Unprecedented 17th Winter in a Row Without a Major Cold Spell

February will soon draw to a close, and eastern Kentucky will have passed through yet another winter without a major cold air outbreak.  Since the winter of 1995-1996 there have not been any extreme cold weather events in eastern Kentucky with temperatures falling well below zero. This unusually long stretch of winters without extreme cold is unprecedented in the past 100 years.

The coldest temperatures this winter occurred during the first couple days of February when single digit lows were observed across parts of eastern Kentucky. While the lowest temperatures observed this winter were colder than those observed in the winter of 2011-2012, eastern Kentucky once again escaped any extreme cold.

The following 4 graphs show the coldest temperatures observed for each winter at Jackson, London, Farmers and Williamsburg. Records date back to 1981 at Jackson, 1954 at London, 1904 at Farmers, and 1896 at Williamsburg. All four graphs show the absence of extreme cold temperatures since the middle 1990s.  

The next three graphs show 11 year running averages for the coldest winter minimum temperatures at London, Farmers and Williamsburg. In these graphs for any given winter, the temperature plotted is the average coldest minimum temperature observed during the 11 year period centered on that winter. For example the -7.7 plotted for London for the winter of 1959-60 indicates that for the 11 winters from 1954-55 through 1964-66 the average coldest temperature observed each winter was -7.7.

These final three graphs may be the most revealing of all, as they average out the year to year variability in winter time minimum temperatures, and show how the coldest temperatures observed during the winter have been rising across eastern Kentucky for most of the past 20 years.  It will be interesting to monitor winter time temperatures in the coming years to see if this trend continues.

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