Columbus’ Christmas Day Climatology

*Find more December records in the December Weather page.

Normals 1981-2010
High: 38
Low: 25
Mean: 31.5
Precipitation: 0.10″
Snowfall: 0.2″

1878-2016 Averages
High: 36
Low: 24
Mean: 30
Precipitation: 0.11″
Snowfall: 0.1″

Top 10 Coldest Highs
1. 1983: 1
2. 1878: 10
3. 1924: 11
4. 1980: 15
5. 1902: 16
6. 1985: 17
7. 1884, 2000: 19
8. 1899, 1906, 1914:20
9. 1950, 1968: 22
10. 1935, 1969, 2001: 23

Top 10 Coldest Lows
1. 1983: -12
2. 1980: -5
3. 1935: -4
4. 1924: -3
5. 1878: -2
6. 2004: -1
7. 1985: 1
8. 2000: 2
9. 1884: 4
10. 1914, 1999: 7

Top 10 Warmest Highs
1. 1893: 64
2. 1982: 63
3. 1932, 1940: 62
4. 1889: 60
5. 1964: 58
6. 1895, 1955: 57
7. 1891: 55
8. 1936, 2015: 53
9. 1888, 1915, 1987: 52
10. 1965, 1973: 51

Top 10 Warmest Lows
1. 1889, 1982: 55
2. 1895: 52
3. 1893: 49
4. 1891: 45
5. 2015: 43
6. 1932, 1940: 40
7. 1888, 1964, 1973: 39
8. 1987: 38
9. 1922, 1941, 2009, 2016: 37
10. 1936, 1972: 36

Number of Days with the High Temperature
Less than 10: 1
10-19: 7
20-29: 24
30-39: 54
40-49: 36
50-59: 12
60 or Higher: 5

Number of Days with the Low Temperature
Less than 0: 6
0-9: 7
10-19: 35
20-29: 46
30-39: 37
40-49: 5
50 or Higher: 3

Top 10 Wettest
1. 2009: 0.79″
2. 1944: 0.77″
3. 1926: 0.69″
4. 1951: 0.58″
5. 2006: 0.57″
6. 1945: 0.54″
7. 1957: 0.52″
8. 1987, 2005: 0.51″
9. 1915: 0.48″
10. 1909: 0.47″

Number of Days with Precipitation
0.00″: 44
Trace: 26
0.01″-0.24″: 54
0.25″-0.49″: 6
0.50″-0.74″: 7
0.75″-0.99″: 2
1.00″ or More: 0

Top 10 Snowiest
1. 1890: 7.0″
2. 1909: 5.7″
3. 1950: 3.0″
4. 1917: 2.5″
5. 1969: 2.3″
6. 1884: 2.2″
7. 1976: 1.9″
8. 1880: 1.8″
9. 1935: 1.3″
10. 1944: 1.2″

Most Snow on the Ground (Since 1947)
1. 1960: 9″
2. 1961, 1963, 1989, 1995: 4″
3. 1969, 1980, 2004: 3″

Number of Days with Snowfall
0.0″: 73
Trace: 22
0.1″-0.4″: 19
0.5″-0.9″: 9
1″-2.9″: 7
3″ or More: 3

The Great Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950

Springfield, Ohio after the snowstorm.

Exactly 67 years ago today, the Great Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950 began. It was the biggest snowstorm for Columbus, and indeed most of Ohio, during the 40-year period of 1920-1960. That period, especially from the mid-1920s through the mid-1950s, had the lowest rates of cold and snowy winters of any comparable period. The average seasonal snowfall during that period was just 19.1″, a full 9″ below the average the 1980s-2010s have had to date. Still, the period was not without its memorable winters, including 1935-36, 1939-40 and 1947-48. None of those winters, however, had a snow event nearly as big as November 1950.

October 1950 had generally been very warm, ranking historically as the 19th warmest October in Columbus. Highs reached 65 or higher on 21 days of the month. This warmth lasted through early November, and the 80 degrees recorded on November 1st, 1950 remains tied for the warmest November temperature ever recorded. After that, the month seesawed up and down until a strong cold front and rainstorm on the 19th-20th dropped temperatures 25-30 degrees across the state, from the upper 50s-low 60s on the 20th to the low-mid 30s on the 21st. This front would be one of the catalysts for one of Ohio’s greatest winter weather events in its history.

Snow began in Columbus and other parts of Ohio on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 23rd as a low moved through the Great Lakes and weakened. Behind that system, another cold high pressure was diving south out of Canada.

Thursday, November 23rd 1950 National Map
*Requires a DejaVu plug-in to view.

On Friday the 24th, a low formed on the stalled cold front that had moved through Ohio a few days earlier. Initially forming in southeastern North Carolina, this low would’ve normally gone out to see or moved up the East Coast as a Nor’easter. Instead, the strong, cold high pressure was moving into the Ohio Valley at the same time, and the little low exploded and as it began to move north. The strong push of cold was very evident in Ohio, as temperatures plunged from the upper-30s to upper 40s on Thanksgiving afternoon to single digits and low teens by early Friday morning.

Friday, November 24th, 1950 National Map

The low moved into southern Pennsylvania by the morning of the 25th, and then began to do something few other storms ever do- it began to retrograde toward the west and Ohio, continuing to strengthen as it went. The unusual west movement was caused by a blocking high pressure system parked over Maine.

Saturday, November 25th, 1950 National Map

Light snow that had been ongoing in Ohio on the 24th quickly intensified from east to west across the state as the low moved westward from Central Pennsylvania to Northern Ohio by the end of the day on the 25th. With it arrived winds of 40-60 miles per hour, causing blinding white-outs and drifting.
Saturday the 25th was the height of the storm as the low pressure bottomed out at 978mb, a pressure normally associated with hurricanes. This day was, coincidentally, the famed Ohio State-Michigan rivalry football game, now famously known as the “Snow Bowl” for its terrible weather conditions.

With temperatures on Saturday morning in the single digits, wind chills well below zero and with heavy snow, there was debate about cancelling the game altogether, which was the Big Ten Championship. Ironically, despite the fact that Ohio State would’ve gone on to the Rose Bowl had the game been cancelled (Michigan did not want to reschedule), it was Ohio State’s athletic director who ultimately refused to cancel the game, much to the rest of the staff’s disappointment. Perhaps after the fact, considering Ohio State lost 9-3, that decision was regretted, especially in front of the more than 50,000 die-hard fans that managed to show up for the game.


Columbus would receive 7.5″ at the airport, with eastern suburbs getting up to 10″, just on that Saturday alone.

Due to the blocking high pressure, the storm didn’t budge for days, and it continued through the 26th and 27th before slowly dying out. The last accumulating snowflakes from this system fell on the 29th, 6 days after the snow began.

Sunday, November 26th, 1950 National Map
Monday, November 27th, 1950 National Map
Tuesday, November 28th, 1950 National Map
Wednesday, November 29th, 1950 National Map

All in all, the storm was a record-breaker. Snow totals reached 10″ or more across most of the state except the far northwest and far southwest. In Central Ohio, snow had piled up between 10″-20″, with Columbus officially reporting 15.2″ for the duration of the event. This was the second-heaviest snowstorm in Columbus on record to that time, falling just shy of the 15.3″ that occurred February 17-18, 1910. Both of these storms would be surpassed by the February 14-17, 2003 snowstorm of 15.5″, which itself was surpassed by March 7-8th, 2008’s 20.5″.

Other totals in the state included up to 22″ in Cleveland, 27″ in Marietta, and reports of 44″ in Steubenville in far eastern Ohio. Totals of 25″-30″ were common throughout the eastern 1/3rd of the state. These totals are some of the highest the state has ever seen, coming close to those seen in the eastern Ohio snowstorm of April 1901.

In addition to the snow, record cold temperatures in Columbus of 5 degrees on the 25th (along with a record low maximum of 20) made this one of the greatest early winter events of all time.


Cleveland after the storm.

Fall Weather Correlation to Winter Severity?

As we go into the winter season, it’s time to talk about how this one might end up. There’s a belief that fall weather is a good sign of how cold or warm winter will be. How true is that for Columbus? Also, what might any correlation mean for the winter of 2017-2018?

First, let’s just look at October temperatures.
The October normal mean temperature for Columbus is 55 degrees.

Between 1878 and 2016, there have been 47 Octobers that featured a mean temperature of 53.9 degrees or lower, what we’re considering a Cold October for the purposes of this comparison.
Of those 47 Octobers, 27 of the 47 had following winters that were colder than normal, or 57.4%, 13 had average temperature winters, or 27.7%, and the remaining 7 were warmer than normal, or 14.9%.
Interestingly, this category contains both the warmest winter on record- 1889-1890 and the coldest on record- 1976-1977- as shown by the chart below.

Next, we look at Normal Octobers, which are +/- 1 degree of the 1981-2010 Average of 55 degrees.
Between 1878 and 2016, there were 45 normal Octobers. Of those, 21 had colder than normal following winters, or 46.7%. 11 were followed by normal winters, or 24.4%, and 13 had warmer than normal winters, or 28.9%.

Finally, let’s look at warm Octobers, which are those with means of 56.1 degrees or higher. There were 46 Octobers with warmer than normal means since 1878. Of those, 18 featured following winters that were colder than normal, or 39.1%. Another 18, or 39.1%, were followed by average winters. The final 10 winters were warmer than normal. Here’s the graph.

So just based on the October mean temperature, Octobers that are colder than normal have a 47% higher chance of having a colder than normal winter than warmer than normal Octobers do. But is October a better indicator than November, a month that is closer to actual winter?

Colder than normal Novembers- 43.3 degrees or lower- included 78 Novembers since 1878. Of those, 38 or 48.7% had colder than normal winters. 21 (26.9%) had normal winters and 19 (24.4) had warmer than normal winters.

With the 38 normal Novembers, 43.4 to 45.4 degrees, there were 18 that had colder than normal winters, or 47.4%, with 11 normal winters (28.9%) and 9 warmer than normal winters (23.7%).

Finally, there were 24 warmer than normal Novembers since 1878- 45.5 degrees or higher. Only 6, or 25%, were followed by cold winters. An additional 9 (37.5%) were normal, while the last 9 (37.5%) were warmer than normal.

To reiterate, here are the ranked percentages of cold winters by the preceding October or November.
1. Cold Octobers: 57.4%
2. Cold Novembers: 48.7%
3. Normal Novembers: 47.4%
4. Normal Octobers: 46.7%
5. Warm Octobers: 39.1%
6. Warm Novembers: 25.0%

It should be no surprise that cold Octobers and Novembers have a stronger correlation to the following winters also being colder, with colder winters becoming increasingly unlikely as those months warm. Cold Octobers have a higher correlation than Cold Novembers, as well as Warm Octobers, but Normal Novembers have a slight advantage over Normal Octobers. Based on this, October actually has a stronger correlation to the following winter’s temperature mean than does November.

Going further, though, what about bi-monthly combinations?

Rank of Bi-Monthly Combinations and the percentage of colder than normal following winters, along with total years in sample:
Normal October/Normal November: 87.5% 8 Years
Cold October/Warm November: 57.1% 7 Years
Cold October/Cold November: 53.8% 26 Years
Normal October/Cold November: 48.1% 27 Years
Warm October/Cold November: 44.0% 25 Years
Cold October/Normal November: 38.5% 13 Years
Warm October/Warm November: 28.6% 7 Years
Warm October/Normal November: 26.7% 15 Years
Normal October/Warm November: 0.0% 8 Years

So a normal fall is clearly the best, but the sample size is not particularly high. Normal to Warm is unanimously warm, but again, it has a small sample size.

October 2017 has been overwhelmingly warm. While this wouldn’t normally bode well for a cold winter, each year is influenced by a multitude of factors.

March 7-8, 2008- Columbus’ Greatest Snowstorm




**Originally posted on 12/29/12.
On the eve of the anniversary of Columbus’ biggest snowstorm, I thought I would repost this. Makes you appreciate just how mild and uneventful Winter 2015-2016 has been, doesn’t it?

More than one week prior to the Blizzard of 2008, models had been hinting at a significant storm somewhere in the eastern US. Initially, models took the storm up the East Coast, but as the storm neared, models moved it further and further west and settled upon a track just west/just along the spine of the Appalachians. The track waffled for days, but never strayed far from the Appalachian track. Because the storm was originating near the Gulf of Mexico, models were showing the storm pulling vast amounts of moisture north into cold air over the Ohio Valley. Simply put, the track and conditions were being forecast to be perfect for a significant Ohio snowstorm.

Local forecasters, however, weren’t buying it… at least not at first. Four days before the storm, neither the NWS nor the television forecasters were calling for a significant event. The winter of 2007-08 had brought several storm busts, and none of them seemed ready to buy into another one. So right up to 24-36 hours before the event began, forecasters were calling for 6″ maximum north and west of the I-71 corridor with a mix along the corridor and mostly rain to the south and east. So, right up until the end, many Ohioans were led to believe that this would be a large, but still a run-of-the-mill, snow event.

My personal account of the storm:

On Thursday, March 6th, I worked a 12-hour day at my store. Customers were talking about forecasts of 4-8″, which in central Ohio is significant in and of itself. We typically get one or two 6″ storms, but rarely up to 8″ and almost never more than that. In fact, in all of Columbus history, there have been less than a dozen snow events that broke double digits. Still, in the talking there were whispers that the storm would be more significant. By Thursday night when I arrived home, I discovered the radar was lit up over the South with a growing area of precipitation heading north. Temperatures had already cooled into the low 30s as a cold front had moved through during the day. Forecasts had changed late in the afternoon, and there were many calls of 6-10″ along I-71 by Sunday.

Friday, March 7th was my day off, and I woke up before 8am in the excitement and inticipation of the impending snow. The radar was showing returns north of the Ohio River then and it was already snowing in Cincinnati. Finally, at 9:05am, flurries began to fall and quickly intensified to a steady, windblown snow. A 9:30, I left the house to go to the store. By the time I reached it, the snow had turned heavy and was accumulating quickly. Visibility had dropped to a 1/4 mile at times and many roads were already snowcovered by the time I reached home.

The snow continued throughout the day and forecasts kept changing, finally settling on 10-15″ along the I-71 corridor with little to no mixing. Meanwhile, the snow continued into the evening and overnight hours of the 7th. Although it did lighten somewhat towards midnight, it never completely stopped. By midnight, in any case, 5-7″ had fallen throughout Columbus and central Ohio, which set a daily record.

Saturday, March 8th dawned very wintry. By dawn, no less than 10″ was on the ground and the snow was continuing to fall heavily. Overnight, blizzard warnings had gone up for all of the NWS Wilmington forecast zone as winds were expected to increase during the day. Winds were generally sustained near 20mph in the morning and increased during the late morning/early afternoon. Heavy snow and winds combined to create total whiteout conditions at times, and every county along I-71 from Cincinatti to Cleveland went under a level 2 or level 3 snow emergency.

At 11am, I went for a walk in the snow. It was still falling heavily and roads were nearly impassable with deep snow. Cars in some cases were buried in snow.

By 2pm, a break in the snowfall came as the low moved to the east of Ohio. When it moved into New York, wraparound snow moved back into the area for 3-4 more hours before ending by 6:30pm Saturday afternoon. The sun even poked through the clouds as it set, producing a very picturesque and beautiful winter scene. A fitting end to the day.

All in all, it was a record setting snowstorm all across the state. Columbus’ 20.5″ of snowfall, including 15.5″ on Saturday alone, was the greatest snowstorm of all time for the city. It also established the greatest 24-hour snowfall and the greatest snow depth ever recorded at 18″. No part of the state was spared, as all major cities except Toledo had 10″ or more. Drifts of 5-7 feet deep were reported in many areas.

The storm also brought some areas of the state to record territory in total seasonal snowfall.

Incidentally, 30 years and 2 months prior, the Great Blizzard of 1978 struck. It is somewhat of note that Ohio’s greatest blizzards on record occurred during the “8” years. 1918, 1978, and now 2008.

The first image below is a model snow depth forecast ending on March 9th. The second is a photo of the heavy snow in Columbus during the evening of the 7th.
Forecasted snowfall-March 5, 2008
382008_1.gif

Here are some videos during the storm.
Dayton Area
https://youtu.be/sEJ5diRfP88
Cleveland Area
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxS60SYXn24
Columbus
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpgKmawafwk

For more March weather records, check here: March Weather
And for more all-time weather records: All-Time Weather




Historic Record of Early Season Cold

With temperatures predicted to fall to near freezing for the first time this week for the fall season, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the incidence of early-season cold, and the average on when it tends to arrive.

Here are the earliest dates on record for the following:

Temperatures Below 40 and Temperature Range of Observed Dates
1. 8/29/1965: 39
2. 9/8/1951: 39
3. 9/9/1883: 39
4. 9/13/1964: 38
5. 9/14/1902, 9/14/1923, 9/14/1953, 19/14/1975: 38-39
6. 9/17/1959: 37
7. 9/20/1896, 9/20/1956, 9/20/1962: 37-39
8. 9/21/1889, 9/21/1897, 9/21/1991: 37-38
9. 9/22/1918, 9/22/1974, 9/22/1976, 9/22/1995: 37-38
10. 9/23/1885, 9/23/1913, 9/23/1963, 9/23/1967, 9/23/1981, 9/23/1989: 35-39

Average Date of First Under-40 Temp By Decade (1878-2014)
2010s: October 11th
2000s: October 8th
1990s: October 2nd
1980s: September 30th
1970s: October 1st
1960s: September 25th
1950s: September 25th
1940s: September 30th
1930s: October 11th
1920s: October 2nd
1910s: October 9th
1900s: October 5th
1890s: October 1st
1880s: October 2nd
1870s: October 1st

Highs Below 32
1. 10/30/1917: 32
2. 11/3/1951, 11/3/1966: 28-29
3. 11/4/1991: 27
4. 11/6/1967: 31
5. 11/7/1971: 31
6. 11/8/1976: 32
7. 11/10/1913: 27
8. 11/12/1920, 11/12/1921, 11/12/1932: 30-32
9. 11/13/1911, 11/13/1919, 11/13/1986, 11/13/1996: 25-32
10. 11/15/1880, 11/15/1893, 11/15/1916, 11/15/1933, 11/15/1940, 11/15/1969: 24-32

Average Date of First 32 or Below High By Decade
2010s: December 4th
2000s: December 2nd
1990s: December 7th
1980s: November 28th
1970s: November 29th
1960s: November 23rd
1950s: November 26th
1940s: December 2nd
1930s: November 27th
1920s: November 28th
1910s: November 22nd
1900s: November 30th
1890s: November 25th
1880s: November 30th
1870s: December 4th

Lows Below 32
1. 9/21/1962: 31
2. 9/29/1961: 32
3. 9/30/1888, 9/30/163: 31-32
4. 10/1/1899: 30
5. 10/2/1886, 10/2/1908, 10/2/1974: 31-32
6. 10/3/1975, 10/3/1981, 10/3/2003: 32
7. 10/4/1952, 10/4/1987: 29-32
8. 10/5/1965, 10/5/1968: 31-32
9. 10/6/1892, 10/6/1964, 10/6/1980, 10/6/1988: 30-31
10. 10/7/1889, 10/7/1935: 30-31

Average Date of First 32 or Below Low By Decade
2010s: October 24th
2000s: October 26th
1990s: October 22nd
1980s: October 17th
1970s: October 17th
1960s: October 8th
1950s: October 22nd
1940s: November 3rd
1930s: October 24th
1920s: October 28th
1910s: October 31st
1900s: October 24th
1890s: October 20th
1880s: October 20th
1870s: October 26th