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The 6 Strangest Things We've Seen In 2023's Weather So Far

By Jonathan Erdman

3 hours ago


At a Glance

  • 2023 has had its share of bizarre weather in the first six months.
  • This included major smoke episodes, drought-to-flood whiplash and early Atlantic tropical activity.
  • There have also been some weird tornadoes and global tropical cyclones.

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2023's first half had some bizarre weather, spanning the meteorological spectrum from snow to tropical cyclones to tornadoes to wildfire smoke.

S​ome of these weather events were strange for where or when they occurred. Others were just plain weird.

Here is our ranked list of the strangest things we saw in the first half of 2023, followed by some other oddities in a list of honorably weird mentions.

6​. A Strange Tornado Year

January had the third most confirmed tornadoes of any January since 1950, according to preliminary data from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. A​mong those were Iowa's first January tornadoes in 56 years on Jan. 24.

During a month more notorious for major East Coast snowstorms, an EF2 tornado tore through parts of central New Jersey on Feb. 21, only the fifth February tornado in the Garden State since 1950.

On April Fools' Day, Delaware's widest tornado, only the state's second F/EF3 on record, tore through parts of Sussex County. Its ghostly white appearance was also accompanied by a rainbow.

Then, the typically dangerous month of May failed to produce a single EF3 or stronger tornado for only the second time since 1950.

5​. The Northeast’s Pathetic Snowfall

The prime months for snow in the Northeast didn’t deliver in 2023, particularly along the Interstate 95 corridor.

For the first time in records dating to 1869, New York’s Central Park had to wait until February for their first measurable snow of the season.

Both New York (2.3 inches) and Baltimore (0.2 inches) had their least snowy seasons (fall through spring) on record. Baltimore had more severe thunderstorm warnings in winter than inches of snow. Neither Philadelphia nor Washington, D.C., could scrape up an inch of snow all season.

Instead, one of the East’s warmest winters on record left flowers blooming in Central Park and leaves popping in Pennsylvania.

4. Freddy's Odyssey

Tropical Cyclone Freddy formed south of Indonesia on Feb. 6. Little did we know it was embarking on a month-plus pilgrimage that would prove catastrophic in one country and would rewrite the global tropical cyclone history books.

F​reddy made landfall in Madagascar just over two weeks later, then in Mozambique on Feb. 24.

B​ut that still wasn't all. Its remnant double-backed over its previous path and became a tropical storm again over the Mozambique Channel on March 4. It spent a week over that body of water before making its second Mozambique landfall, then moving into Malawi.

F​reddy may have set a record for the globe's longest lasting tropical cyclone, though a committee of the World Meteorological Organization will examine this in detail and make the final determination.

R​egardless, Freddy rapidly intensified seven different times during its saga, three more times than any previous tropical cyclone.

A​nd it dumped six months' worth of rain in the east African country of Malawi, where over 500,000 residents were displaced and over 500 were killed, according to the U.N. World Food Programme.

Track history of Cyclone Freddy from Feb. 6 to March 13, 2023.
(Track data: Joint Typhoon Warning Center via NOAA/CIRA)

3. California And The West's Whiplash

Last fall, concern was high in California and the Great Basin after two straight rainy seasons were much drier than usual. One more such season would lead to more critical water deficits, aside from the long-term challenges facing lakes Mead and Powell.

What followed was one of the sharpest famine-to-feast precipitation episodes of recent memory.

A parade of 31 atmospheric river events hammered California and the West from November through March.

Almost 63 feet of snowfall made it the snowiest season in 71 years at Cal-Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab, according to weather historian Christopher Burt.


Rare blizzard warnings were issued for the mountains of Southern California in late February. Following that and another storm, parts of the high country were buried in snow for weeks.

The massive snow blocked roads and collapsed some homes and buildings not just in California, but also in Utah and Idaho.

While snowmelt flooding was damaging in some areas, some California reservoirs were fully replenished, and satellite data confirmed California had its largest yearly recovery in water supply in almost 22 years.

A person walks near snowbanks obscuring condominiums as snow falls in the Sierra Nevada mountains from yet another storm system which is predicted to bring heavy snow to higher elevations on March 28, 2023, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A person walks near snowbanks obscuring condominiums as snow falls in the Sierra Nevada mountains from yet another storm system which is predicted to bring heavy snow to higher elevations on March 28, 2023, in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

2. Hurricane Season's Weird Start

Coming into hurricane season, an El Niño developed and was forecast to intensify and potentially become strong.

By itself, that usually diminishes the number of storms and hurricanes and also steers them away from parts of the Atlantic Basin.

However, the Atlantic Ocean’s main corridor for tropical development – between Africa and the Lesser Antilles – became record warm for any June in at least 41 years.

That, paired with an unusual lack of storm-suppressing dust-laden air from the Sahara Desert, allowed tropical storms Bret and Cindy to develop. It was the first time more than one June storm formed east of the Lesser Antilles in the same hurricane season.

If that wasn’t bizarre enough, the National Hurricane Center said an unnamed subtropical storm occurred off the East Coast in mid-January.

Track histories of tropical storms Bret and Cindy in June 2023.
(Data: NOAA/NHC)

1. June's Smoke Shows

It all started with a record hot May across much of Canada. That set the table for a rash of wildfires that quickly scorched more land than any previous year on record in the country.

All that smoke had to go somewhere.

An early June weather pattern pulled the eastern Canada smoke into the Northeast U.S. from June 6 to 8. New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., each set record levels of particulate pollution, as each city’s sky resembled a Martian sky for a time.

Then in the last week of June, another mass of Canadian smoke poured into the Midwest and East, also lasting for days. At least 10 major cities smashed all-time particulate pollution records, including Chicago and Pittsburgh.

“Combined, we have experienced nothing like June 2023 any time in the recent past,” Ryan Stauffer, an air pollution scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told

A man talks on his phone as he looks through the haze at the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., Wednesday, June 7, 2023. Intense Canadian wildfires are blanketing the northeastern U.S. in a dystopian haze, turning the air acrid, the sky yellowish gray and prompting warnings for vulnerable populations to stay inside. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A view of the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., on June 7, 2023 (left) and of the skyline of Detroit on June 28, 2023 (right), during outbreaks of dense smoke from Canadian wildfires.
(AP Photos/Seth Wenig, Paul Sancya)

Honorably Weird Mentions

These didn't crack our top six, but we found them too fascinating to leave out.

-​ Lightning damaged a home while it was sleeting in late January.

-​ This Alabama home was sliced in half by a tornado.

-​ In May, Cyclone Mocha slammed Myanmar as one of the strongest on record for the North Indian Ocean (155 mph winds). On the other side of the equator, Cyclone Fabien became the record latest-in-season South Indian Ocean Category 3 or stronger cyclone. Also, Mocha's remnant dumped snow in southern China.

-​ This view of a double rainbow with a swath of accumulated hail on the ground after an Oklahoma storm was my favorite weather video of the year so far.

-​ A localized dust storm off drought-stricken farmland became deadly on an Illinois interstate.

-​ This tornado struck a shipping freighter that happened to have a wind gauge.

Jonathan Erdman is a senior meteorologist at and has been an incurable weather geek since a tornado narrowly missed his childhood home in Wisconsin at age 7. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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