Nor’easter hits US

Monday 11th Feb 2013 by theWeather Club

Image: NASA

A powerful winter storm buried some areas in one metre of snow and left more than 600,000 people without heat and power as it hit the northeast of the United States. The storm, known as a nor'easter, developed out of two areas of low pressure resulting in heavy snowfall and hurricane-force winds.

A nor’easter is a cyclonic storm that moves along the east coast of North America and is given its name because the winds over coastal areas blow from a northeasterly direction. Nor’easters are most frequent and strongest between September and April bringing heavy snow and rain, as well as gale force winds producing rough seas and coastal flooding.  During winter, the polar jet stream transports cold Arctic air southward across the plains of North America and eastward toward the Atlantic Ocean, as warm air from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic tries to move northward. It is this difference in temperature between the warm air over the water and cold Arctic air over the land that causes nor’easters to develop.   

During this particular event developed out of two area of low pressure: one originating from the Northern Plains of the United States, and the other originating across Texas. As the two systems merged on 8th February 2013, a large area of the northeast was affected by heavy snowfall and strong winds leading to blizzard conditions.

The highest snowfall totals were in Connecticut, with a snow depth of 1m measured in Hamden. Hurricane-force wind gusts were recorded, peaking at 89 mph near Maine and Boston experienced a storm surge of 1.3 m.