The winter of 2009-10 on the East Coast of the U.S. was dubbed Snowmagedon due to the massive 54.9 inches of snow that fell on the Baltimore-Washington area between December and February. NASA scientists quickly set out to discover what set of conditions allowed for such an unprecedented winter.
This is one of those stories that can only be told by the scientists themselves. Siegfried Schubert and colleagues Yehui Chang and Max Suarez – all of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., – became detectives in an attempt to understand the direct cause behind infrequent but major winter storms.
“There are things that we know that affect storminess over the U.S.,” Schubert said. “One is when there is an El Niño, which tends to favor more storms. Given the connection between El Niño and sea surface temperatures, we thought we’d actually do a modeling study to see if we could pinpoint the role of sea surface temperatures in driving the snowstorms.”
The full explanation of what took place – so far as we can currently understand and detect – is set out in a wonderful article on the NASA website and I would recommend everyone take a look at it.