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Climate: 2004-5 Winter Season Recap

By Edward Moran
Published on April 22, 2005

Climate articles:

List of the ten snowiest winters since 1947 at the Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island.  The winter of 2004-2005 is second on the list.The winter of 2004 - 2005 was the third straight snowy winter on Long Island, and over parts of the Island it was second only to the winter of 1995-96 in terms of total snowfall. At the Brookhaven National Lab, where snowfall statistics have been recorded since the winter of 1947-48, the total seasonal snowfall of 78.5" made this the second snowiest winter and the third winter in a row that over 60" of snow has fallen. Unofficial reports indicated that snowfall totals may have exceeded 80" in a few locations in central Suffolk County.

As shown in the map at the bottom of this page, for the second straight winter the heaviest total snowfall was over central Suffolk County. Farther to the west the snows were lighter, but New York City still recorded their third straight winter with over 40 inches of snow, something that hasn't happened before in the 136 years that records have been kept at Central Park.

The dominant theme for the entire winter was that of the prevailing storm track favoring the heaviest snowfall occurring over central and eastern Long Island. This same pattern produced record breaking seasonal snowfall totals over Cape Cod and parts of southeastern Massachusetts.

   Fun in the post Christmas snow, Dec. 27, 2004Children playing in the post Christmas snow, Smithtown, NY, December 27, 2004          The first snowfall of the season whitened the ground over portions of Long Island on Saturday November 13, but subsequently winter seemed to go on hold for several weeks. On December 20, the first wide-spread accumulating snowfall deposited 1 to 2 inches of snow on Nassau and western Suffolk Counties, but as much as 6 inches of snow over parts of central Suffolk. The location of this bulls eye for greatest snowfall totals was a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the winter. The next storm occurred the day after Christmas with accumulations ranging from 3 to 5 inches over western Long Island to 5 to 9 inches over central and eastern Long Island.

After a couple more cold days an unseasonably mild pattern evolved and on January 1st temperatures on Long Island approached 60 degrees. The warm spell persisted until mid January through which time Long Island was clearly experiencing a very mild winter. However, to those not fond of snow, it was a heck of a way to run a mild winter as more than once during the warm spell minor snowfalls materialized in conditions just barely cold enough to produce snow. Colder air finally moved back into the region on January 15th followed by the arrival of bitter cold air marked by a general 1 to 3 inch snowfall across Long Island early on the 17th. This was the start of a pattern that would last into early February featuring reinforcing shots of cold air brought in on the backside of several "Alberta Clipper" type storms.

The first of these clipper storms on January 19 shifted the winds over Long Island to the south even as the air temperatures over Long Island remained very cold. The result was that a highly unusual ocean effect snowstorm developed on the south wind and affected much of Suffolk County long before the snows associated directly with the clipper arrived on Long Island. Click the link in the previous sentence for a more detailed description of this event.

The next in the series of clippers dipped farther south over the mid-Atlantic states before turning up the east coast and strengthening rapidly. This would prove to be the biggest snowfall of the year and produced blizzard conditions from Long Island through southern New England. Although the storm saved its greatest fury for areas to the northeast, it still deposited between 12 and 20 inches of snow across the length of the island accompanied by winds that gusted over 60 miles per hour in spots. Click here to read the wrap-up of the Blizzard of January 2005.

The pattern held into the first few days of February, including some additional minor snowfalls associated with clipper lows, but as during the first half of January, a mild pattern resumed during the first half of February, following a rather wet general 1 to 4 inch snowfall across Long Island on the 4th. Although the warmth did not get as extreme as on New Years' Day, near to above normal temperatures persisted until the 17th when cold air again began to filter back into the region. As in late January, a colder regime punctuated by the frequent passage of clipper type lows locked in as the prevailing weather pattern and persisted until mid March this time. Once again, the storm track was Old snow fringes a golf course in Smithtown, March 26, 2005farther south than is typically the case for such lows and several of them made the turn up along the coast upon nearing the mid-atlantic states. Between February 21 and March 12 five separate storms deposited snows adding up to between 25 and 30 inches across much of Long Island. Click this link for more description and some photographs of the late winter storms of February and March 2005.

By mid March, the temperatures finally began to moderate, although 2 to 3 inches of snow fell over much of the northern half of Suffolk County on March 24 with lesser amounts elsewhere. Patches of old snow persisted along the north shore beyond Easter and several heavy rainstorms continued wet conditions during late March and early April. Beginning around the 9th of April a lengthy rain-free spell of sunny dry weather finally put the winter of 2004-2005 to rest.

2004 - 2005 Winter Snowfall totals for Long Island
  Map of seasonal snowfall totals for Long Island and vicinity, Winter of 2004 - 2005