which is just under the normal amount of ten. The season started early with an October lake effect snow event, the first such October event since the infamous October event of 2006. A period from January 10th to January 14th saw two lake effect snow events with each plume of snow dropping over 3 feet of snow east of Lake Ontario.

The warm temperatures this winter and limited cold spells allowed for little ice to form on the area creeks and rivers. There was no cool season flooding of area creeks and rivers. Lake Erie never completely froze over this winter season, though there was considerable lake shore ice.

  Snowfall 

The winter season started slowly for western and north central New York with many locations recording their first measurable snow late in November or December.  The exception was southeast of Lake Ontario where an early season lake effect snow event unfolded. For the season there were nine lake effect events, which is one less than normal and also one less than last season’s total of ten. The most active time frame for these lake effect snow events was the 2nd and 3rd week in January when two events dropped at least 2 feet of snow east of Lake Erie, and 3 feet south and east of Lake Ontario. A third event January 17-19th produced close to 2 feet of snow southeast of Lake Ontario. 

Synoptic snows were lacking this season, especially early.  The first major synoptic storm that met warning criteria of 7 inches or more of snow in 12 hours occurred on February 15th-16th. This system brought heavy snow to western and north central New York, while eastern areas accumulated a fair amount of ice. The greatest snow amounts for this system occurred through the Genesee Valley where up to 2 feet of synoptic snow fell. A daily amount of 18.3 inches of snow fell at the Rochester Airport on the 16th, which made this date the 7th snowiest one-day total for this location. A series of clippers maintained the presence of snow into April, the snowiest April in several years, while also boosting seasonal snows up to 50 to 75 percent of normal.  

  Temperatures

Temperatures this winter season across the Lower Great Lakes did indeed go as predicted. All five winter months finished at least two degrees above normal, with December finishing an astonishing 12 degrees above normal for both Buffalo and Rochester. While this warmth was not unexpected with a major El Niño occurring, the magnitude of December’s warmth was very discouraging for snow lovers.  The average temperature these five months finished 2nd warmest all-time for Buffalo and Rochester, trailing only the winter season of 2011-12. Days with freezing temperatures were well below normal this winter, with the November through March time period registering at or below 32F on just 89 days for Buffalo, and 92 days for Rochester; this ranks 2nd fewest for Buffalo, and tied for fewest numbers of days for Rochester.

 

  Winter Statistics for Buffalo and Rochester

Buffalo

Average Temperature, November – March: 37.0F

Snowfall: 55.1” (20th least snowiest)

Days with 1” or more on ground: 33

 

Rochester

Average Temperature, November – March: 37.2F

Snowfall:  63.7” (26th (tied) least snowiest)

Days with 1” or more on ground: 39

 

Buffalo

Type

Date

New Record (F)

Old Date

Old Record (F)

Warm Maximum

November 4th

73

1938

73

Warm Maximum

December 14th

71

1901

64

Warm Minimum

December 14th

50

1975

45

Warm Minimum

December 22nd

47

1990

46

Warm Maximum

December 23rd

65

1957

59

Warm Maximum

December 24th

66

1964

59

Warm Maximum

February 1st

58

1989

56

Warm Maximum

February 3rd

61

1952

50

Warm Minimum

February 3rd

38

1991

37

Warm Maximum

February 29th

58

1976

54

Warm Maximum

March 9th

69

2002

69

Warm Minimum

March 9th

47

1898

44

Warm Minimum

March 31st

51

1998

51

 

 

Rochester

Type

Date

New Record (F)

Old Date

Old Record (F)

Warm Maximum

November 4th

78

1938

74

Warm Maximum

November 5th

75

1948

74

Warm Maximum

November 6th

72

2005

72

Warm Maximum

December 11th

62

1979

61

Warm Maximum

December 14th

69

1901

62

Warm Minimum

December 14th

47

1975

41

Warm Maximum

December 23rd

64

1957

60

Warm Maximum

December 24th

68

1982

58

Warm Minimum

January 9th

40

1880

40

Warm Maximum

February 1st

60

1988

56

Warm Maximum

February 3rd

59

1991

52

Warm Minimum

February 3rd

40

1890

39

Warm Maximum

March 9th

75

2000

73

Warm Minimum

March 9th

45

1898

43

Warm Minimum

March 10th

46

1898

45

Warm Minimum

March 31st

53

1981

47

 

 

Watertown

Type

Date

New Record (F)

Old Date

Old Record (F)

Warm Maximum

November 4th

73

1994

67

Warm Maximum

November 5th

71

1988

71

Warm Minimum

November 6th

50

2013

49

Warm Minimum

December 11th

43

1971

38

Warm Maximum

December 14th

67

1975

60

Warm Maximum

December 23rd

63

1990

58

Warm Maximum

December 24th

67

2014

59

Warm Minimum

January 9th

38

2008

36

Warm Maximum

February 1st

55

1988

52

Warm Maximum

February 3rd

55

1983

52

Low Maximum

February 14th

-1

1987

-1

Low Minimum

February 14th

-37

1979

-30

Warm Minimum

March 10th

38

2011

38

Warm Minimum

March 31st

48

1976

45

 

 

  Monthly Highlights

November

November featured persistent storm tracks to the west and north of the region. These storm tracks brought mild days to western and central New York State, along with noted wind storms.  Notable wind events occurred on the 1st, 6th, 12th, 18-19th and 22nd of the month. The strongest winds occurred on the 12th when winds peaked near 60 mph across the Lake Erie shoreline of Western New York, and also produced a seiche event of just over 9 feet on the eastern end of Lake Erie. There was one minor lake effect snow event this month across western New York, this on the 22nd and 23rd.  Several inches of snow fell south of Buffalo, and the first measurable snow fell across the lower Genesee Valley, including Rochester.

December

An amazingly warm and virtually snow-free month developed as a ridge of high pressure remained locked over the eastern United States. Almost all days averaged above normal for the month across western and north-central New York. The average December temperature smashed the previous warmest December on record by an unheard of 4+ degrees Fahrenheit.  This warmth also produced a few spring flowers, blooming a second time before the winter season was established. Storm systems passed by the region to the west and east this month, a common track thus far this winter. There was one moderate lake effect event. Behind a cold front on the 18th, lake effect snow generated east of the eastern Great Lakes, with the snow producing the first measureable snowfall for Buffalo on the 18th. On the 28th a powerful storm system passed across the Central Great Lakes region and sent an area of precipitation over western and north-central New York, which remained below freezing at the onset. Light snow and freezing rain occurred with this system, along with gusty winds of 50 mph. The beginnings of a second lake effect snow event started in the waning hours of the month.

January

January returned to some resemblance of winter across western and north-central New York, this after a remarkably warm December. Brief bursts of colder, arctic air flowed over the open lake waters and brought several lake effect snow events to the region. There were also several warm stints across western New York, with a January thaw the last several days of the month melting much of the remaining snowpack. Lake effect snow was prevalent with each burst of arctic air, with 5 such lake effect snow events spanning the month. A strong cold front crossed the region later on the 10th of the month, producing scattered tree damage across western New York. Behind this front a seiche occurred with lake water levels rising to just above 8 feet on Lake Erie. Along a cold front on the 12th convective snow squalls formed, with one such squall producing a 64 mph wind gust at the Buffalo airport.

February

A fair amount of snow fell this month, this in an otherwise uneventful winter with much below normal snowfall. The month began on a record warmth note, with the 1st and 3rd setting record highs at both Buffalo and Rochester. A storm system tracked across the Central Great Lakes region from the 8th through the 10th, bringing light rain and snow to western New York before a strong cold front crossed the region on the 10th. Behind this front, temperatures dropped significantly, with lake effect snow developing. As a bitter cold arctic air mass strengthened over the Great Lakes region, many areas dropped below 0F on the 13th  and 14th with the 14th the coldest morning of the winter season for many. The sole synoptic snowstorm this winter with at least 7 inches of snow or more occurred from the 16th through the 17th with a general foot of snow across the region, with a few spots in the northern Genesee Valley reaching nearly 2 feet. The deep snowpack was short-lived as air temperatures returned to the 40s and 50s a few days later, ablating the snowpack and causing area creeks and rivers to rise, though remaining in their banks. 

March

March began on a cool note, but eventually a mild temperature pattern became established and brought the month close to a top 10 warmest month by the end. A mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain occurred on the 1st and 2nd of the month, with up to a quarter of an inch of ice occurring across the Genesee Valley.  High pressure sent southerly winds across the state to start the second week of the month, and this started a trend towards above normal warmth over the region. This warmth sustained itself for the most part through the month, with brief bouts of below normal temperatures following cold fronts. The warmest day this month was Easter Sunday, the 27th when the thermometer rose into the 60s to lower 70s across the region. 

April

A series of clipper storm systems within a longwave trough over the eastern United States maintained unseasonably cool air, with periodic snows over the first two weeks of the month. It was the coldest first 10 days of April since 2003 for western and north-central New York State, and these clipper type systems brought the greatest April snow tallies for Buffalo and Rochester since 2004 and 1995 respectively. After grauple and wet snow fell over portions of western and north-central New York on the 12th, a broad ridge of high pressure finally ushered in spring, with steadily warming temperatures and multiple days of brilliant blue sky.   

In summary, the winter of 2015-16 can be summed up with two words, warmer and drier than normal, just as predicted.