Columbus Drowning in Rain

If it seems like the last few years have been particularly wet, you’d be right. Columbus, other Ohio cities and many areas in the Midwest have been seeing record rainfall of late. Yesterday alone, June 19th, Columbus had a daily record 2.65″ of rain, flooding many streets across Franklin County, including I-71 in at least 2 places. Is it indicative of a fluke pattern or a local result of climate change? Let’s look at the numbers and trends more closely.

First of all, let’s look at the 20 wettest years on record through June 19th.
1. 1882: 32.50″
2. 1890: 30.12″
3. 2019: 27.08″
4. 1964: 25.78″
5. 2011: 25.68″
6. 1893: 25.50″
7. 2004: 25.49″
8. 1996: 24.94″
9. 1949: 24.52″
10. 1945: 24.49″
11. 1913: 24.45″
12. 1883: 24.18″
13. 2018: 23.98″
14. 2008: 23.62″
15. 1950: 23.60″
16. 1990: 23.56″
17. 1981: 23.49″
18. 1898: 22.94″
19. 1927: 22.92″
20. 1937: 22.69″

So far, 2019 has had the 3rd highest rain total to date since 1879.

Here are the top 20 wettest full years.
1. 2018: 55.18″
2. 2011: 54.96″
3. 1990: 53.16″
4. 1882: 51.30″
5. 1890: 50.73″
6. 2004: 49.27″
7. 2003: 49.03″
8. 1883: 48.88″
9. 1881: 46.99″
10. 2017: 46.61″
11. 1973: 46.25″
12. 1948: 45.69″
13. 1972: 45.60″
14. 1996: 45.56″
15. 2008: 45.44″
16. 1995: 45.30″
17. 2015: 45.00″
18. 1950: 44.96″
19. 1880: 44.68″
20. 1949: 44.47″

4 years this decade have been among the top 20 wettest years since 1879. Only the 1880’s can match that record, though both the 2000s and 2010s have been wetter, as shown below.

The chart shows that the 2000s were the wettest decade on record, with the 2010s looking to surpass even that total with more than 6 months left to go in 2019. Furthermore, the trend line is clearly up, meaning that Columbus has been getting gradually wetter over the last 140 years, indicating that something else is going on rather than just a random wet period.
Columbus isn’t the only place in the Midwest seeing high levels of rain. There has been widespread, damaging flooding going on across many states, especially this year. Check out some of the articles on this below:
Lake Michigan:
West Virginia:
Midwest Farming:
Mississippi River:

Ironically, few individual months in recent years have featured record precipitation. In the last 10 years, only 1 month- July 2017- appears in the top 25 wettest months. It’s just been more of a constant wet pattern, where most months now have above to well-above normal precipitation.
While climate change can’t account for individual events or specific record rainfalls, the patterns are obvious enough to show that the climate in Columbus and in many other parts of the country is changing over time. This means that we should come to expect more of this in the years to come.

Winter 2017-2018

Wind and heavy snow on the evening of January 12, 2018.

The winter of 2017-2018 featured some wild swings, from a very cold late December-early January to one of the warmest Februaries of all time. Let’s take a closer look at this volatile season, specifically December to February.

December 2017
Average High: 38.6 36th Coldest
Average Low: 23.7 33rd Coldest
Mean: 31.2 37th Coldest
Coldest High: 17 on 12/27/17
Coldest Low: 2 on 12/31/17
Warmest High: 60 on 12/4/17
Warmest Low: 47 on 12/22/17
32 or Below Highs: 10 11th Highest
32 or Below Lows: 27 5th Highest
Total Precipitation: 1.76″ 28th Driest
Total Snowfall: 8.1″ 23rd Snowiest
Average Snow Depth: 0.3″ 4th Lowest
Largest Daily Precipitation: 0.72″ on 12/23/17 31st Largest
Largest Daily Snowfall: 2.1″ on 12/30/17 32nd Largest
Highest Snow Depth: 3″ on 12/30-12/31/17 4th Lowest
Precipitation Days: 20 8th Highest
Snowfall Days: 15 8th Highest

December Records
Record High Minimum: 47 on 12/22/17. Tied for #1 Warmest Low for December 22nd. Tied with 2015.

January 2018
Average High: 35.4 39th Coldest
Average Low: 19.3 39th Coldest
Mean: 27.3 39th Coldest
Coldest High: 10 on 1/2/18
Coldest Low: -4 on 1/2/18
Warmest High: 60 on 1/11 and 1/22/18
Warmest Low: 52 on 1/11/18
32 or Below Highs: 14 11th Highest
32 or Below Lows: 26 6th Highest
Total Precipitation: 2.39″ 56th Driest
Total Snowfall: 10.5″ 38th Snowiest
Average Snow Depth: 1.4″ 15th Lowest
Largest Daily Precipitation: 0.66″ on 1/12/18 35th Lowest
Largest Daily Snowfall: 3.5″ on 1/12/18 29th Highest
Highest Snow Depth: 5″ on 1/16-1/17/18 6th Lowest
Precipitation Days: 26 4th Highest
Snowfall Days: 19 6th Highest

January Records
Record Low Maximum: 10 on 1/2/2018. Coldest High for January 2nd, beating the old record of 11, set in 1928.

February 2018
Average High: 47.3 7th Warmest
Average Low: 30.3 10th Warmest
Mean: 38.8 7th Warmest
Coldest High: 22 on 2/2/18
Coldest Low: 10 on 2/5/18
Warmest High: 77 on 2/20/18
Warmest Low: 60 on 2/20/18
32 or Below Highs: 5 6th Lowest
32 or Below Lows: 17 5th Lowest
Total Precipitation: 5.25″ 7th Highest
Total Snowfall: 6.0″ 43rd Highest
Largest Daily Precipitation: 1.23″ on 2/24/18 20th Highest
Largest Daily Snowfall: 4.4″ on 2/7/18. 17th Highest
Highest Snow Depth: 4″ on 2/7/18. 5th Lowest
Precipitation Days: 20 7th Highest
Snowfall Days: 10 13th Highest

February Records
Record Daily Snowfall: 4.4″ on 2/7/2018. Most snowfall for February 7th, beating the old record of 3.6″ set in 1895.
Record High Minimum: 55 on 2/15/2018. Warmest Low for February 15th, beating the old record of 53 set in 1954.
Record High Maximum: 77 on 2/20/2018. Warmest High for February 20th, beating the old record of 68 set in 1891 and 2016.
Record High Minimum: 60 on 2/20/2018. Warmest Low for February 20th, beating the old record of 49 set in 1930.

Winter (DJF only) 2017-2018
Average High: 40.4 28th Warmest
Average Low: 24.4 38th Warmest
Mean: 32.4 33rd Warmest
32 or Below Highs: 29 21st Highest
32 or Below Lows: 70 18th Lowest
Precipitation: 9.40″ 31st Wettest
Snowfall: 24.6″ 36th Snowiest
Average Snow Depth: 0.7″ 17th Highest (since 1948)

So overall, the winter was definitely warmer than normal, but not record-breaking, even with the extremely warm February. It was also wetter and snowier than normal as well.

Columbus’ Christmas Day Climatology

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

href=””>December Weather
For more general Columbus weather records, go here:

The Great Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1950

Springfield, Ohio after the storm.

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

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.

For more November weather records, go here: November Weather

March 7-8, 2008: Columbus’ Greatest Snowstorm

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.

Snow in Hilltop, Columbus.

Here are some videos during the storm.
Dayton Area
Cleveland Area

For more March weather records, check here: March Weather

Great Lakes Hurricane of 1913

I haven’t done a weather-specific post in a while, and this week marks the 100th anniversary of the infamous Great Lakes Hurricane. The storm lashed Ohio and other Great Lakes states for 3 days from November 9th-11th, 1913, causing widespread damage and loss of life. More than 250 died, mostly from drowning as 19 ships sank on the Great Lakes.

The storm began on the 9th as a pair of low-pressure systems collided over Michigan and the southern Lakes. Temperatures in the 50s and 60s dropped throughout the day on the 8th as the combined storm pulled a cold front across Ohio. A tight pressure gradient caused strong winds and rain turned to heavy snow. While the brunt of the storm hit the Cleveland area and adjacent lakeshore communities, the storm affected 3/4ths of Ohio, including Columbus.

A heavy rain began in Columbus on the 7th as the cold front moved through. Temperatures dropped from the mid-50s early on the 8th to the mid-30s by evening. On the 9th, as temperatures dropped to and below freezing, snow began to fall, becoming occasionally heavy throughout the day. Winds of 40mph in the Columbus area combined with the snow to create blizzard conditions throughout the 9th and early into the 10th, though not nearly as severe as they were on Lake Erie. Snowfall totals were 10″-20″ across all of Eastern Ohio, and the Cleveland area had up to 2 feet. Columbus, with its 7.5″ total, got off lucky, while Cincinnati had just 1 inch.

The storm remains as the most severe early winter storm in Ohio history.

Weather map fro November 8, 1913.

Weather map from November 10, 1913.

Headline from November 13, 1913.

More information on this storm can be found here:

February 5-6, 2010 Snowstorm

The winter of 2009-2010 will go down as one of the best ever (if you like winter, that is). The biggest reason for that is February 2010.

The first event started in the morning on February 5th. Forecasts in the days leading up to this event were mixed. Models were showing a lot of precipitation, but also a strong push of upper-level warm air into Ohio. How far north this warm layer reached was the point of contention. In most years, the WTOD, or the “Warm Tongue of Death” as some Ohio weather enthusiasts like to refer to it, is a constant threat each and every winter. When a storm is moving north or northeast south of the state, they tend to pull warm air north, and the Appalachian Mountains act like a funnel directing this warm air straight into Ohio. During winter events, it presents itself as a layer of warm air above the surface, often turning snow to ice, sleet or just plain rain, even if the surface itself is relatively cold. It’s a constant source of frustration for winter weather lovers. It was this phenomenon that was predicted to strike again and the dividing line, as it so often is, was predicted to be along I-70. North of there, mostly or all snow was predicted, while south was more mix, ice and rain. The I-70 corridor, including Columbus, was to be the northern extent of this mixing, limiting snowfall accumulations. Still, even with the mix predicted, a solid 4-6″ was predicted, which is a decent event by itself and about typical for any winter.

Precipitation began as snow across southern counties by dawn and spread north, reaching the Columbus area between 9 and 9:30AM. It started out as flurries, but the flakes were already fairly large. Within 15 minutes, the flurries had turned to very heavy, wet snow. Flakes were as large as quarters at times and stayed large, accumulating quickly despite the above freezing temperatures. Visibility quickly dropped to a half mile or less at times, and traffic quickly snarled with accidents as plows could not keep up with the pace of the inch-per-hour snowfall rates. Between 4PM and 5PM, there was a respite as snowfall lightened and there was a mix of sleet and ice pellets, but all snow resumed once heavier precipitation moved in, concluding the only and very short period of mixing I-70 had. Snow continued through the night of the 5th and into the 6th, finally ending before noon.

Snowfall totals were impressive, especially along and north of I-70, where little mixing took place, but also in pockets to the southeast of Columbus, like Lancaster. For Columbus, the 9.9″ that fell was good enough to be a top 15 largest snowfall for the city. It would not, however, be the largest snowfall of the month.

Greenville: 14.8″
Lancaster: 13.0″
Akron: 12.1″
Bellefontaine: 12.0″
Urbana: 12.0″
Westerville: 11.4″
Dayton: 11.1″
Springfield: 11.0″
Columbus: 9.9″
Youngstown: 8.4″
Delaware: 8.0″
Cleveland: 5.9″
Cincinnati: 4.5″
Circleville: 3.0″
Toledo: 3.0″

Snow totals for the NWS Wilmington area.

For more February weather records, go here: February Weather