Snowfall Data Reveals Rare Pattern to Start This Winter

 

On December 9th, South Bend received its first measurable snowfall of the 2011-2012 season.  This marks only the fourth time in the South Bend climate record (since 1940) that a measurable snow has not occurred by this date.  The table below indicates the previous years of the latest measurable snowfall since 1940, along with the date of the first measurable snowfall of those seasons, and the total for the entire snowfall season.

Snowfall Seasons with Latest First Measurable Snowfall at SBN
Winter Season Date of first measurable snowfall Season Total Snowfall
1948-1949 December 9th 22.9"
1998-1999 December 17th 75.5"
2001-2002 December 14th 61.6"
2011-2012 December 9th ?

During the calendar year of 2011, there were 260 days between the last snowfall of the 2010-2011 winter season, and the first snowfall of the 2011-2012 winter season. This ranks 2011 as the third longest timeframe between last/first snowfalls since 1940. The table below indicates the previous years of the longest timeframe between last/first snowfalls since 1940, the dates of the last/first snowfall, and the number of days between these dates.

Longest Timeframe Between Last/First Measurable Snowfalls at SBN
Year Last Snowfall First Snowfall  Number of Days
1948 March 11th December 9th 272
1998 March 20th December 17th 271
2011 March 23rd December 9th 260

 

 

 

 

Additional data was examined to compare the snowfall at Fort Wayne and South Bend.  It was discovered that the 2011-2012 winter is one of only 10 seasons when Fort Wayne received measurable snowfall before South Bend.  Of these 10 seasons, 2011-2012 had the greatest difference in snowfall between FWA and SBN prior to SBN recording its first measurable snowfall. This difference was 5.4 inches...more than double any other year. The table below shows winter seasons when FWA measured snowfall before SBN, the seasonal snowfall total at both sites, and the amount of snow received at FWA before SBN received measurable snowfall.  Snowfall totals highlighted in red are above average, while snowfall totals highlighted in blue are below average.

Years FWA Measured Snowfall Before SBN
Winter Season Season Total Snowfall Amount of snow FWA measured before SBN received 0.1"
  FWA SBN  
1944-1945 32.0" 37.4" 0.7"
1948-1949 15.2" 22.9" 0.4"
1950-1951 44.2" 60.7" 2.5"
1957-1958 15.0" 80.3" 0.2"
1970-1971 28.2" 82.7" 1.9"
1984-1985 35.8" 88.3" 0.7"
2000-2001 28.3" 75.6" 0.1"
2002-2003 46.7" 60.1" 1.1"
2005-2006 27.1" 38.0" 0.1"
2011-2012 ? ? 5.4"
Average (1940-2011) 31.7" 71.0"  

 
Through December 31st, Fort Wayne had received 11.0 inches of snow while South Bend had received just 5.7 inches for the 2011-2012 winter season. This marks only the 13th season since 1897 where Fort Wayne has recorded more snowfall than South Bend to start a winter season. The difference of 5.3 inches is also the greatest snowfall advantage at Fort Wayne in recorded history.

Seasons with more snow at Fort Wayne than South Bend through December 31st are listed below. 

Seasons with more snow at FWA than SBN through December 31
Season FWA Snowfall through 12/31 SBN Snowfall through 12/31 Difference FWA Season Total SBN Season Total
1915-1916 19.1 18.8 0.3 38.9 36.8
1921-1922 8.3 6.3 2.0 27.2 24.0
1922-1923 9.1 5.8 3.3 34.6 17.5
1923-1924 1.5 1.0 0.5 34.9 34.5
1924-2925 9.6 7.0 2.6 22.6 16.3
1927-1928 8.3 7.6 0.7 20.1 26.8
1928-1929 8.6 5.5 3.1 27.2 43.1
1933-1934 12.9 9.4 3.5 34.5 33.8
1936-1937 3.0 2.4 0.6 14.6 16.4
1961-1962 10.2 10.2 0.0 32.7 57.3
2003-2004 11.6 10.7 0.9 36.4 44.3
2006-2007 4.8 4.2 0.6 29.1 64.5
2011-2012 11.0 5.7 5.3 ? ?
1897-2011 average 9.3 22.0 -12.7 30.1 71.0

A large reason for the snowfall deficit at South Bend has been a lack of lake-effect snow.  This is evident in the table since there is no discernable correlation to above or below average snowfall at Fort Wayne while South Bend snowfall is significantly below the long term average.  During years with more snowfall at Fort Wayne than South Bend through December 31st, the average seasonal snowfall total at South Bend was 34.6", less than half the long term average! 

This comparison makes no direct connection between FWA receiving measurable snowfall first and above or below snowfall totals for either station. In conclusion, the beginning to this snowfall season is somewhat unusual in our area but these statistics do not indicate anything about snowfall amounts for the rest of the season.

Bentley/Marsili/NG/SLL



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