Weather Before and After the Hurricane of 1938

This week New England is being inundated with retrospectives on the Hurricane of 1938. We have everything from a “Special Limited Edition” Weather Map Prepared by Bob Copeland, a retired Boston TV meteorologist who started an art studio in New Hampshire to a day long commemorative event hosted by the Blue Hill Observatory and featuring the Director of the National Weather Service, Dr. Louis Uccillini, National Hurricane Center Director, Dr. Rick Knabb, and MIT Professor Dr. Kerry Emanuel.

The main NH TV station hosted three programs around the state. I have no idea what else Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts are doing, but I’m sure it’s substantial.

Track and rainfall of the Hurricane of 1938
Track and rainfall of the Hurricane of 1938. The strongest winds of a northern hemisphere tropical cyclone are on the east side where the storm’s forward motion adds to the rotation speed.

In brief, the storm’s damage summary from Boston NWS Office is:

Public Impact:   Deaths: 564   Injured: > 1,700

Boating Impact:  Destroyed: 2,600   Damaged: 3,300

Homes/Buildings  Destroyed: 8,900   Damaged: > 15,000

If the storm hit now, damage could be $45 billion.  If it followed Sandy’s track, the damaged area would be different, but the storm surge and total damage much worse.

There’s so much available about the hurricane that writing yet another essay would be a waste of my time.  Instead, I want to talk about weather before and after 1938, and the best source for lore from that time is David Ludlum’s The New England Weather Book.  No, my copy isn’t for sale.  The block quotes below are from Ludlum, the rest of the text is from several sources.

The decade or so before 1938 certainly qualifies as a period of extreme weather, remind your local warmists about it.  While the plains were sweltering through the dust bowl, I presume a blocking pattern brought a persistent storm track through New England because we got more than our share of water.  Let’s start in 1927.

“The flood of November 3, 1927, was the greatest disaster in the history of our beautiful state,” declared Gov. John E. Weeks of Vermont.  These words were from the heart: the hills and valleys of the land if his birth lay in a state of ruin and his people were suffering a state of mental shock at the magnitude of their losses.  Week’s close associate, Lt. Gov. S Hollister Jackson, perished in a flood stream raging down an erstwhile highway within sight of his home and at least eighty-three other Vermont residents met similar fates that afternoon and night.

The storm began as a weak low pressure trough moving in from the west.  However, it entrained a tropical stream of moist air brought up by a weak tropical storm that had passed by the coast.  This is a setup that often brings some of our wettest rain storms.  As the moist air is forced upward by the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Berkshires in western Massachusetts and then over a dome of cold, dense Canadian air, the tropical air cools, and tremendous amounts of rain, by New England standards, can fall.  If the pattern persists for a day or two, it becomes a disaster.  A similar feed from the Gulf of Mexico is what brought all the recent rain to the Boulder, Colorado, area.  The following description could be readily adapted to describe the Colorado event.

During the late morning and afternoon hours of November 3, all Vermont rainfall records were broken – both for hourly intensity and for single-storm totals – as the moisture of the oceanic airstream was wrung from the clouds and dropped over the countryside. … The greatest amount of rain was measured at Somerset, an elevation of 2,096 feet, where the total fall was 9.65 inches and amounts up to 15.00 inches may have fallen on the 4,000 foot mountains.

Masses of water swept down hillsides where no water had flowed before. When brooks, streams, and rivers were filled to capacity the water spread over the countryside, submerging venerable landmarks and setting new high water marks.  Bridges collapsed, highways were washed out, railroad tracks were undermined, and an undetermined number of buildings were torn from their foundations and swept downstream, some carrying hapless victims to a watery grave.  In all Vermont lost eight-four residents and suffered at least $25 million in property losses.  It was the greatest catastrophe from a natural cause in the state’s history.

The dust bowl years were hot and dry in the plains, but there was cold weather too.  December 1933 brought New England’s coldest temperature, -50°F (-46°C), which was recently tied, if not eclipsed a few years ago.   February 1934 brought the coldest month ever recorded in the New England and maybe the entire northeast:

Feb 1934
The coldest February in the northeast

Two years later New England was cold, but the Dakotas set all-time daily record lows and month-long lows, and then set all-time record highs in July.

Feb 1936
The coldest February in the north

As spring came to New England, two rainstorms associated with a trough that stretched from polar regions to the Gulf of Mexico brought heavy rain to the snow-covered region.  The peak rainfall was in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.  Pinkham Notch, next to Mount Washington, received 6.46″ on the 12th from the first storm, and 10.95″ on the 18th and 19th from the second storm.  The 33 inches of snow cover at Pinkham Notch held another eight inches of water, so there was some 25 inches of water available, and more at higher elevations.  Even Massachusetts and Connecticut had some 10 inches to contribute.  The result was called the “All New England Flood of 1936.”

The floods were especially severe throughout the Merrimack Valley, where all previous records were exceeded except in the northern reaches.  The severest washout occurred in Hooksett, NH [a dozen miles south of Concord] where water 18 to 20 feet deep flowed through the main street.  The Amoskeag Mills [another dozen miles south in Manchester] were severely damaged (a flood marker there indicates that the crest of the 1936 flood was 13.5 feet higher than in any previous flood.  The cities of Lawrence, Haverhill, and Lowell suffered great damage from the total innundation of mills and factories; the water at Lowell was 6.4 feet higher that previously recorded.

Record crests were reached in the Connecticut River basin, from the vicinity of Fifteen Mile Falls in the north through the remainder of the valley southward; only in the vicinity of White River Junction was the peak less than 1927….

The Waters at Hartford rose to a stage 8.6 feet higher than any previous flood level recorded since the settlement of the area threee hundred years before.  A large part of the downtown commercial area was flooded when Connecticut River waters backed up into North Branch Park River, a small stream flowing near the capitol and railroad station.

As a result of timely warnings, loss of life was small, but property damage was estimated to exceed $100 million, making the Flood of 1936 the costliest New England weather experienced until the New England Hurricane and Flood of September, 1938, repeated the magnitude of the flood losses and added much wind damage as well.

Hurricanes approaching New England usually accelerate and curve strongly to the east.  A trough accelerated and guided the Hurricane of 1938 due northward at 60 mph.  Not only did the storm not have time to begin weakening over cold northeast waters, the forward speed added significantly to the wind to the east of the center.

The storm came ashore on Long Island, crossed the sound, and hit the mainland west of New Haven.  It continued up the Connecticut River valley into Vermont, then across the Green Mountains to Burlington.

Providence, Rhode Island, experienced the worst storm surge with water sweeping into Naragansett Bay with high tide 17 feet above normal.  Water depth in Providence was nearly two feet deeper then the previous record from 1815.

Before the hurricane struck, several days of rain had left saturated ground throughout New England.  This, and the storm’s fast motion, allowed the wind impact to be much greater inland than is typical for a hurricane.  Some two billion board feet of timber blew down and took years to salvage.  In Franconia Notch State Park, a tall tree named the Sentinel Pine blew down.  Years before the storm, my mother and her sisters could barely ring the tree while the three held hands.  The tree was put to good use – it is the support for a pedestrian covered bridge across a river.  That, and the many trees that date back to 1939 are the most visible remnants of the storm.

The Hurricane of 1938 was the first storm of a period of increased tropical storm activity.  In 1944 a hurricane named The Great Atlantic Hurricane brushed New Jersey, causing great damage to barrier islands, and then hit Long Island, Rhode Island, and Cape Cod.

The Worcester tornado of 1953 left devastation along a 46 mile track in Massachusetts from Worcester to in central and eastern Massachusetts.  Retroactively classified as F-4, some people have made a good case it was F-5.  Scientifically it’s interesting because it was the first storm that showed tropospheric air could be forced well into the stratosphere.  It and two lesser tornadoes left 94 deaths and $53 million in damage.  While New England gets a half a dozen tornadoes every year, nothing like the 1953 storm has recurred.

In 1954, Hurricane Carol hit just east of the 1938 storm and traveled in a straighter line up to the northern tip of New Hampshire and on into Quebec.  Less than two weeks later, Hurricane Edna came through Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod.  A month later Hurricane Hazel came through New York state bringing damage to Vermont.

The next year Hurricane Connie tracked well west of new England, but it brought rain and floods.  A week later, Hurricane Diane brushed by southern New England and bringing up to twenty inches of rain on saturated ground and produced more flooding.

The last storm of that active period was Donna in 1960.  It tracked from about New Haven to northern Maine.

During this period of extreme weather, a wave of “climate adaptation” swept through the area.  After the storm surges of 1938 and 1954, Providence, Rhode Island; New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Stamford, Connecticut designed and built storm surge barriers that have paid for themselves several times.  Flood control dams were designed and built to reduce the damage threshold of future extreme rain.  Some of the dams in New Hampshire offer major benefits to Massachusetts, and the “The Merrimack River Valley Flood Control Commission” was formed to help assess and collect money from Massachusetts to offset the loss of property tax revenue.

While the Hurricane of 1938 certainly deserves all the retrospective attention it has received this week, it occurred in the middle of a long period of extreme weather.  1927 to 1960 is 34 years.  In the 34 years since 1980, New England has been affected by many tropical systems, but none extremely bad.  An F-4 tornado in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, and an EF-4 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, were narrower and had much shorter tracks than the 1953 tornado.   Likewise, while we have had some significant floods, especially the Vermont flooding from the remnants of hurricane Irene in 2011, the All New England Flood of 1936 remains the benchmark.

Further reading:

NOAA: Flood of March 1936

Photos and audio lecture about the Hurricane of 1938

Still more, a good article from A Hurricane in New England?

A photo from a slide show of storm barriers includes the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier that protects Providence, Rhode Island.

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September 21, 2013 12:18 pm

that temp map (and the 1 in maine) got me thinking I need to start getting ready for winter and get snowblowers mounted on tractors soon sigh
while I am 100 miles or so away this was what Jan-Feb 2009 was like for me.
New All-Time Low Temperature Recorded in Maine
On the morning of January 16, as New England was under the grip of an arctic blast, an all-time low temperature of -50° Fahrenheit was recorded for Maine. It was recorded at 7:30 a.m. EST at a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stream gauge on the Big Black River near Depot Mountain in northwestern Aroostook County. The previous record, -48° Fahrenheit, was set in Van Buren, Maine almost 84 years earlier, on January 19, 1925.
hmm…just 2 days prior to an inauguration…
Interesting read, thanks for posting it.

September 21, 2013 12:27 pm

Nice summary. Preaching to the choir, unfortunately. History is not important to the warmized.

Go Home
September 21, 2013 12:59 pm

Speaking of hurricanes… The ACE for the N Atlantic as of today, 9/21/13 is at 23.055. This ACE level is the 3rd lowest for today since 1950, or the last 63 years. The 10 lowest ACE levels on 9/21/xx include the following:
DATE 9/21/2013
1962 9.2925
1994 11.25
2013 23.055
2002 24.3425
1970 24.4825
1982 26.815
1986 31.9925
1954 43.1125
1978 54.435
1974 56.12
It sure seems to be quiet out there in the Atlantic, and over most of the world this year. Knock on wood of course.
[One of the most remarkable features of this positive AMO period is the lack of New England hurricanes. Joe D’Aleo lives in New Hampshire, and he agreed the last time I talked with him. Joe Bastardi and others thought this year could be busy up here, and it still could, but it would be quite a turnaround. If activity remains low, hopefully the disconnect between forecast and results will let us learn more about weather and climate dynamics and allow better forecasts in the future. We learn from mistakes, we get satisfaction from a forecast that verifies. -Ric]

September 21, 2013 12:59 pm

Off Topic (OT). Look at some of the comments to Bill McKibben’s latest:
[This belongs on Tips and Notes, please don’t post OT comments on the most recent post on this blog, it’s very rude. If you insist on getting a lot of attention, wait for an Open Thread post. -Ric]

Radical Rodent
September 21, 2013 1:02 pm

Well, waddya know? Extremes have happened before… who’d of thunk it?

September 21, 2013 1:10 pm

Ric, thanks for this review on the anniversary of 1938. The Rhode Island south shore took the worst of 1938 hurricane landfall, being in the quadrant with the highest winds and surge. As a child in the 1960s I could find debris (worn bricks and concrete) at the beaches. My father was involved with the building of the Providence hurricane barrier after hurricane Carol flooded the city. The business community had suffered too much destruction in too short a time so the political will was strong enough to build the barrier. Bing maps birds eye gives a nice view of it just north of Rt 195.

September 21, 2013 1:42 pm

I’m a Texan who at 16 years of age spent the summer in Sanbornton, N.H. with my younger brother and our dad clearing 10 homestead wooded acres of trash trees, with axes and crosscut saw, per state guidelines. We saw several large still rotting trees that were evidence of the 1938 hurricane which blew down all the timber on that 10 acres. My aunt’s college tuition was lost to that storm. In 1966, you could get an ear full from the locals about that hurricane. Damned anthropogenic global warming of 1938.

Steve C
September 21, 2013 1:59 pm

Sobering stuff, and a reminder that ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’. With AR5 lurking just around the corner, it’s good timing too that New England, at least, is being ‘inundated’ with retrospectives; let’s New Englanders (and the rest of us) mention it to friends elsewhere and keep the memory alive in the all-important public mind.

Ian W
September 21, 2013 2:02 pm

If the period now is supposedly an analogue of the 1930’s what has happened to all the storms that were going to be used by the CAGW proponents as ‘proof’ of CAGW? Indeed what has happened to the predictions (bets) from the expert hurricane forecasters
Or are they clinging to the short lived Gulf hurricanes and the distant 2 day fish storm to make their numbers?

September 21, 2013 2:02 pm

The Great Colonial Hurricane was even stronger. Estimated wind speeds were Cat5 strength,

September 21, 2013 2:06 pm

Thanks, Ric. People need to be reminded, with plain facts, what the weather is capable of.
First, it may discourage people from building upon beautiful, but risky, beaches and floodplains, but second, if the beauty is too much to resist and they do build, it may alert people to the fact that, when very bad weather comes and it looks like they may lose the gamble, they need to get out and get out fast.
I think people get a little jaded by all the media hype, wherein every storm is sensationalized, and even made into a sign of end-of-the-world Global Warming. It is like crying “Wolf!” all the time. People are in no mood to listen when the real wolf finally comes.
More than fifty years have passed since I saw all the trees wildly swaying as Donna pass through. It had officially just lost “hurricane” status, but was a very powerful tropical storm and impressed me as no storm that has hit New England since has. (I was out west when Gloria came through, but have seen most of the others.) I really think most people who live in New England don’t have a clue what a repeat of the 1938 hurricane could do. And the thing about the 1938 hurricane was that it was moving so quickly that it all happened in a matter of hours, and people had little advance warning back then. One moment is was a breezy summer rain, and then suddenly all h— was breaking loose, and then there was a shambles and rising rivers.
I’m not entirely sure people would be ready even now. I was freaking out around fifteen years ago, when a really big hurricane was forecast to come up the coast and bisect New England, but no one else seemed very excited. And that storm (Eduard?) did curve out to sea, as most do, and that just increased the sense of “it-can’t-happen-here” which the public has.
Oh well, life is no fun if you worry all the time. And there are houses built in the most idiotic locations along the coast that are still standing, utterly untouched despite all my hand-waving and eye-rolling. Three generations of happily sunburned people have relished countless vacations in those abodes. So maybe it wasn’t so idiotic building them, after all. However I do hope people have a “plan B,” just in case “The Big One” comes up the coast, one of these days.

John Robertson
September 21, 2013 2:52 pm

I note that you only mentioned Hurricane Hazel impacting on Vermont – it had a HUGE impact on Toronto in 1954 – over 11 inches of rain within 48 hours! This caused enormous damage to the city and surrounding areas, 81 people died, 4,000+ left homeless, damage around $100 Million in 1954 dollars.
As a result of the storm the city stopped building in ravines (some houses and businesses located there were simply washed away – flood plains, eh?) and made a massive investment in flood/storm water control systems.
This was long before Climate Change was a buzz term, they simply figured that those ravines snaking through the city were the result of periodic storms that may appear every hundred or so years and best to be on the safe side. So now they are parks…
Just thought you’d like to know.
[There have been many major floods from the remnants of tropical cyclones that stall for a couple days. Even storms that never make it out of tropical depression status can bring a huge amount of rain. They tend not to be well reported, the media gets much more excited over the high winds and storm surge at landfall. Even at WUWT, people were falling all over themselves to exclaim how wimpy Hurricane Irene was, while ignoring that towns and roads in Vermont were being washed away.
I was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the aftermath of Agnes which had stalled over Scranton and devastated that area. That water and our own rain brought some impressive flooding to Pittsburgh. A tropical cyclone isn’t over until it dissipates. -Ric]

Ian Cooper
September 21, 2013 3:14 pm

As with the Dust Bowl region the 1930’s were also volatile elsewhere in the world. In my part of New Zealand, and I suspect elsewhere in our country, the 1930’s were far more extreme than anything we have experienced in recent times. In February 1936 during that austral summer, the North Island of New Zealand was hit with the most destructive tropical cyclone remnant of the 20th century to hit our shores. My hometown of Palmerston North bore the worst of this storm. This came in the midst of a decade that set numerous records in several directions.
Take 1935 as an example, the sunniest year on record still but for 69 years it was also the wettest! When I look at the individual months it shows up there as well. The months were either dry & sunny, or cloudy and wet. There were no in-betweens.
As far as mean temperatures go 1938 is the 2nd hottest in the 85 years of records for here. But the 1930’s hold a number of cold records too. The coldest year so far was 1930, 2nd equal was 1931, 3rd equal was 1937, 5th equal were 1932, 1939 & 1940. 6th equal was 1936.
However when we look at the T-Max record and break the numbers into seasons our hottest summers are 1934-35 and 1937-38 with 3rd place going to 1974-75. Our hottest three month T-Max periods are Dec ’34-Jan & Feb ’35, J-F-M 1999, and J-F-M 1938.
What do all of the years quoted here have in common? They are mostly La Nina years!

Brian H
September 21, 2013 4:18 pm

A nice “recent history” of the true extent and power of Natural Variation.

September 21, 2013 4:18 pm

Radical Rodent, Extremes have never happened before. They only happen in the future, and I can tell you when, wait for it,,,,,,, if you give me a bag full of money! Thankyou. My bank details are ……….

September 21, 2013 4:45 pm

New England is sort of tucked out of the way when it comes to high latitude tropical storms. The Canadian Maritimes would make for a better case study.

September 21, 2013 4:48 pm

Earlier this summer, Southern Alberta experienced major flooding that peaked on 21June2013, due to record or near-record rainfall.
Major floods in our region reportedly occurred in 1879, 1897, 1902, 1915, 1929, 1932 and now 2013.
June this year was overcast, cold and wet.
In our region, warmer is typically dryer and cooler is typically wetter, according to river flow records.
Is this one more indicator of the beginning of global cooling? 🙂
Regards, Allan

September 21, 2013 5:29 pm

One of the things I used to make AGW skeptics was this hurricane. I kept telling people for years that it was only a matter of time before New York gets another hurricane. I learned about it watching the History Chanel before AGW alarmism had taken off like it did. The show talked about this hurricane and one before it, not the 1821 one, that affected New York. At the end, the show talked about what would happen when another hurricane hit New York. When we went through the active years around 2005, I started telling people that another hurricane will affect New York City sooner, not later, and then I referred to this 1938 hurricane.
My friends and family soon learned that our weather is not unprecedented. None in my family buy into the AGW message.
In a few weeks another unique and powerful hurricane made landfall in 1954. On October 15, Hurricane Hazel made landfall at Calabash and Sunset Beach, North Carolina, which is right at the North Carolina/South Carolina border. (And there have a store in Calabash that has some great fudge.) This was the last category 4 storm to hit North Carolina. This is another hurricane I used with my friends and family.

September 21, 2013 6:41 pm

Meanwhile Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate leader, is blaming the Severe Colorado floods on the Republicans since they don’t do anything about Climate change.
Where do the political parties find such stupid, arrogant people to lead them.
From Harry:
“We should be facing the reality of climate change. Look what happened in Colorado. I talked to Senator Bennet yesterday, he said the floods were “biblical.” In one part of Colorado, it rained 12 inches in two hours. I can’t imagine that. ”
“Fires all over the West — climate change is here. I met with the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh. They don’t know what they’re going to do with the rise of the sea, which is taking place. That country has no place — no high ground. It’s that way all over the world. Martial Islands — 1,000 islands make up the Martial Islands. Fifty-five thousand people live there. These islands are being washed away with these new waves they’ve never seen before.”
“Climate change is here. We’re doing nothing about it. They’re spending all our time, the American taxpayer’s time, trying to repeal a law that’s been in effect for four years.”
One poster compared Reid’s criticisms to Blasphemy since the Republicans display lack of reverence toward something he considers sacred or inviolable.

Gary Pearse
September 21, 2013 6:46 pm

“The strongest winds of a northern hemisphere tropical cyclone are on the east side where the storm’s forward motion adds to the rotation speed.”
Ric, the strongest are on the west side for the counterclockwise NH hurricane moving north.

Gary Pearse
September 21, 2013 7:02 pm

Oops, sorry Ric, a little brain twist – you are correct

Anthony Scalzi
September 21, 2013 7:28 pm

The Worcester Telegram paper had a retrospective of the 1938 Hurricane this week.

Harold Ambler
September 21, 2013 9:55 pm

For fans of placid New England weather, I offer the following piece of mine from today’s Providence Journal (here linked via my blog), on the joy of fall:

September 21, 2013 10:05 pm

[This belongs on Tips and Notes, please don’t post OT comments on the most recent post on this blog, it’s very rude. If you insist on getting a lot of attention, wait for an Open Thread post. -Ric]

Sorry about that, Ric. I didn’t know the procedure. I won’t make that mistake again. Again, sorry.

Greg Goodman
September 21, 2013 10:08 pm

” A trough accelerated and guided the Hurricane of 1938 due northward at 60 mph. ”
Quick observation: 2012-1938=74 years
74 / 18.6 = 3.978 …

Greg Goodman
September 21, 2013 10:30 pm

Forward speed can be a huge factor since wind energy is speed squared but the power ( rate of energy change, or transfer ) is what actually causes the damage and that is proportional to speed cubed.
A cyclone with a rotational wind speed of 60 mph will be EIGHT TIMES as destructive if moving forward at 60 mph as well.

Bill Parsons
September 22, 2013 12:28 am

You all need to disabuse yourselves of this number-one-most-commonly-used myth of the global warming skeptics – that “climate has changed before.” I thought John Cook had settle this matter. Before there was “climate change”, there was no climate. In fact there was nothing until climate scientists created it. Just a vast, dull, dark, emptiness. Then, on the first day, Mann said, “Let there be light…” /Sarc off/
Kidding aside, I enjoyed your summary, Ric. Unlike Harry Reid, for whom (above) Colorado’s floods are mere grist for the mill, I don’t know what to make of floods, high and low temps, snow fall, hurricanes, and droughts… other than this: they may seem like records, but they are only noticed because there are more people and more instruments, and more media around to report them. Nature was no less ferocious in the 19th – or 18th – century than it is today, but it is worth noting that there are other more tangible dangers in the world… and so, to the profiteers of CAGW like Reid (mentioned above). Senator Reid is a hypocrite, who ought to tend to his home state, where people may be in genuine danger, according to some surveys. Nevada has in recent years been ranked as one of the most dangerous states, and Las Vegas, one of the worst U.S. cities to live in, Vega being among the hardest hit metro areas of the country during the financial crisis, with nearly one out of every 8 homeowner filing for foreclosure.
Send cash in great gouts.
Have a great Autumn Equinox!

September 22, 2013 1:10 am

Judith Curry in The Australian today:
22 Sept: Australian: Judith Curry: Concsensus distorts the climate picture
THERE is another, more vexing dilemma facing the IPCC, however. Since the publication of the AR4, nature has thrown the IPCC a curveball: there has been no significant increase in global average surface temperature for the past 15-plus years. This has been referred to as a pause or hiatus in global warming…
Here is the relevant text from the leaked final draft of the AR5 summary for policymakers: “Models do not generally reproduce the observed reduction in surface warming trend over the last 10-15 years….”…
The politicisation of climate science is another source of bias, including explicit policy advocacy by some IPCC scientists…
The growing implications of the messy wickedness of the climate-change problem are becoming increasingly apparent, highlighting the inadequacies of the “consensus to power” approach for decision-making on such complex issues.
Let’s abandon the scientific consensus-seeking approach in favour of open debate and discussion of a broad range of policy options that stimulate local and regional solutions to the multifaceted and interrelated issues surrounding climate change.

Dr. John M. Ware
September 22, 2013 2:27 am

Great article–I enjoyed it very much. In one of the comments, Sen. Harry Reid is quoted as referring to “the Martial Islands.” Of course, there is no such place; correct spelling is the Marshall Islands.
I think a retrospective view of the extreme weather in various regions of the world (or at least the USA) would be most illuminating. Here in Virginia people still refer to the Ash Wednesday Storm back in (I think) 1963; new channels were cut and old ones closed along the Atlantic shore in Virginia Beach. Nothing like that since, as far as I know. That’s 50 years ago now; perhaps a retrospective has already been published.
[1962, see however, its focus was on Long Beach Island, New Jersey -Ric]

September 22, 2013 2:33 am

..So we haven’t had a hurricane season to matter much so we’re re-running 70 year old hurricanes, is that it?
[Check your math – it’s a “rounder” number. You missed the central point, which is the claim that CAGW has produced more extreme weather doesn’t hold up when people check historical weather. Even if New England had been flattened by a hurricane this year, I would have written this post. -Ric]

September 22, 2013 3:26 am

1 So extreme weather events have reduced since the 1930’s
2 There is more CO2 in the atmosphere.
3 Thus climate change is being caused by man made CO2 emissions?
The above is of course garbage although it illustrates the tortuous arguments used by alarmists to justify anything.

Big Don
September 22, 2013 5:14 am

“The Flood of 36”, as my dad called it, still lives in Western Pennsylvania lore. I suspect this must be the same event as the “All New England Flood”.
[At first blush, that sounds like it might be too far west to be connected, but from some accounts I found, it certainly sounds like part of the same system, and the map at confirms. Check out for photos.
I suspect an interesting weather history could be put together based on events that affected water levels on the rivers near Pittsburgh. -Ric]

David Lawrence
September 22, 2013 5:30 am

My house is located on a southeast facing hill in southwest New Hampshire where I am reminded every day of the distruction of the hurricane of 1938.
Even after 75 years there are still hundreds of older trees that are leaning to the west indicating a severe blow from the east.
They were blown over during the hurricane but continued to grow by growing verticle shoots off the main trunk or their trunk grew into a curve to get back to the verticle position.

September 22, 2013 6:20 am

At Hagerstown, MD, Feb 1934 avg temp was 22.0F. For comparison, Jan 1977 was 18.6F & Jan 1940 was 18.0F. Looks like the coldest month there since 1898 was Jan 1918 at 17.6F.
Note: The Hagerstown station is definitely UHI affected now.

Steve Garcia
September 22, 2013 6:30 am has this video of the 1938 storm –

Jim G
September 22, 2013 7:21 am

Most of the people who are not on some kind of gravy train or political power grab which is enhanced by support of AGW, and use weather as “proof” of their theories or as a reason they believe the lies, are just too damn young and or inexperienced with past weather to appreciate its true variability over even the short term past. Mr. Werme’s article here does an excellent job of pointing this out.
I have often thought that the right to vote should be on some kind of sliding scale related to IQ and age with no one allowed to vote until at least 50 years of age.

September 22, 2013 7:40 am

The 1938 hurricane storm surge completely wiped out Fire Island, a barrier island on the south side of Long Island, washing away homes and killing many people.

September 22, 2013 8:35 am

I am puzzled that this comment was not entered?
Ian Cooper says
Henry says
Ian, I did an analysis of rainfall in Wellington, NZ
this was just a random check on my statement:
As the temperature differential between the poles and equator grows larger due to the cooling from the top, very likely something will also change on earth. Predictably, there would be a small (?) shift of cloud formation and precipitation, more towards the equator, on average. At the equator insolation is 684 W/m2 whereas on average it is 342 W/m2. So, if there are more clouds in and around the equator, this will amplify the cooling effect due to less direct natural insolation of earth (clouds deflect a lot of radiation). Furthermore, in a cooling world there is more likely less moisture in the air.Even assuming equal amounts of water vapour available in the air, a lesser amount of clouds and precipitation will be available for spreading to higher latitudes. So, a natural consequence of global cooling is that at the higher latitudes it will become both cooler and drier.
end quote
I chose Wellington because they seemed to have good rainfall records at that station and it is on the edge (-40 latitude) of where I was interested.
.As I had expected, I found that rainfall 1930-1940 there was ca. 12% lower than from 1940-2004.
Rainfall in Wellington NZ was average in 1935 (1035). I am not sure where you looked?
According to my various calculations, 1927= 2016 and therefore the main droughts on the great plains will start around 2021.

Ian Cooper
September 22, 2013 1:34 pm

Henry P
my data is for Palmerston North which is nearly a degree north of Wellington and has quite a different climate to the capital. Whereas Cook Strait is the dominant geographical feature around Wellington and tends to channel weather systems through it at times, the infamous southerlies & northerlies that give Wellington its ‘windy’ reputation, for Palmerston North the dominant geographical player is the Manawatu River Gorge at the lowest point between the Tararua & Ruahine mountain ranges. The predominantly westerly flow gives the lower North Island west coast a higher rainfall than the east coast & the funneling of that westerly wind through the Gorge gives our region its windy reputation as well. Wellington can be somewhat sheltered from that flow by the what are the run off foothills of the Tararuas. I hope that clears it up for you.

Gary Rosen
September 22, 2013 9:59 pm

I grew up in Connecticut and am just old enough to remember the hurricanes of the ’50s, and heard plenty of lore about the ’38 hurricane. A now-demolished hotel in downtown Hartford had a plaque showing the high-water mark of the flooding in 1938. This all helped incline me to skepticism on AGW, especially alarmism based on “OMG we’ve never had extreme weather like this before”.

Go Home
September 23, 2013 9:13 pm

My earlier post on this thread was in error stating this is the 3rd lowest ACE for that date.
So to recant and re-post.
The ACE for the N Atlantic as of 9/23/13 was at 23.055. This ACE level is the 7th lowest for today since 1950, or the last 63 years. The 10 lowest ACE levels on 9/23/xx include the following:
DATE 9/23/2013
1962 9.2925
1994 12.48
1983 13.7975
1977 17.9925
1959 19.6675
1968 22.8425
2013 23.055
1984 23.18
1970 24.4825
1987 26.8075
Text file had unprintable characters that did not convert to numbers in excel. I need to be more diligent in the future. Apologies. Steve

James at 48
September 25, 2013 11:50 am

Current prog depicts mid latitude weather reaching well equatorward in the Atlantic/Gulf basin out to at least Tuesday 01-OCT. Running out of runway for much action this year. If that pattern persists, there may be no more opportunities this year.

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