Wrapping up a snowy December

Posted Updated
Mike Moss

Between holiday schedules and some active and unusual weather, it's been tough to fit in some blogging time the last couple of weeks, but I thought I'd follow up a little on this weekend's snow storms with a couple of cool images and a bit of historical perspective before we head into the new year.

The first image is from NASA's "Aqua" polar orbiting satellite and its MODIS imager, which produces a high resolution natural color image that is great for seeing detail that isn't available from the geostationary weather satellites we typically show on-air. Here, we're looking at the eastern U.S., and you can see the swirl of clouds associated with the intense surface low that swept along the NC coast on Sunday passing by Cape Cod, MA around midday on Monday. At the time, north winds on the Cape and around Boston were gusting over 50 mph.

Also notable is the snow cover visible all the way from northern AL, GA and SC through our state and up along the eastern seaboard, finally obscured by clouds once you reach about CT and RI. This was a widespread snow, and in our state you have to look along and just inland of the southern half of the coast to find some areas that were not substantially covered by snow on Monday. In case you're interested in seeing even more detail, I've included two additional Aqua MODIS images that are zoomed-in portions of that larger view, the first showing much of NC and the other running up the coast to our northeast.

The last image is a contour map assembled by the Raleigh NWS office showing snow accumulations for the state, highlighted by the area encompassing most of Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe, and parts of Johnston and Halifax counties, where 12-13 inch accumulations were common.

When it comes to where this storm fits into our long-term climatology, it's always a little tricky dealing with snow storms because of the common variability across the region. In simply checking records for the Raleigh-Durham airport, for example, this storm tied the old 1947 Christmas Day record for measurable snow with four tenths of an inch, and the 7.1 inch total for 25-26 December came in second for a single storm in December at the site, right behind a 9.1 inch snow that occurred on December 11th, 1958. We're unlikely to see any further snow there this month, and the December 2010 total snowfall of 8.3 inches at RDU will end up second to the total of 10.6 inches that fell in 1958.

That same big snow in December 1958 also produced 12-13 inches around Rocky Mount and Tarboro, where similar amounts fell this past weekend. At Nashville and Wilson, the 1958 storm seems to have topped the most recent one by a bit, with 18 and 15 inches reported that year at those respective sites.

The rest of this December looks to be a first slow, then fast warmup, and it looks like we'll kick off 2011 with highs in the 60s. Have a great New Year!

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