Nor'easter poised to dump heavy snows; Australian tropical cyclone season heats up
A developing low pressure system along the North Carolina coast will intensify today and move northeast towards Cape Cod, Massachusetts, bringing heavy rain and snow to the mid-Atlantic and New England. A swath of 6 - 10" of snow is expected over inland regions of New England, from Philadelphia to Boston. A storm surge of up to 2.5' is expected along the Massachusetts coast, which will cause mostly minor coastal flooding, but considerable erosion damage.
The 1.9" of snow that fell in Hartford, Connecticut yesterday brought that city's January snowfall total to 44.9", a new record for the month. With an additional 6 - 10 inches expected today, Hartford will surpass its record for snowiest month of all-time, the 45.3" that fell in December 1945.
The storm brought heavy rains of 1 - 3 inches to much of the Southeast yesterday, easing that region's La Niña-related drought. The low swept a cold front across Florida last night, bringing severe thunderstorms with damaging winds gusts of up to 75 mph to twenty locations in the state. One tornado was reported, but no significant damage was reported.
Figure 1. The cold front from today's Nor'easter swept across Florida last night, bringing a line of severe thunderstorms that spawned one tornado and numerous reports of damaging winds.
Tropical Cyclone activity heats up near Australia
The year's first Category 4 tropical cyclone is Tropical Cyclone Wilma, which is churning the waters near Tonga in the Southern Hemisphere with sustained winds of 135 mph (minimum Category 4 strength.) Wilma passed over American Samoa as a strong tropical storm, and hit Tonga as a Category 3 storm. Substantial damage has been reported on Tonga, but no deaths or injuries. Wilma is recurving out to sea, and will not affect Australia.
Australia is keeping an eye on Tropical Cylone Bianca, which is expected to skirt the northwest coast of the country over the next few days. Of much greater concern for Australia are two potential tropical cyclones that could hit the flood-ravaged state of Queensland next week. Both the European Center and GFS models predict that the remains of Tropical Cyclone Anthony will regenerate into a tropical storm late this week and hit Queensland early next week. A second and potentially more powerful storm is forecast to form next week in the islands to the east of Australia, and threaten Queensland at the end of the week. This is potentially terrible news for Australia, which is attempting to recover from record floods. As reported in the latest Bureau of Meteorology climate statement and flood summary, the past four months (September - December) have been the rainiest such period in Queensland's history, and the resulting flooding disaster has been Australia's most expensive natural disaster in history.
Figure 2. Tropical Cyclone Wilma, the globe's first major tropical cyclone of 2011, as seen at 01:45 GMT on January 26. 2011 by NASA's Aqua satellite. Image credit: NASA.