Central Indiana Winter Summary - One For The Record Books

Winter 2013-2014
in Review
 

 

With March 1 comes the end of meteorological winter, a period defined as covering the months of December through February. The winter of 2013-14 will go down as the snowiest and one of the coldest, and will likely be remembered as one of the harshest and most active in recent memory. The average temperature at Indianapolis was 24.2 degrees, good for the 8th coldest winter on record and the coldest experienced since the winter of 1978-79. Most of central Indiana saw average temps for the winter at 5 to 8 degrees below normal, and as much as 10 degrees colder on average than the 2012-13 winter. The amount of subzero mornings was extremely impressive, with many sites going below zero on 10 to 20 separate mornings. For Indianapolis, the 12 morning lows with subzero temperatures were the most in a winter since 1983-84 when 14 mornings experienced below zero temperatures.

The winter ended up being wetter than normal, largely due to a storm system the weekend before Christmas that brought a rare bout of December flash flooding and as much as 4 to 6 inches of rainfall. This winter however will go down in the record books as the snowiest in history after a total of 52.3” fell in Indianapolis from December through February. The snow was particularly relentless across central Indiana after the calendar turned to 2014 as 43.4” of that total at Indianapolis fell during January and February. The consecutive months with greater than 15” of snowfall in January and February at Indianapolis was only the fourth occurrence in recorded history. The 26.9” that fell in January at Indianapolis was not only the second snowiest January on record, but also the fourth snowiest month of all-time. Some locations across north central Indiana experienced snowfall totals in excess of 65-70” for the winter season. Many locations carried a snow depth for 45 to 50 consecutive days through January and February.
 
Despite the cold and snow, a rare winter season severe weather event affected central Indiana on the evening of February 20th ahead of a strong cold front. Two weak tornadoes were confirmed that evening; the first, an EF0 tornado near Crawfordsville in Montgomery County and the second, an EF0 in northwest Rush County near Arlington.
 

The following is a review of weather conditions experienced in central Indiana during the winter season of 2013-2014.

  

Temperatures
 
DECEMBER
December started off mild with many locations reaching their monthly highs on the 4th as temperatures rose into the lower and middle 60s ahead of an approaching cold front. Much colder air came into Indiana once the front passed through, with temperatures tumbling into the 30s on the 5th, then into the 20s that night. With the first accumulating snow of the season on the night of the 5th into the 6th, temperatures remained cold with highs only in the 20s and lower 30s for most of the region for much of the next 7 to 10 days. A brief warmup ahead of a storm system on the 13th enabled the southern half of central Indiana to warm into the upper 30s to near 40. Lows throughout the middle of the month were quite chilly as well, often dropping to below 20 degrees each night. The coldest nights during this stretch took place on the 11th and 12th as strong high pressure brought clear skies and light winds. Combined with the snow on the ground, lows fell into the single digits with a few locations even falling below zero.
A warming trend commenced on the 18th, with much of central Indiana rising into the 50s from the 19th through the 21st as a frontal boundary became stalled across the Ohio Valley and southwest flow aloft brought mild air into the region. Locations across southern portions of central Indiana warmed into the 60s for a brief period during the afternoon and evening of the 21st and early morning of the 22nd as the front lifted back north in response to low pressure tracking through the region. Much colder Arctic air once again made a return as the front pushed away to the east on the 22nd, culminating with the coldest daytime temps of the month on Christmas Eve as many locations remained below 20 degrees. High pressure and southerly winds brought warming once again in the few days after Christmas, with highs reaching the lower and middle 50s on the afternoon of the 28th. The passage of a cold front brought colder temperatures once again for the last couple days of the month.
 
JANUARY
The upper level pattern for much of January was highlighted by a broad ridge of high pressure in the western part of the country, and a trough of low pressure east of the Rockies. This enabled repeated blasts of air from the arctic and polar regions to move into the eastern part of the country. This resulted in the coldest January for many across central Indiana over 30 years.
Interestingly enough, 2014 began with one of the milder days of the month, as many locations across central Indiana warmed into the 40s New Year’s Day. The passage of a cold front late on the 1st and early into the 2nd brought high temps down into the teens and 20s through the 3rd. After a brief warmup on the 4th and 5th, exceptionally cold air moved into the region behind the big snowstorm of the 5th. Locations experienced a 35-40 degree drop in temperatures from the evening of the 5th to the early morning of the 6th, with temperatures tumbling below zero. Wind chill values fell to -45 to -35 degrees over central Indiana for much of the 6th and 7th, with overnight lows both days bottoming out around -15 degrees. The low of -15 and -14, respectively, on the 6th and 7th at Indianapolis were the two coldest mornings recorded since January 1994. Temperatures began to recover on the 8th, with a thaw taking place from the 10th through the 14th as highs generally warmed into the 40s. Many locations recorded their warmest temperatures of the month in the low 50s on the 13th.
High temperatures generally slipped back into the 20s and 30s through the 20th as a northwest flow pattern developed in the upper levels. This pattern would hold for much of the rest of the month, with small storm systems impacting central Indiana every two to three days. These storms brought snow and reinforcing shots of very cold arctic air. Subzero lows occurred on the 22nd and 23rd, and again on the 26th and 27th. For Indianapolis, the eight subzero mornings experienced in January ended up being the most experienced in any month since January 1994, which also experienced eight subzero mornings.
 
FEBRUARY
The month started out mild by this winter’s standards, as temperatures warmed into the 30s and 40s on the 1st with a storm moving through the Ohio Valley. Colder air was quickly drawn back into the Ohio Valley however by the early morning of the 2nd, setting the stage for yet another extended period of very cold temperatures. For much of central Indiana after the 2nd, temperatures wouldn’t rise back above the freezing level until the 12th or 13th. After the significant winter storm on the 4th and 5th, another blast of polar air followed with highs holding primarily in the teens on the 6th and 7th, with subzero lows in the mornings.
Temperatures responded only modestly into the 20s on the 8th and 9th before the passage of another weak storm system prompted a reinforcing surge of colder air for the 10th and 11th, with highs falling back into the teens and subzero lows once again. A brief warmup ensured from the 12th through the 14th with highs into the 30s. Yet another winter storm brought additional accumulating snow on the 14th, with colder air returning.
The most substantial warmup of the month began on the 18th as southerly winds brought much warmer air into the Ohio Valley. High temperatures peaked in the upper 50s and lower 60s across much of central Indiana during the evening of the 20th ahead of a strong cold front, easily the warmest temperatures for 2014 so far. Temperatures remained mild behind the cold front, with many locations returning back into the 50s on the 22nd. The passage of a cold front during the late evening of the 22nd and early morning of the 23rd however brought an abrupt end to the warmer weather, with winter making its return for the remainder of the month as the persistent upper trough over the eastern U.S. made its reappearance. Highs bottomed out in the teens and lower 20s on the 26th and 27th, with single digit lows once again for the final morning of the month.
February ended up as the 12th coldest on record and coldest February since 2007 at Indianapolis.

 

Temperature Data for Sites in Central Indiana
 

Site
Winter 2013-14 Temperature
Normal Temperature
Diff. From Normal
Indianapolis Int’l Airport
24.2
30.5
-6.3
Lafayette(*)
21.6
29.1
-7.5
Muncie(**)
23.0
28.9
-5.9
Terre Haute
24.5
30.7
-6.2
Bloomington
26.7
31.5
-4.8
Shelbyville(***)
26.1
30.7
-4.6
Indianapolis – Eagle Creek
24.1
30.6
-6.5

 
(*) Lafayette temperature data missing on 1/5 and 1/6
(**) Muncie temperature data missing on 1/8 and 1/9
(***) Shelbyville temperature data missing on 1/11
 
 
 
Winter Extremes Across Central Indiana
 

Site
Warmest Temperature
Coldest Temperature
Indianapolis Int’l Airport
62 on 2/20
-15 on 1/6
Lafayette
61 on 12/4
-17 on 2/11
Muncie
62 on 12/4
-14 on 1/7
Terre Haute
65 on 12/4
-16 on 2/11
Bloomington
67 on 2/20
-13 on 2/7
Shelbyville
63 on 12/22 and 2/20
-11 on 1/3
Indianapolis-Eagle Creek
63 on 2/20
-14 on 1/7

 

Precipitation
 
 
DECEMBER
December precipitation was normal to above normal for all of Indiana. Liquid precipitation totals ranged from slightly less than 2 inches in northwest Indiana to more than 8 inches in southern Indiana. The heaviest precipitation fell south of a Terre Haute to Portland line. Most of the state received between 3 to 7 inches of liquid precipitation during December.
There were two different precipitation regimes in December. From the 5th through the 11th snow was the dominate form of precipitation. The second precipitation regime was all rain. Heavy rain of 2 to nearly 7 inches fell south of a line from Clinton to Fort Wayne on the 20th and 21st. The largest amounts of 5 to 7 inches were concentrated in southwest, central and east central Indiana. Indianapolis set daily records for precipitation on the 20th and 21st, with the 21st becoming the second wettest day in December history, being eclipsed only by the 3.46 inches of precipitation that fell on December 3, 1871.
Widespread flooding quickly followed beginning late on the 21st and continued into the New Year in southwest Indiana. Near major flooding occurred in the upper headwaters of the White and East Fork White River Basins affecting the eastern and southern portions of the Indianapolis metropolitan area. In a few areas flooding was the highest in 10 to 20 years with the level on Fall Creek near Fortville the highest in 100 years.
River flooding along the East Fork White River and the White River in southwest Indiana was the highest since April-May 2011 while levels on the White River from Indianapolis to Edwardsport were the highest since April. Only elevated levels to minor flooding occurred along the Wabash River from Lafayette to Vincennes with extensive lowland flooding in the Mt. Carmel, Illinois and New Harmony, Indiana areas. Flooding was confined to southwest Indiana at the close of the month. 
 
JANUARY
January precipitation ranged from below normal in southwest Indiana to normal or slightly above normal across the remainder of the state. Liquid precipitation totals measured from 1.5 inches to more than 4 inches. Most of the state received between 2 to 4 inches of liquid precipitation during January.
 
The combination of rainfall of one quarter to three quarters of an inch late on the 10th and slowly melting snow through 13th broke up the river ice that formed during the month and created lowland flooding along portions of the Wabash, White and East Fork White Rivers. Flooding began in central Indiana on the 11th and ended in southwest Indiana by the 21st. River crests on the Wabash River was similar or lower than those of December. Flooding along the East Fork White and White Rivers was much less than in December. There were no reports of serious ice blockages.
 
At the end of January little snow remained in Indiana. The lack of a deep snow cover after 15th allowed the ground to freeze to a depth of 9 inches at Indianapolis by the 31st. Most rivers and streams were ice covered and at normal levels.

 
FEBRUARY
February precipitation ranged from near normal in the southern half of the state to above normal in the northern portion. Much of the state received between 2 to 4 inches of liquid precipitation, with nearly 5 inches in west central Indiana, during the month of February.
After a cold, snowy first half of the month, a major thaw occurred from the 18th through the 22nd and melted most of the snow cover in central and southern Indiana. The combination of frozen ground, rapid snowmelt and one quarter to three quarters inches of rain on the 20th caused widespread lowland flooding in central and southern Indiana. Flooding this February had an unusual feature typically not seen in Indiana; ice jams. Serious ice jam flooding developed along Wildcat Creek in the Lafayette on the 21st. More than 20 residences were affected. Ice jam flooding also occurred in Huntington and other areas of northern Indiana. At times, ice jams on the Wabash River extended for 8 to more than 12 miles along portions of the Wabash River along and north of I-74.
At the close of February, virtually all the snow was gone in central and southern Indiana while 4 to 12 inches of snow covered the ground in northern Indiana. The frost depth was around 2 inches after being 9 inches to start the month. The ground completely thawed for a short time on the 21st. Lowland river flooding continued in portions of western and southwest Indiana. Ice still remained in rivers and streams in northern Indiana.

 

Winter Precipitation Data for Sites in Central Indiana
 

Site
Winter 2013-14 Precipitation
Normal Precipitation
Diff. From Normal
Indianapolis Int’l Airport
9.24
8.15
+1.09
Lafayette (*)
5.92
6.13
-0.21
Muncie (**)
7.62
7.42
+0.20
Terre Haute
7.68
7.34
+0.34
Bloomington
11.39
9.61
+1.78
Shelbyville
9.76
8.02
+1.74
Indianapolis – Eagle Creek***
7.88
7.42
+0.46

 

(*) Lafayette precipitation data missing on 1/5

(**) Muncie precipitation data missing on 1/5

 
 
 
Indianapolis Data
 
 
INDIANAPOLIS DECEMBER 2013 SUMMARY
 

 
Average Temperature
Total Precipitation
Total Snowfall
Highs below freezing
December 2013
30.0
4.44
8.8
15
Normal December
31.6
3.17
6.9
8
Difference from Normal
-1.6
+1.27
+1.9
+7

 
December 2013 All-Time Ranks:
Temperature: Tied for 46th Coldest
Precipitation: Tied for 26th Wettest
Snowfall: 24th Snowiest
 
 
 
INDIANAPOLIS JANUARY 2014 SUMMARY
 

 
Average Temperature
Total Precipitation
Total Snowfall
Highs below freezing
January 2014
20.1
2.34
26.9
              15
Normal January
28.1
2.66
8.6
12
Difference from Normal
-8.0
-0.32
+18.3
+3

 
January 2014 All-time Ranks
Temperature: Tied for 11th Coldest
Precipitation: 68th Driest
Snowfall: 2nd Snowiest
 
 
 
INDIANAPOLIS FEBRUARY 2013 SUMMARY
 

 
Average Temperature
Total Precipitation
Total Snowfall
Highs below freezing
February 2014
22.3
2.45
16.5
17
Normal February
32.1
2.32
6.5
7
Difference from Normal
-9.8
+0.13
+10.0
+10

 
February 2014 All-Time Ranks:
Temperature: 12th Coldest
Precipitation: 66th Wettest
Snowfall: 9th Snowiest
 
 
 
INDIANAPOLIS 2013-2014 WINTER SEASON SUMMARY
 

 
Average Temperature
Total Precipitation
Total Snowfall
Highs Below Freezing
Lows Below Zero
Winter 2013-2014
24.2
9.24
52.2
47
12
Normal Winter
30.5
8.15
22.0
27
6
Difference from Normal
-6.3
+1.09
+30.2
+20
+6

 
Winter 2013-2014 All-Time Ranks
Temperature: 8th Coldest
Precipitation: 50th Wettest
Snowfall: Snowiest
 
Temperature and precipitation records at Indianapolis go back to 1871. Snowfall records go back to 1884.
 
Data prepared by the NWS Indianapolis Forecast Office.



 

 



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