Does Fall Weather Correlate 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.

The Midwest Beat the South in Regional Domestic Migration in 2016

For years, if not decades, we’ve been hearing a familiar tale- that anyone and everyone is moving from the Midwest and Northeast to the South and West. This trend began during and after the collapse of Northern manufacturing, and as higher cost of living began to make the lower-cost South more attractive in particular. However, a lot of the South’s growth over the years- indeed a majority- never had anything to do with region-to-region migration. Instead, it was due largely to natural growth (births vs. deaths) and international migration, particularly from Central America. What received all the attention, though, was the belief that people were packing up and moving to the South from places like Ohio and other struggling Northern states. While that may have been true for a while, that is increasingly looking like it is no longer the case.

The Midwest, especially, has been derided as the region no one wants to live in. Despite its growing population approaching 66 million people, the common refrain was that its colder winters, flailing economies and questionable demographic future meant that it was simply a region being left behind by the booming Southern states.

Recently, the US Census released estimates for 2015-2016 geographic mobility, and they tell a very different story altogether.

First, let’s look at the total domestic migration moving to the Midwest from other regions.
South to Midwest: +309,000
West to Midwest: +72,000
Northeast to Midwest: +61,000
Total to Midwest: +442,000

And then compare that to the total that the Midwest sends to other regions.
Midwest to South: -254,000
Midwest to West: -224,000
Midwest to Northeast: -34,000
Total from Midwest: -512,000

Net difference by region.
Midwest vs. South: +55,000
Midwest vs. West: -152,000
Midwest vs. Northeast: +27,000
Total Net: -70,000

So while the Midwest is seeing an overall net domestic migration loss, it is entirely to the Western states.

This could just be an off year, as almost all recent years showed losses to the South, but then again, maybe not. The South has been in a boom for several decades now, and in that time, the region still lags the other 3 in almost every quality of life metric used. All booms end eventually, and the South’s 2 biggest perceived advantages, low cost of living and business-friendly climate, have been gradually eroding over time. As Census surveys show, people don’t actually move for a change in weather, so it’s the economic factors that are going to make the biggest impacts long-term. The Midwest now has many cities and several states that are doing well economically, including Columbus, and perhaps they are becoming more attractive than they have in many years. Time will tell, but last year, the narrative of an unattractive Midwest vs. South was at least temporarily shelved.

Before and After: German Village

German Village dates back to the early 19th Century, when it sometimes was called Germantown. Unsurprisingly, by the middle of the 20th Century, the neighborhood had declined significantly, yet still retained the vast majority of its historic buildings. The city of Columbus had it in mind to bulldoze a large part of the neighborhood in the 1950s for public housing, but activists organized against the plans. Instead, in what was one of the first major success stories of Columbus preservation, German Village was saved. The entire area was eventually put onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and today it is still the largest historic district on the registry anywhere in the United States. Here are just a few before and after photos around the neighborhood.

Before: Stewart Avenue Elementary School, looking northeast, in 1920.

After: 2017

The school was constructed in 1873 and remains in use today, one of the oldest continuous schools remaining in the city.

Before: City Park Avenue at Lansing Street, looking south, in 1898.

After: 2016

Before: The Max Neugebauer Tailor Shop at 764 Mohawk Street in 1897.

After: 2016

Neugebauer arrived in Columbus in 1887, but it’s unclear when he opened this business.

Before: Beck Street and Mohawk, looking east, in 1950.

After: 2017

German Village was considered a “slum” by 1950, so the before photo would’ve been around the time of the neighborhood’s low point.

Before: Third Street and Beck, looking east, in 1981.

After: 2016

The photo shows a German Village “Haus and Garten Tour” through the neighborhood.