The Final Tally on the Long Winter of 2013-2014 Part 1

For a good portion of the US, the winter of 2013-2014 was one of the worst, if not the worst, in recent memory. Cold and snow hit early in the season and didn’t let up until the first half of March. Now that April is behind us (the last month that snow typically might fall during a season), we can take a look back at a winter many would like to forget.

A Look Back at Snowfall
For many in Central Ohio, winter provided its first taste on October 23rd, when a cold front briefly changed rain to a wet snow that coated car tops. This was merely a prelude to what would come.

2013-14 Winter Snowfall vs. Normal
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As can be seen, monthly snowfall was above normal in 5 of the 7 months that snow can potentially fall in, in some cases more than 2x the normal value.

November Notable Snow Events
November 11-12th, 2013: This was the first real accumulating snowfall of the season, dropping a general 1″-2″ across the area. The highest total in Franklin County was 2″ reported just southeast of Clintonville. A map of the event can be found here: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20131112/

November 26th-27th, 2013: The months 2nd and larger event occurred towards the end of the month, and dropped 1″-4″ across the county, with the higher totals on the east side of Columbus. A map of the event can be found here: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20131127/

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The November total of 4.7″, while not anywhere near record breaking, was a top 20 snowiest, coming in at #14. November 2013 was also the snowiest Columbus had seen since 1972, when 6.3″ fell.
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December Notable Snow Events
December 6th, 2013: This was the first major event of the season. A low pressure center brought rain to the area on the 5th. As temperatures cooled, rain gradually changed to freezing rain and then heavy snow, dropping 3″-6″ across the area. A map of this event can be found here: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20131206/

December 10th, 2013: The second event of the month was a persistent band of snow that set up alon I-71. The cold air produced high ratios, dropping 1″-3″. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20131210/

December 14th, 2013: Rain changed to snow along and north of I-71. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20131214/

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December’s 12.7″ total was 2 1/2x normal, and the first 10 days of the month were the snowiest on record. It also made the month the 8th snowiest December on record. Further, it was the 2nd consecutive above average December and the 5th since 2007 to be so.

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January Notable Snow Events
January 2nd, 2014: The new year started off as snowy as the previous ended, when a low pressure brought occasionally heavy snow and 3″-5″ across the city. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140102/

January 18th-19th, 2014: A clipper system, Columbus’ most reliable snow producer, brought 1″-2″ across the area. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140119/

January 25th-26th, 2014: The months’ signature event, a strong storm brough a mixed bag of precipitation, including heavy snow to parts of the city. As the storm passed, additional snow squalls developed into the 26th and brought occasional whiteout conditions. Columbus’ official 2-day total was 8.3″. A map of the event can be found here, though it only lists totals for the 25th: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140125/

All told, the 17.7″ of snow for the month was the 16th snowiest on record, and the 8.3″ snow event tied for the 10th largest January event since records began.
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February Notable Snow Events

February 4th-5th, 2014: A low pressure brought heavy snow and mixed precipitation to the area, and proved to be winter’s largest snow event with 6″-10″ across the city. The 10.6″ at Columbus was the largest storm of the winter, tied as the 3rd largest February snowstorm, and provided the 7th largest daily February snowfall. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140205/

February 9th, 2014: A weak system brought 1″-3″. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140209/

February 14th-15th, 2014: Valentines Day brought a storm that skimmed the area with 2″-4″, with much higher totals to the south. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140215/

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February’s 15.9″ of snow was the 6th snowiest on record.
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March Notalbe Snow Events

March 2nd-3rd, 2014: A low pressure brought 2-3″ over the city. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140302/

March 29th, 2014: A storm brought in 1″-2″ in spring’s first week. http://www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/events/20140329/

March did not break any records or have any large events, but it was more or less a capping month to a winter the kept snowing.

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April saw just one snow event, on the 15th, when half an inch to 1″ fell, ending the snowfall season.

So where did 2013-2014 fall in the seasonal total? 56.4″ This ranks it as the 3rd snowiest winter since records began in 1878. It was also the #1 snowiest meteorological winter (December-February) on record. The graph below shows the top 10 snowiest winters. Notice that 4 of the 10 have occurred since 2002, with 3 since 2007. Are we possibly entering a snowier period? That remains to be seen.

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Coming up: How did the winter’s temperatures rank in history? We know there was a lot of cold, but how much?

How Cold/Snowy Was January Really?

There has been a lot of talk about this winter and how bad it has been, especially in January, where the term “polar vortex” became a household name. Of course, polar vortexes are a fairly common winter term in the meteorological community and they happen every single year somewhere. The only real difference this year has been that it came further south in some areas than normal. Combined with frequent snowfalls, it has given the perception that the winter overall has been unusually severe. But how does the winter so far, and January 2014, stack up historically?

First, let’s look at temperatures since December 1st, the start of meteorological winter.

For December 1st to January 31st, the average temperature has been 28.75 degrees. Normal for this period is 31.55 degrees, so it has been below normal by 2.8 degrees. But is that departure from normal really historically bad? Not really. In fact, it doesn’t even rank in the top 20 coldest. However, the average temperature alone doesn’t really tell the whole story. January, in particular, was very cold overall, with an average of just 22.8 degrees. That DID rank the month in the top 20, at #15 out of more than 135 years of records. It also featured 7 days with low temperatures at or below 0 degrees. Only a handful of other years featured more than that, even though the coldest low of the month (-11) did not come close to the coldest readings on record. So it has been more about repeated bouts of cold rather than record cold.

Next, we’ll look at seasonal snowfall through January 31st. This is where the 2013-2014 winter really begins to take its place in history. After having the snowiest 1st 10 days of December on record, the winter has continued to add to its totals. Through January 31st, Columbus had received 35.1″ of snow, which was already 6.2″ above what would fall for an ENTIRE SEASON, let alone through that date. In fact, the season was more than 20″ above normal by then. The 35.1″ is also the 6th highest total by the 31st of any winter on record, and the 17.7″ that fell during January made it the 16th snowiest, and this was after the 8th snowiest December on record, with 12.7″. Even if not a flake of snow more fell the rest of the winter, it would still end up as the 30th snowiest.

February is looking to keep with the same winter pattern, at least for the next week or two. A winter storm warning is currently in effect for 8-10″ of snow for the Columbus area and continued below normal temperatures. Could the 2013-2014 winter season end up in the record books? Yes, and already has. With the current storm bearing down and potentially more on the horizon, the season will keep moving up.

February Precipitation Records- 1879-2012

Top 20 Wettest Februarys
1. 1893: 7.65″
2. 1887: 6.48″
3. 1883: 6.18″
4. 1890: 6.12″
5. 1882: 5.94″
6. 1891: 5.42″
7. 1990: 5.15″
8. 1910: 5.05″
9. 1909: 4.97″
10. 1884: 4.95″
11. 1981: 4.60″
12. 1881, 1903: 4.44″
13. 1956: 4.33″
14. 1988: 4.26″
15. 2011: 4.25″
16. 1939: 3.92″
17. 2008: 3.88″
18. 1965: 3.76″
19. 1955: 3.73″
20. 1897: 3.71″

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*For the graph above, the 2010s include 2010 to 2012, while the 1870s include 1879 only.

Top 20 Driest Februarys
1. 1978: 0.29″
2. 1968: 0.38″
3. 1907: 0.43″
4. 1902, 1947: 0.51″
5. 1987: 0.59″
6. 1895, 1941: 0.64″
7. 1983: 0.74″
8. 1958: 0.82″
9. 1992: 0.85″
10: 1937: 0.87″
11. 1901, 1932: 0.88″
12. 1963: 1.01″
13. 1977: 1.02″
14. 1889: 1.06″
15. 1906: 1.08″
16. 1917: 1.09″
17. 1920: 1.12″
18. 1969: 1.17″
19. 1934: 1.18″
20. 1886: 1.26″

Top 20 Greatest February Daily Precipitation
1. 1891: 2.18″
2. 1890: 2.16″
3. 1975: 2.15″
4. 1909: 2.05″
5. 1882: 1.94″
6. 1990: 1.72″
7. 1893: 1.62″
8. 1981: 1.58″
9. 1887: 1.55″
10. 1910: 1.47″
11. 1929: 1.44″
12. 1988: 1.42″
13. 1883: 1.41″
14. 1884: 1.40″
15. 1948: 1.37″
16. 1959: 1.33″
17. 1908: 1.32″
18. 1945: 1.31″
19. 1918: 1.30″
20. 1936, 1974, 2011: 1.22″

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*For the graph above, the 2010s include 2010 to 2012, while the 1870s include 1879 only.

Top 20 Snowiest Februarys
1. 2010: 30.1″
2. 1910: 29.2″
3. 2003: 26.3″
4. 1914: 19.9″
5. 1979: 16.5″
6. 1894: 15.8″
7. 1967: 15.6″
8. 1993: 14.6″
9. 1934: 13.2″
10. 1961, 2007: 13.1″
11. 1885: 13.0″
12. 1985: 12.5″
13. 1971: 12.3″
14. 1893: 12.0″
15. 1929: 11.4″
16. 1964: 11.3″
17. 1903: 11.1″
18. 1984: 10.8″
19. 2008: 10.7″
20. 1940: 10.5″

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*For the graph above, the 2010s include 2010 to 2012, while the 1870s include 1879 only.

Top 20 Largest February Daily Snowfalls
1. 2010: 9.7″
2. 1971, 2003: 8.9″
3. 1910: 8.2″
4. 1893: 7.5″
5. 1984: 7.2″
6. 1948, 1979: 6.7″
7. 1967: 6.4″
8. 2007: 5.9″
9. 1911: 5.8″
10. 1895: 5.5″
11. 1914, 1929: 5.3″
12. 1894: 5.2″
13. 1965: 5.0″
14. 1993: 4.9″
15. 1881, 1903: 4.8″
16. 1951, 1972: 4.7″
17. 1912, 1940: 4.5″
18. 1961: 4.4″
19. 1904, 1906: 4.3″
20. 1913, 1923, 1934, 1977: 4.2″

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*For the graph above, the 2010s include 2010 to 2012, while the 1870s include 1879 only.

Top 20 Greatest February Snowstorms of All-Time
1. 2003: 15.5″
2. 1910: 15.0″
3. 2010: 10.4″
4. 1971: 9.9″
5. 2010: 9.7″
6. 1914: 9.6″
7. 1984: 9.5″
8. 1903: 8.7″
9. 1934: 8.4″
10. 1893> 7.8″
11. 1948. 7.4″
12. 1883: 7.3″
13. 1895, 1979: 7.0″
14. 1967: 6.9″
15. 1894, 1985: 6.6″
16. 1885: 6.3″
17. 1911, 2007: 6.2″
18. 1912: 5.6″
19. 1929: 5.3″
20. 1993: 5.2″

February Temperature Records 1879-2012

February Cold

Top 20 Coldest February Means

1. 1978: 16.6
2. 1979: 19.3
3. 1885: 19.4
4. 1895: 21.1
5. 2007: 21.2
6. 1905: 22.0
7. 1934: 22.1
8. 1963: 22.4
9. 1899: 22.6
10. 1902: 23.2
11. 1912: 23.4
12. 1901, 1914: 23.5
13. 1947: 24.1
14. 1936: 24.4
15. 1904: 24.7
16. 1958: 24.9
17. 1980: 25.2
18. 1968: 25.7
19. 1967: 25.8
20. 1917: 25.9

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*For the graph above, the 2010s include 2010 to 2012 and the 1870s include 1879 only.

Top 10 Coldest Daily February Highs

1. 1899: -7
2. 1895: -2
3. 1912, 1951: 4
4. 1933, 1996: 6
5. 1885, 1886, 1905, 1917: 7
6. 1896, 1903, 1965, 1988, 1993: 9
7. 1904, 1963, 1971: 10
8. 1958, 1979: 11
9. 1889, 1902, 1918, 1920, 1934, 1936, 1943, 1947, 1982, 2007: 12
10. 1881, 1914, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1995: 13

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*For the graph above, the 2010s include 2010 to 2012 and the 1870s include 1879 only.

Top 10 Coldest Daily February Lows

1. 1899: -20
2. 1951, 1977: -13
3. 1885, 1963: -11
4. 1918, 1948, 1985: -10
5. 1895, 1905, 1917, 1934: -8
6. 1900, 1912, 1936, 1965, 1979, 1982: -7
7. 1933, 1972: -6
8. 1886, 1898, 1904, 1978: -5
9. 1902: -4
10. 1906, 1958, 1995, 1996: -3

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*For the graph above, the 2010s include 2010 to 2012 and the 1870s include 1879 only.

Top 5 Februarys with Most 32 or Below Highs

1. 1978: 26
2. 1979: 19
3. 1902, 2007: 18
4. 1901, 1980: 17
5. 1895, 1904, 1936, 1947: 16

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*For the graph above, the 2010s include 2010 to 2012 and the 1870s include 1879 only.

Top 5 Februarys with Most 32 or Below Lows

1. 1901, 1916, 1934, 1963, 1968, 1972, 1978: 28
2. 1885, 1905, 1914, 1920, 1947, 1964, 1970, 1988, 2004, 2010: 27
3. 1879, 1895, 1904, 1907, 1910, 1917, 1924, 1936, 1960, 1962, 1967, 1969, 1979, 1993, 2003, 2007: 26
4. 1889, 1900, 1908, 1912, 1913, 1935, 1941, 1974, 1980, 1995: 25
5. 1902, 1923, 1928, 1937, 1942, 1948, 1952, 1955, 1959, 1977, 1994, 2006, 2008: 24

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*For the graph above, the 2010s include 2010 to 2012 and the 1870s include 1879 only.

February Heat

Top 20 Warmest February Means

1. 1882: 41.8
2. 1890: 40.6
3. 1998: 40.5
4. 1930: 40.4
5. 1932: 39.6
6. 1880: 38.8
7. 1954: 38.7
8. 1938: 38.1
9. 1927: 37.8
10. 1925: 37.6
11. 1984, 1990, 2000: 37.5
12. 1976: 37.4
13. 1884: 37.3
14. 1999: 37.0
15. 1891, 1961, 2012: 36.9
16. 1931, 1992: 36.8
17. 1949: 36.6
18. 1957: 36.5
19. 1887: 36.4
20. 1909, 1997: 36.2

Top 10 Warmest February Highs

1. 2000: 75
2. 1999: 74
3. 1957: 73
4. 1883, 1937, 1961: 72
5. 1996, 1997: 71
6. 1930, 1932, 1939, 1976, 2012: 70
7. 1925, 1954, 1984, 1994: 69
8. 1891, 1918, 1922, 1938, 1945, 1972: 68
9. 1911, 1921, 1950, 1983, 1990: 67
10. 1890, 1898, 1900, 1906, 1917, 1927, 1985, 1989, 2001, 2009: 66

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*For the graph above, the 2010s include 2010 to 2012 and the 1870s include 1879 only.

Top 10 Warmest February Lows

1. 1891: 57
2. 1997: 56
3. 1880, 1930: 55
4. 1890, 2000, 2008: 54
5. 1932, 1954: 53
6. 1957: 52
7. 1883, 1988: 51
8. 1887, 1922, 1938: 50
9. 1925, 1975, 1981: 49
10. 1882, 1884, 1911, 1944, 1984, 1996: 48

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*For the graph above, the 2010s include 2010 to 2012 and the 1870s include 1879 only.

Top 5 Februarys with Most 70 or Above Highs

1. 2000: 2
2. 1883, 1930, 1932, 1937, 1939, 1944, 1957, 1961, 1976, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2012: 1

Top 10 Months with the Greatest Temperature Range in Degrees (Monthly Max to Minimum)

1. 1899: 80
2. 1918, 1951: 78
3. 1985: 76
4. 1948: 75
5. 1917, 1972, 1996: 74
6. 1900: 73
7. 1895, 1936: 72
8. 1898, 1944: 71
9. 1904: 70
10. 1906, 1961, 1965, 1976: 69

February 2010 Snowstorms x4 Part #2

February 2010’s second snowstorm came just 3 days after the major event on the 5th-6th. This second low pressure system tracked from Louisville, Kentucky and then up along I-71 to Cleveland. Even though the track was through the heart of the state, the majority of the precipitation in most areas was snowfall. This storm followed so closely on the heels of the February 5th storm that the cold air it had brought down was still in place on the 9th. This allowed for snow despite the far north track.

Snow began in Columbus in the early morning hours of the 5th and continued into the 6th. Snowfall rates reached their peak in the late morning hours of the 5th, falling at 1/2″ per hour at times, but never quite reached the intensities of Storm #1. While some parts of the state had 7-8″, the Columbus area had 5-6″, about half of what it got in Storm #1. Still, cleanup from the first storm was still ongoing, and this latest snowfall severely complicated the process. Traffic and airport delays were common, and many schools were cancelled. Snow depths in Franklin County reached 10-16″ after the storm.