...Winter of 2002-2003...

The winter of 2002-03 was one of the coldest and snowiest since the harsh winters of the late 1970's and early 80's. The tables below show complete records only for Paducah and Evansville. Unofficial stats for other areas showed considerably higher snowfall amounts north and west of Paducah and Evansville. Piedmont, Missouri, in the hills northwest of Poplar Bluff, reported an unofficial seasonal snowfall of 44 inches. Unofficial stats for Carbondale, Illinois showed about 30 inches of snow. The following are some snowfall and temperature statistics for Paducah and Evansville:

Winter 2002-03 average monthly temperatures:

Evansville Paducah
December: 36.2 (0.6 above normal) December: 38.1 (1.2 above normal)
January: 27.3 (3.7 below normal) January: 29.0 (3.9 below normal)
February: 31.5 (4.3 below normal) February: 34.2 (3.9 below normal)

Winter 2002-03 monthly snowfall:

Evansville Paducah
December: 7.8 inches December: 5.9 inches
January: 1.8 inches January: 6.8 inches
February: 11.4 inches February: 11.0 inches
Seasonal total: 21.0 (normal is 14.2) Seasonal total: 23.9 (normal is 10.2)

How did the winter of 2002-03 rank against other harsh winters since the late 1970's? At Paducah, it was the snowiest winter since the winter of 1984-85, but still well behind the infamous winter of 1977-78. The winter of 1977-78 holds the Paducah seasonal record of 35.7 inches.

Seasonal Snowfall Records for Paducah (Snowy winters highlighted in red)

2002-03 23.9 inches
2001-02 7.8
2000-01 8.5
1999-00 3.5
1998-99 2.9
1997-98 2.5
1996-97 11.5
1995-96 12.8
1994-95 2.1
1993-94 18.4
1992-93 19.3
1991-92 Trace
1990-91 3.6
1989-90 3.5
1988-89 5.8
1987-88 10.6
1986-87 5.4
1985-86 10.9
1984-85 28.7
1977-78 35.7

A brutal cold snap for this part of the country occurred in January, otherwise the severity of the cold was not the main highlight of the winter. The persistence of the cold air was news-worthy.

What caused the prolonged period of cold weather and frequent snow events? A feature in the upper levels of the atmosphere, known as the "polar vortex," persistently dug in its heels over southeast Canada. This "polar vortex" was mainly responsible for maintaining a cold northwest wind flow over much of the eastern and central U.S. A second branch of the jet stream originating over the tropical Pacific Ocean brought moist storm systems eastward across the southern U.S. As a result, much of the winter was snowier over the mid-Atlantic region and lower Ohio Valley than it was over the Great Lakes region.

March put an end to an unusually long winter for our region. Although significant snow can occur in March, as it did on March 14, 1999, such was not the case this 2002-03 season.







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