Worst Winters of All Time?

As summer slowly approaches its inevitable end, thoughts of winter have started to creep into our minds. The last two winters seemed particularly harsh, and questions were often asked as to their historic status as well as whether another bad winter was on the way. Ask any older person in Ohio, and the winters between 1976 and 1979 will often come up. But do they really deserve their reputations? To find out, I came up with a ranking system for meteorological winter only- December through February. Here was the criteria:

Temperature: # of 32 or Below Highs, # of 32 or Below Lows, # of 0 or Below Highs, # of 0 or Below Lows: Each earned the winter a point for each day that featured these conditions.
# of 60 or Above Highs and # of 50 or Above Lows meant a point was removed for each occurrence.

Precipitation: # of Days with Measurable Snowfall, # of 1″+ Snow Days, # of 2.5″+ Snow Days, # of 5″+ Snow Days, # of 10″+ Snow Days as well as # of Measurable Precipitation Days all counted as 1 point for each occurrence.

I then added the temperature and precipitation points together to come up with a ranking for how miserable each winter really was.

Here are the 30 worst winters of all time and their total points.

1. 1976-1977: 240
2. 1977-1978: 238
3. 1969-1970: 230
4. 2002-2003: 228
5. 1978-1979: 226
6. 1880-1881: 225
7. 1917-1918: 223
8. 1935-1936: 220
9. 2013-2014: 219
10. 1892-1893, 1962-1963: 218
11. 1909-1910: 217
12. 1995-1996, 2009-2010: 208
13. 2010-2011: 207
14. 1903-1904: 204
15. 1981-1982: 202
16. 1911-1912, 1963-1964: 197
17. 1886-1887, 1919-1920: 196
18. 1904-1905: 195
19. 1984-1985: 194
20. 1916-1917: 193
21. 1894-1895: 191
22. 1883-1884: 189
23. 2000-2001: 188
24. 1947-1948, 1961-1962: 187
25. 1993-1994: 186
26. 1884-1885, 1939-1940: 185
27. 1983-1984, 1987-1988: 183
28. 1902-1903, 2014-2015: 182
29. 1954-1955: 180
30. 1878-1879, 1882-1883, 1960-1961, 1985-1986, 2003-2004, 2008-2009: 179

Do any of these surprise you? Both 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 are in the top 30 worst, but only 2013-2014 is in the top 10. In fact, other recent winters like 2000-2001, 2002-2003, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 are all ranked worse than last winter. There have been a surprising number of recent winters in the top 30, however. There have been 8 total since 2000. No other similar time frame has produced as many.

And here are the 30 best winters (if you like warm, snowless, dry winters, that is).

1. 1931-1932: 74
2. 1889-1890: 75
3. 1879-1880: 86
4. 1997-1998: 102
5. 1881-1882, 1943-1944: 111
6. 2001-2002: 112
7. 1996-1997: 115
8. 1948-1949, 1953-1954: 118
9. 1941-1942, 1982-1983: 120
10. 1918-1919: 122
11. 1936-1937: 123
12. 1932-1933, 1991-1992: 124
13. 1930-1931: 125
14. 1905-1906, 1972-1973: 126
15. 1949-1950: 128
16. 1897-1898, 1986-1987: 129
17. 2011-2012: 130
18. 1938-1939: 131
19. 1937-1938: 134
20. 1908-1909, 1920-1921, 2005-2006: 135
21. 1924-1925: 137
22. 1896-1897: 138
23. 1927-1928, 1929-1930, 1940-1941, 1990-1991: 139
24. 1952-1953: 140
25. 1921-1922, 1945-1946, 1998-1999: 141
26. 1988-1989: 143
27. 1891-1892: 144
28. 1946-1947, 1971-1972: 145
29. 1912-1913, 1934-1935: 147
30. 1923-1924, 1992-1993: 148

Look how many of the warmest/least snowy occur between 1920 and 1945. Historically, this period had the fewest number of cold and/or snowy winters on record of any such 25-year period.

And what about winter 2015-2016? Well, that remains to be seen. However, the developing strong El Nino suggests a warmer than average winter. However, factors such as its position (west or east-based) as well as the PDO could throw some wrenches into that standard El Nino forecast. Either way, it will likely not be a top 30 worst.