As I write this, the East Coast is digging out from Hurricane Sandy and the path of destruction it left in its wake. The images and videos coming out of New York and New Jersey are shocking—almost like something you would see out of a movie. Flooded subway stations, water lapping the second story of buildings in Manhattan, collapsing buildings and piers…it will be a long time before New Yorkers and New Jerseyans are back to business as usual. Elsewhere, West Virginia is buried in snow and power outages stretch from North Carolina north to New England and west to the Midwest. Superstorm Sandy was a massive system that impacted millions of people and caused billions in damage.
After a relatively quiet tropical storm season, Sandy comes as a bit of a shock. We knew it was coming, of course; forecasters had their hands full for days before the storm made landfall, working to predict how the cold front coming down from Canada would interact with Sandy's atmospheric turbulence. That residents of the impacted states were as prepared as they were is due, in large part, to the skillful and thorough forecasting done by hardworking members of the meteorological industry.
The National Weather Service is obviously the biggest player in this arena, providing the official forecasts for most weather reports. But this is also where the private forecasting industry comes to the fore … before and during events like Hurricane Sandy. In “Beyond the NWS: Inside the Thriving Private Weather Forecasting Industry,” Richard Mandel and Erik Noyes examine how many companies rely on the specific, tailored, and accurate forecasts provided by private forecasting companies such as Accuweather and Weather Services International. When a big storm like Sandy is coming, these clients do not have the time or resources to guess how they should respond; they need a meteorologist dedicated to their personal needs to advise them on how they should prepare or respond. Such services, while incurring a financial cost, can save companies millions of dollars.
Hurricane Sandy is, without question, one of the biggest weather events to ever impact New York City. It remains to be seen what kind of data will come out of the storm, but there is little doubt that the meteorological instruments that have long recorded weather data in Central Park will provide some interesting numbers. In “Weather Observations in Central Park,” Sean Potter notes that since 1867, the weather observatory at Central Park has provided one of the most thorough datasets for an urban area's meteorology that has ever been recorded. The Automated Surface Observing System at Belvedere Castle measures everything from temperature and humidity to visibility, cloud ceiling, and the presence of freezing rain. Its long record of observations and educational aspects make it an interesting piece of the meteorological puzzle.
As we analyze the impacts of Sandy, it makes sense that our two other features in this issue focus on dramatic weather events. Tom Schlatter examines a rare example of a deep hail event in Colorado, and David Robinson rounds up the biggest snow events in a relatively mild year in the 2011–2012 Snow Report.
I hope all of our Weatherwise readers stayed safe and dry during Hurricane Sandy. We will have an analysis of the storm in our annual Almanac issue in May/June. In the meantime, please enjoy this issue.