NOAA Magazine || NOAA Home Page


NOAA's National Weather Service Forecast Office in Buffalo, N.Y., taken Dec. 29, 2001.January 2, 2002 — The storm in Buffalo, N.Y., that began Christmas Eve and lasted until Friday will be long remembered for the amount of snow it left behind and the number of records that were snowed under. During the five-day period 81.5 inches—or nearly seven feet—of lake-effect snow was recorded at Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. The storm set three daily snowfall records—20.5 inches on Dec. 24; 21.9 inches on Dec. 27; and 26.2 inches on Dec. 28. (Click image for larger view of NOAA's National Weather Service Forecast Office in Buffalo, N.Y., taken Dec. 29, 2001. NWS staff titled this photo, "Where's the observer?" Please credit "NOAA.")

Click here to view more photos.

December 2001 goes into the record books as Buffalo's snowiest month on record with a whopping 82.7 inches. This far surpasses the old record of 68.4 inches set December 1985, and it's nearly four times the normal monthly snowfall of 24 inches.

The snow depth on Dec. 28 at the Buffalo airport also set a new record of 44 inches. The previous record stood at 42 inches set February 5-6, 1977.

All the December snow in Buffalo came at a time when the city did not see one flake in November, which is the first time that's ever happened.

NOAA's National Weather Service Forecast Office in Buffalo began issuing advisories three days before the storm arrived. Tom Niziol, the science and operations officer at the Buffalo weather service office, said technology helped forecasters stay ahead of events. "The new technological suite available in all forecast offices was put to great use during the storm. The Doppler radar was able to pinpoint snowband location and relative intensity down to city blocks. NOAA satellite imagery augmented radar by delineating snowband location over the lakes. An extremely dedicated network of volunteer snow spotters updated the office regularly on snowfall amounts from the storm."

The new suite of numerical models from NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Camp Springs, Md., including the recently implemented 12km ETA model, was able to more accurately predict snowband location down to a finer scale. In addition, computer models run locally at the NWS office in Buffalo provided the best tools for predicting the location and movement of the snowbands.

The workstation ETA model is an outgrowth of work performed by the NCEP Mesoscale Modelling Branch and the Science and Resource Center of the NWS Training Branch. The MM5 model was implemented at NWS Buffalo as a result of a cooperative project through COMET and the State University of New York. Locally-developed software specifically tuned to the Great Lakes also predicted the subtle movements of the snowband through time.

Niziol said, "These tools, which are a result of an increased focus on research and new technology—along with tremendous forecaster dedication—are fine examples of the effort that is put forth to accomplish our mission, which is to issue forecast and warnings for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy. The NWS office staff at Buffalo prides itself on service to the public, and this has been one of the most satisfying examples of such an effort."

With winter only getting started, the NWS staff in Buffalo is poised for the next snow event.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA's National Weather Service Forecast Office in Buffalo

Daily Snowfall Summaries for Buffalo and Surrounding Area




Winter Weather Watches, Warnings and Advisories — What do they all mean?

NOAA's Seasonal Outlook

U.S. Outlook Maps

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center

NOAA's Weather Page

NOAA's Storm Watch

NOAA's National Weather Service

Media Contact:
Greg Hernandez, NOAA, (202) 482-3091 or John Leslie, NOAA's National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622
(Photos courtesy of NOAA's Amanda Pfendler and Tom Niziol.)