Just Another East Coast Blizzard

Guest post by John Goetz

I read Judah Cohen’s opinion piece in the New York Times yesterday and could not decide if he was being serious or not when he concluded “It’s all a snow job by nature. The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.

He had to be joking, right? There is no way a “director of seasonal forecasting at an atmospheric and environmental research firm” could possibly believe the weather we are experiencing out here on the east coast is in any way different from the past. One need only look through past issues of the New York Times itself to debunk that idea.

I went to the archives section of the newspaper and did a simple headline search on the word “blizzard”, then scanned through the oldest articles first looking for references to blizzards in New York City. A blizzard in mid-March 1888 immediately jumped out as a particularly memorable storm. A headline from the newspaper read:




New-York helpless in a tornado of wind and snow which paralyzed all industry, isolated the city from the rest of the country, caused many accidents and great discomfort, and exposed it to many dangers.

Two feet of snow fell in New York City during the storm, and the wind approached, but did not quite reach, 50 miles per hour. The blizzard was quite expansive, stretching from Ohio to Boston. A report from Cleveland read “Worst snowstorm in a long period of years” with high winds and heavily falling snow following a winter “unusually mild and free from snow, only an occasional cold wave indicating the season of the year“.

While that winter may have been mild in Cleveland, 1888 proved quite harsh in the prairie states. A massive blizzard that accompanied arctic cold of 20 to 40 degrees below zero stretched from Texas to the Dakotas on January 12. Two headlines from the New York Times that January summed up the massive storm. First from January 13:



Yesterday’s storm proved to be of much greater severity than was at first supposed. It was general throughout Minnesota, Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, and Iowa, and railroad men say it has not been surpassed since 1872. The storm effects were most severe from the peculiar action of the winds and drifts.

And another from January 21:



The New York City blizzard of March, 1888 certainly left a lasting impression, as it was used to measure several other bruising storms that occurred during the remaining years of that century. This includes the blizzard of March 13, 1891; the February 27, 1894 blizzard where “only about a foot and a half of snow fell in 24 hours” with gale winds up to 44 miles per hour. That storm was closely followed by the monster of April 12, 1894 described by the Times as “almost a repetition of the blizzard of 1888.

Then came the blizzard of January 28, 1897 that slammed the eastern seaboard. An article reported from Baltimore said the city had 7 inches of snow, the “most severe storm of the present season. There have been few heavier snowfalls since the blizzard of 1888. Ice has fastened itself in the waters of the rivers and Chesapeake Bay“. Then just northeast of New York City came the word that “Rockville, Conn., reports a fall of 34 inches of snow, drifts 5 to 8 feet deep, and that the blizzard has been the most severe since 1888.

The final blizzard of the 1800’s did not, apparently, rise to the level where it could be compared with that of 1888. This storm occurred on February 11, 1899,  and was nothing more than heavy snow accompanied by 50+ mile per hour winds, and it followed a week of record cold where, as the storm began, “the mercury mounted to a comparatively dizzy height of 6 degrees above zero“.

That storm of 1888 sure must have been something. I can tell you this – I sure don’t long for those “good old days.”

1888 blizzard references (requires a NYT subscription to open PDFs):


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Robert of Ottawa

But unlike previous blizzards – these are WARM blizzards.

c. j. acworth

Here in New Hampshire I just finished plowing 16″ of Global Warming out of the private road my neighbors and I live on so I can maybe get to work tomorrow.

Frank K.

“Same as it ever was” — Talking Heads

R. de Haan

It’s the same mantra everywhere.
It’s not a conspiracy, only a well coordinated propaganda campaign by the UN World Meteorological Organization to save the frozen ruins of the Global Warming doctrine in order to provide our political elite with a basis to sell us out and turn the West into an IDIOCRACY.


I dunno where that person lived before, but this was a relatively normal nor’easter up in Boston. I know folks in DC and south near the coast freak out at 1″ but this was just your usual ugly up here. Nothing all that big. At least for us it was snow and not ice. My son finally made some money with the plow on his F-150.

“One need only look through past issues of the New York Times itself to debunk that idea.”
This is why it is imperative to set up Ministry of Truth (Minitrue) in Oceania ASAP. There’s no other way to correct past errors.

The 1888 blizzard is still well known among weather enthusiasts in the northeast. Google searches find several links and several photos. In Boston it was the impetus to build their subway system.
http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/blizzard/blizz.txt (compares the 1993 “Storm of the Century” with 1888)

James Sexton

but those were all weather…
….this time it’s caused by less ice, warming the air, creating a negative/positive air flow, creating a low/high pressure, creating the snow………….
this time it’s different, because there’s people trying to make money off it

John F. Hultquist

My mother, born in 1907 on a farm in western PA, would later tell her small children how she had to walk two miles to the one room school house with the snow “up to here” and she would hold her hand just above her belt. We would exclaim and she would smile. Years later we realized that as a first grader she was much less tall than as an adult and the snow she described was rather normal in western PA. Nothing has changed in the hundred years.
And no, she did not tell us her walk to school was uphill both ways.


Yes, we’re in the midst of climate change – from warming to cooling – so what’s new? By the time the warmists admit it, the climate will be back to warming again, while they will be figuring out how to tax and scare us into believing in death by ice with their inverted hockey sticks! BTW was Al Gore going to give some big speech on AGW in New York?

Pamela Gray

Well, well, well. Judah certainly has interesting things to say about the AO now and back in 2005. So which is it Judah?

David L

Carefull there, you’re going to inadvertantly prove that current snow storms are less frequent, less severe, less windy, less cold, and have less snow than the past, which will naturally be conclusive proof of AGW. I think this nor’easter was 0.3C warmer than the one in 1888.


Only 8 inches of global warming at my house. When I was a kid we used to get twice as much global warming on a regular basis.

Leon Brozyna

And when the glaciers once again start their march south through Canada and into the northern reaches of the U.S., these fools will blame it all on global climate whatever.

Green Acres

The NY Times piece is an incredible pile of nonsense. Let’s see, the diminished ice in the Arctic leads to greater moisture available, which leads to more snow in Siberia, which causes colder and snowier weather. Problem is, the diminished ice in the Arctic is in the summer and it doesn’t snow much in Siberia in the summer. Last I looked, ice extent in the Arctic in the winter is normal (whatever normal is). So what is this guy saying, the increased moisture from the summer just kind of lurks around Siberia until it gets cold enough to snow? Ridiculous. And how about the Southern Hemisphere? No shortage of ice there, summer or winter. So I guess the CO2 only works its magic in the Northern Hemisphere
The other main problem with this Siberia explanation is more difficult to explain away with pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo. If the effect of global warming is to create colder and snowier winters, what happens to the dire predictions of drought, rising sea levels, heat waves, etc.? Apparently, the new explanation is that we will all freeze to death because of global warming! You know the warmists are scraping the bottom of the barrel when they break out this foolishness.

Here, on another continent, there’s been 10″of global warming on the ground for over a month. Quite unusual. The last global warming disappeared end of March, to reappear only 6 months later. If this trend continues and we get more two months of global warming every year, it’ll be just another three years before it all connects and we’ll have a full year of global warming. Next thing you know it’s glaciers ringing at the front door.

Well … you’ve got to read this:
27 February 1894 New York Times (free)
Pessimistic old gentlemen who have been entertaining grave fears for the “old- fashioned Winters we used to have” should have been very much cheered up …
Reply: Yeah, I read that during my search. Lots of interesting articles piled up in the archive, including some during that same time frame that discussed the horrific winters being suffered in England. Another post …

Theo Goodwin

I believe that this blast of cold air is nothing out of the ordinary, with one exception, and that is the fact that the cold air extends so far south. These cold air masses usually stop in the vicinity of Florida’s panhandle or maybe Gainesville. But for the last three years they have hit Central Florida and we have suffered considerably. I was outside in the sunshine about 4:00 pm and the temperature was 47 F with a windchill in the neighborhood of 40. That is the lowest temperature in sunshine that I have experienced in Central Florida.

Look at this one as well … a fascinating piece (free) on 7 March 1920
Compares the storm of 1888 with the storm of 1920 … detailed stats

Judah is correct (politically) because the Lame Ducks repealed the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics just before Christmas. You may have missed that news in the bustle of the Season.

rob m.

@Theo: The orange trees in Central Florida were wiped out 20 or so years ago by similar cold fronts you are experiencing now.


@ R. de Haan: speaking of Idiocracy:

David L

Theo Goodwin says:
December 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm
I believe that this blast of cold air is nothing out of the ordinary, with one exception, and that is the fact that the cold air extends so far south. These cold air masses usually stop in the vicinity of Florida’s panhandle or maybe Gainesville. But for the last three years they have hit Central Florida and we have suffered considerably. I was outside in the sunshine about 4:00 pm and the temperature was 47 F with a windchill in the neighborhood of 40. That is the lowest temperature in sunshine that I have experienced in Central Florida.”
Actually, as a child growing up in the 70’s, I always remembered the news stories during Xmas break about the cold in Florida endangering the orange groves. My aunt had a place down there and we always watched the news and she would comment on the ruined oranges. But that was during a time everyone was being warned about global cooling and the next ice age. Of course the news supported that theory even back then.

Tom Jones

He described the oceans as being warmer. The World Met report didn’t say that, it said that certain sea surface temperatures were higher. The NODC says that the OHC is falling, or heating a lot more slowly, depending on which study you listen to.
What it really says is that the Warmists are not giving up yet, not by a long shot. How many cold years is it going to take? Decades. They never will.


Charles M. Russell did some of his most iconic paintings in the 1880’s here in Montana:
“In 1882 he went to work as a cowboy, working as night wrangler on cattle drives and round-ups. During the bitter cold winter of 1886-1887, Charlie was staying on the O.H. Ranch. In a reply to the owners of the ranch who asked about the condition of their herd, Charlie drew a sketch of a gaunt, starving cow surrounded by wolves, and titled it “Waiting for a Chinook” The sketch was reproduced in the Montana newspapers, and is still today one of Charlie’s best-known pictures.”


If 2010 is the hottest on record surpassing 1998, where were all the blizzards in 99 and 2000.


rob m. says:
December 27, 2010 at 3:28 pm
@Theo: The orange trees in Central Florida were wiped out 20 or so years ago by similar cold fronts you are experiencing now.
Rob, here’s a little fact-oid for you.
Prior to the mid 1800’s, oranges were grown as far north as South Carolina. There were huge orange groves in south Georgia.
Here’s an excellent link and write up about Florida history and Florida freezes. A lot of information on the Florida citrus history too…..

Theo Goodwin

rob m. says:
December 27, 2010 at 3:28 pm
“@Theo: The orange trees in Central Florida were wiped out 20 or so years ago by similar cold fronts you are experiencing now.”
Actually, the old timers say 1974 was the year that orange groves retreated south by 50 or 100 miles. I did not mean to suggest that the cold we are experiencing in Central Florida at this time deserves some special recognition. All I meant is that the last three years have been colder than usual.


The following is a reference from “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds”
“it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one” – Charles MacKay, preface, unnumbered page, written 1841, reprinted 14th November, 2010.


Okay. This is getting bothersome. I remember all the GISS and IPCC graphs that started in the 1880s. They cherry picked a 19th century cold period and argued relentlessly that the 1990s were the warmest ever — just look at their graphs. Now we are having winters as cold as some in the 1880s. Doesn’t that simply mean the unrelenting, out-of-control global warming we were supposed to be afraid of just didn’t transpire?
Were the Northeast blizzards of the 1880s caused by the global warming since the depths of the 18th century Little Ice Age? Didn’t Svante Arrhenius argue that by allowing more CO2 into the atmosphere, society could create and manage global warming to avoid another mini ice age?
We need to revive the fine art of ridicule.
BTW: The last snow report for the High Sierra for 2010 is in: snow depth is 207% of normal. If all this were caused by global warming, would it not be all rain and flooding, not frozen?

David L. Hagen

On the 1886-7 storm

An arctic storm front moved in, keeping temperatures at 20 below zero for weeks. Starving cattle searching for food and water drifted in the blizzards and froze to death. Literally hundreds of thousands of animals perished (the winter would later be called “The Big Die-Up.”)

“Waiting for a Chinook”

CRS, Dr.P.H.

Don’t worry, they always have ocean acidification in their back-pockets. We are already starting to see more stories about new, dangerous aspects of ocean acidification, with the latest being disruption of the ocean’s nitrogen cycle. See:
These folks do not intend to go quietly into the night….


P.F. says:
December 27, 2010 at 4:05 pm
Doesn’t that simply mean the unrelenting, out-of-control global warming we were supposed to be afraid of just didn’t transpire?
that and the “no significant warming” thing
We need to revive the fine art of ridicule.
no kidding, I’m all for that…………


I can’t believe the failed CAGW scientists are still weaving their web of lies. There is nothing unusual about the latest spell of bad global weather and it has all happened in a similar way many many times before in the past.
There are lots of us here on WUWT long enough in the tooth to remember back to the 70’s, when the approach of the next ice age was the message of climate science. Their simple computer models always tended to predict snowball Earth syndrome and they were certain the end of civilisation as we knew it was round the corner.
The reality of climate is that it is never stable. It is a dynamic system which is always oscillating up and down, driven by the underlying deterministic chaos.
For UK WUWTers, the link to the Piers Corbyn video can be found here-

Paul Coppin

But, but, but… surely this nor’ester was much more robust than previous ones, especially more so than in 1888. And those inches of snow – so much more robust inches than in days of yor. The 12 inches of new wind-driven snow is much worse than the foot of wind-blown snow of the the old millennium.

Richard G

The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Fransisco – Mark Twain


It might be worth getting a scientific perspective on this. The mark of a science is to predict or describe events that despite being highly improbable are in fact true. The laptop on which I write this requires the electrical properties of atoms to work to consistently millions of times a second. A similar feat must be achieved by the software. It requires a level of complexity that no one individual can comprehend in a lifetime.
Strong science is based on explaining or predicting the improbable. Weak, or pseudo-science consists of explaining every random event that actually occurs, and never being able to conceive of a random event where it will be contradicted. To be able to explain the extreme cold we are experiancing as evidence of global warming would be such an incidence if it could have been predicted in advance by the theory. Instead it was predicted by the alternative theories. Ex-post assimilation to AGW theory is simply to move AGW theory further away from true science.

Gary D.

Re: Pamela Gray says:
December 27, 2010 at 2:38 pm
This storm seems to be right up Judah’s alley. Per his paper though
2) As more open water becomes available in the late summer and early fall, a previously frozen moisture source becomes available, providing greater low-level moisture and resulting in increased Siberian snow cover. 3) An increase in snow cover leads to greater frequency of a negative AO through the dynamic pathway previously postulated. We are in the process of examining these proposed linkages.
Since his paper, which is really hard to read, is on point per his article, I can understand why he – was chosen by the Team? – wrote the article for the NYT. I would have to spend way longer than I am willing to understand whether I agree with his conclusion, but he certainly has the background to address the subject.

D. King

CRS, Dr.P.H. says:
December 27, 2010 at 4:18 pm
Don’t worry, they always have ocean acidification in their back-pockets.
Yes, but we have this.
Seems like our little crustacean friends would have
dissolved away long ago.

You don’t have to go back to 1888 for a big blizzard. In 1947 a blizzard shut down the entire city of New York so that nothing moved.


The NE gets lots of heavy snowfall this storm was unusual in hitting places much farther south. Norfolk VA got around 14 to 15 inches so it was close to my personal VA record of 15-inches in 1989 but it fell short of the late 1800’s record of 18+ inches, coming in 2nd or 3rd. Good thing about SE VA is that today with above freezing temperatures and some sun, any cleared areas melted down to wet pavement by afternoon. So my mornings shoveling paid off with ice-free walks and drive. The bad ones are when after the snow it gets cold and stays cold for a few weeks, pretty rare in SE VA that that happens.

Pamela Gray

But Gary, Judah is talking temperature, not snow, in his opinion piece above, to wit, “The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it..”
However, in his earlier paper, he does not see much of a trend in his temperature series and these natural oscillations, to wit, “While the NAO and AO may contribute to regional warming in the NH for particular periods, differences in both trend and pattern strongly suggest that the pattern and magnitude of the global warming trend over the last 30 years are largely independent of the AO and NAO.”
Snow cover is another topic which he treats separately from the temperature trend and contributes increasing snow cover to either the negative AO (which I agree with), or late Summer early Fall Arctic available moisture (a very tenuous thesis in my opinion) causing later snow in the mountains. So I stand by my catch of what I think is a flip flop on his part.
In a nutshell, it appears to me that what he is saying is that while the oscillating AO bears little resemblance to global warming temperatures, it now does to cooling temperatures? If so he is standing on the wrong side of the creek to be saying that.

Pamela Gray

Say! I just thought of something! What if the decreasing number of temperature monitoring sites ended up concentrating themselves within the reaches of weather pattern variation effects attributable to the oscillating AO? The AO produces fairly predictable regional temperature swings and precipitation changes, so having relatively more sensors within its reach could help explain at least part of the recent rise and the current lack of one. The last positive JFM AO trend certainly matches the rise in temperature that occurred at the same time, and now matches the lack of a rising trend. If you take (I know, I know) the Pacific ENSO affects out of it, the match might even be better.
So maybe it isn’t so much the overall reduction in sensors, or the change in altitude, or siting problems, or UHI, but a greater concentration within the arms of the AO.

Al Gore's Brother

All I know is that my grandparents grew up in Rhode Island and I remember them telling me stories of the early 1900’s and the terrible snows and winds that plagued the east coast back then. To see it happening again just re-confirms that the climate does change. In the summer it gets warm (hot) and in the winter it gets cold. Sometimes it doesn’t get as hot in the summer and sometimes it doesn’t get as cold in the winter. This has been happening for millinea. Why is this a problem? And why do we need to stop it?

Pamela Gray

Now I’m on a roll. La Nina and El Nino also produce fairly predictable regional weather pattern variations. If station reduction became concentrated in these “weather tracks”, the sensors would pick up El Nino warming and La Nina cooling in spades. If we were in the middle of a warm PDO cycle, the resulting temperatures on the sensors would show up as a false positive to CO2 global warming. Likewise with a cold PDO.
Of course I’ve also had a bit of mulled spiced wine so I could just be talkin through my hat.

Pamela Gray

Or maybe it was the station migration AWAY from the influence of the AO. That would be the case in Russia? When I see the typical weather pattern variation response to a negative AO in the Northern reaches of Russia (IE deep freeze with a negative AO) and then consider the possible migration South of temperature stations there, I’m thinkin we might be comparing apples to oranges now.


I remember the blizzard of 1996 when we had three of these Nor’easters in a row. The snow was deeper than my car was high.
This is always a fun read:

February 2-3 and February 16, 1996, storms: The Delmarva received 4 snowstorms in about 5 weeks from January 7 through February 16. The storm on February 2-3, dropped up to two feet of snow over Dorchester County. The entire Lower Eastern Shore was covered by another 1 to 2 feet of snow. On February 16, another storm struck dropping 5 to 8 inches over the Lower Eastern Shore and 8 to 12 inches on the Upper Eastern Shore. These storms combined to produce the snowiest season this century on the Delmarva! The Lower Shore (Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset Counties) saw 28 to 35 inches of snow in those five weeks. Dorchester, Talbot, and Caroline Counties saw 45 to 59 inches of snow. The Upper Shore (Cecil, Kent, and Queen Annes Counties) saw 38 to 42 inches. Record snow also fell across Southern Maryland. The record in Hollywood stood at 54.7 inches set during the winter of 1898-99. The 1995-96 winter dropped 59 inches of snow on Hollywood. The series of big snow storms went on to break an all time record at Baltimore with a season total of 62.5 inches. It broke the old record of 52 inches (set 1963-64 season) by almost a foot! Snow records at Baltimore go back to 1883.

For Baltimore (typical for Mid-Atlantic region):
# Snowiest Month = 40.5 inches, Feb. 2003
# Snowiest Season = 62.5 inches during the 1995-1996 winter
# Least Snowiest Season = 0.7 inches during the 1949-1950 winter
I’ll not be forgetting 1996. That was the year I left the region for California. I left in April and there was *still* snow on the ground in the wooded areas. That was the first winter I could remember where the ground was covered for the entire winter and well into spring.