Looking At Past Winters

With meteorological winter beginning on December 1, we thought it would be interesting to look at some graphs with winter weather data from the Jackson National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office (WFO).  Data at WFO Jackson goes back to January 1981. The graphs reveal some interesting facts.

For example, the past 3 winters have been much snowier than normal. The normal seasonal snowfall at the National Weather Service Office in Jackson, KY is 23.5 inches.  One can see that while the past 3 winters have been snowier than normal, the 5 winters from 2003-2004 through 2007-2008 had less snow than normal.  

While total seasonal snowfall determines whether a given winter is snowier than normal, there are other statistics which help define in people's minds whether a given winter was mild or harsh. The number of days with snow on the ground is an interesting statistic to examine. During the winter of 2010-2011 one inch or more of snow was on the ground at the National Weather Service Office in Jackson on 43 days. Over the past 30 years, this tied with the winter of 1984-1985 for the most days with one inch or more of snow on the ground. One can also examine the number of days with a trace or more of snow on the ground and see that the winter of 2010-2011 with 56 days, was second only to the winter of 1995-1996 with 59 days.

Even though the winter of 2010-2011 was snowier than normal and snow lingered on the ground for long periods of time, there was not a widespread major heavy snowstorm that affected the region. The maximum snow depth observed during the 2010-2011 winter at the National Weather Service Forecast in Jackson was only 5 inches. In fact, over the past 13 years, the maximum snow depth observed at Jackson has been greater than 5 inches in only 2 years. However, looking further back, there were 4 winters in the early and mid 1990s where maximum snow depth exceeded 10 inches. The record maximum snow depth of 20 inches was observed following the March 1993 blizzard.

Average temperatures for a winter season define whether a winter is colder or warmer than normal. The winter of 2010-2011 was characterized by rather persistent, but not extreme cold. The persistent cold resulted in the coldest December-January period on record for Jackson where the temperature averaged 29.4 degrees.  Another interesting temperature statistic to examine is the minimum temperature observed each winter. The lowest temperature recorded during the 2010-2011 winter at the National Weather Service Office in Jackson was 5 degrees. The graphs reveal an interesting fact. Over the past 15 winters the temperature has dropped below zero at Jackson in only 1 winter. in the previous 16 winters dating from 1980-1981 through  1995-1996 the temperature dropped below zero in 8 separate winters.



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