NWS: Area weather slightly warmer, drier in 2020 than on average

Gerling Street near Golf Avenue is completely blocked by a fallen tree during the derecho wind storm that swept through the region on Oct. 7.
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Gerling Street near Golf Avenue is completely blocked by a fallen tree during the derecho wind storm that swept through the region on Oct. 7.

It was a little warmer and a little drier than average throughout the region in 2020, and around half of the area’s snowfall total for the calendar year came from last month’s storm, according to the National Weather Service.

It was a couple of large-scale weather events — last month’s snowstorm and the derecho wind storm in October that knocked out power to more than 250,000 customers in the Capital Region — that deviated from what was a fairly standard year from a weather standpoint.

Brian Frugis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, said that on average, temperatures in the area for the calendar year finished at about 2.3 degrees above a normal year.

“It averaged a little bit above normal,” Frugis said.

While temperatures were up, rainfall numbers were slightly down across the area in 2020. Precipitation totals finished at 36.85 inches, which Frugis said was about 2.5 inches below normal, leaving the region “a little bit on the drier side for the calendar year.”

In terms of snowfall, while the National Weather Service typically measures totals per season, for the calendar year the area received 46.9 inches of snow, about 13 inches below normal.

Nearly half of that total — 22.9 inches — came during the snowstorm on Dec. 16-17 that stands as the fourth-largest December snowfall in the region, based on NWS data going back to 1884. Last month’s snowstorm came in just ahead of the 22.6 inches that fell on the region during the most recent major snowstorm from Dec. 1-3, 2019.

That snowstorm, at the tail end of Thanksgiving weekend, was the only major storm of the 2019-20 winter months. Until last month’s storm, the region had experienced about three feet less of snow than in an average calendar year.

“Last winter, we didn’t have a whole lot of snow,” Frugis said. “We had that one, big storm in December [2019] that was before the calendar year, and once the calendar year started we didn’t have too many big storms until very late in the year.

“When it all added up, it was below normal on the year.”

While rain and snow totals were down in 2020, there were numerous wind events and thunderstorms that provided some of the area’s most extreme weather and created the most inconvenience.

Frugis said the NWS tracked a total of 14 tornadoes that touched down across its forecast area in 2020, a higher number that Frugis classified as “pretty unusual,” as the area typically only experiences a couple of tornadoes per year.

However, he said, most of those storms were “short-lived, weak and not really producing major damage.”

It was the derecho in early October that produced the most widespread damage. The storm, which cut through a swath of 320 miles — exceeding the 240-mile threshold the NWS uses to define a storm as a derecho — saw wind gusts between 50 and 60 mph in the Capital Region, with a 67 mph gust measured at Albany International Airport. Microbursts in Montgomery and Rensselaer counties resulted in gusts of 80 to 100 mph, and a brief tornado was recorded in Canajoharie on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which rates tornadoes based on wind speed and damage.

That storm resulted in uprooted trees and downed limbs across the region, many of them taking down electrical service lines and leading to widespread power outages. One death was also attributed to the storm.

“The most severe event was probably the derecho in October,” Frugis said. “It produced widespread wind damage.”

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, News

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