Was the Recent Cold Snap Unusual?

Climatological records stretching back over 100 years show that the recent cold spell across eastern Kentucky was not an unusual event for mid winter. Historical records indicate that most winters in the past have had cold air outbreaks that brought eastern Kentucky lower temperatures than those experienced on January 22-23, 2013. 

What is unusual is that there has not been a major cold air outbreak with widepsread below zero temperatures in eastern Kentucky since the mid 1990s. This stretch of over 15 winters without a major cold air outbreak is unprecedented in the historical record dating back to the late 1800s.

The following graphs show the coldest temperatures observed for each winter season at Jackson, London, Farmers (Cave Run), and Williamsburg, Kentucky. The coldest temperatures for the 2012-2013 winter occurred during the recent cold snap, and are included on the graphs. The absence of extreme cold since the mid 1990s is very evident at all 4 locations.  

At Jackson, all winters dating back to 1980-1981, with the exception of  2011-2012 and 1997-1998, had a cold air event with temperatures at least as cold as those observed during the January 22-23, 2013 cold air outbreak.   

At London, all winters dating back to 1954-1955, with the exception of 2011-2012, had a cold air event with temperatures colder than those observed during the January 22-23, 2013 cold air outbreak.

At Farmers (Cave Run), all winters dating back to 1904-1905, with the exception of  8 winters, had a cold air event with temperatures at least as cold as those observed during the January 22-23, 2013 cold air outbreak.   

At Williamsburg, all winters dating back to 1896-1897, with the exception of 2011-2012 and 1920-1921, had a cold air event with temperatures colder than those observed during the January 22-23, 2013 cold air outbreak.



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