Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Meteorological analyses of the March 1888 “Blizzard of '88”



Meteorological analyses of the legendary March 11–14, 1888, “Blizzard of '88” are reconstructed from original surface weather observations. The analyses depict the meteorological evolution of the blizzard, which devastated much of the northeastern United States with 25–125-cm snowfall accumulations over a 1–3-day period, high winds, and bitter cold. As shown by the surface weather charts, the storm was associated with a slow-moving cyclone that moved northeastward from the Carolinas to near New England and then performed a loop near southern New England before moving east over the Atlantic Ocean. The interaction of the cyclone with a stationary front that extended from the storm center northward through central New England, separating cool, moist maritime air over eastern New England from very cold Canadian air over western New England and the Middle Atlantic states, may have been crucial for the development of heavy snowfall. Since weather forecasters in 1888 were taken by surprise by the development of the storm, speculations are offered whether the advancements in weather prediction techniques and the generation of computer technology that have taken place over the century following the storm could be successful in forecasting a similar event today.