Are Winters Always White in the Upper Mississippi River Valley?

When one thinks about winter in the Upper Mississippi River Valley, thoughts immediately go toward having snow on the ground for the duration.  However, this perception is not reality.  On average during meteorological winter, snow is only on the ground 63 days or 70 percent of the time.  This leaves nearly a month (27 days) with no snow on the ground.  These periods in which no snow is on the ground can occur at any time during the winter.  The highest frequency (around 85 percent) of snow on the ground occurs from January 26th through February 2nd.  The graph below illustrates the daily percentages of snow versus no snow on the ground.

Percentages of Days with Snow on the Ground during Meteorological Winter in La Crosse, WI

Looking at the snow depth data for La Crosse, WI (which dates back to the winter of 1893-94), only 7 winters had snow on the ground on every day of the meteorological winter.  They were the winters of 1919-20, 1925-26, 1934-35, 1942-43, 1978-79, 1981-82, and 2007-08.  The image below illustrates the winters which had the greatest number of days with snow on the ground.

Greatest Number of Days with Snow on the Ground during a Meteorological Winter in La Crosse, WI

The least amount of days with snow on the ground is just 17 days during the 1967-68 winter.  During that snow season, only 7.7 inches of snow fell.  So far this winter, there has only been 11 days with snow on the ground.  The image below illustrates the winters which had the least number of days with snow on the ground.

Least Number of Days with Snow on the Ground during a Meteorological Winter in La Crosse, WI

When looking at the daily average snow depths, the deepest snow depths (around 6 inches) normally occur from January 21st through February 13th.  The image below show the daily average snow depths throughout the winter.

Average Daily Snow Depth in La Crosse, WI

 Not all snow seasons have a lot of snow on the ground.  The table below indicates the frequency of greatest snow depths in La Crosse, WI.

Greatest Seasonal Snowfall Depths
in La Crosse, WI
1893-2011
Greatest Seasonal
Snow Depth
Number of
Snow Seasons
3 inches or More 114 (97.4%)
6 inches or More 108 (92.3%)
9 inches or More  89 (76.1%)
12 inches or More 52 (44.4%)
18 inches or More 16 (13.6%)
24 inches or More 4 (3.4%)
30 inches or More 2 (1.7%)
36 inches or More 0 (0%)



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