Winter Wrap Up on the First Day of Spring 3/20

Let's take a look at how the official winter turned out compared to our winter forecast from November.

Winter officially ends Wednesday morning at 7:02 am. I wouldn't get excited about warmer temperatures just yet though. We'll talk about that at the end of the blog but let's re-cap this winter.

In November we put out our winter forecast. As far as temperature and precipitation, the Meteorologists here at TV3 felt since there didn't seem to be a strong pattern influence, we leaned towards an "average" winter. Climate averages (weather over 30 years) for our area can be found here http://www.whsv.com/weather/misc/188141191.html

So average temperatures would be in the lower 40s, and average snowfall is around 20"-23". One thing to remember that as far as average precipitation, remember big storms and big snowfall years skew averages. So a typical winter might actually be a few inches less. Also remember winter snowfall can happen in many smaller storms, or in one big storm. Which is pretty much what happened this year.

How did we do this year?

Temperatures: At times it seemed the cold would not let up. An Arctic outbreak in January led to a string of days with highs only in the 20s. And it's been three years since we saw consecutive days with overnight lows in the teens, or below.

Days With High Temperatures < 32 
Average Number
14
Winter of 2012-2013
7

The average number of days during winter with  temperatures below freezing, 32 degrees, is 14 days. This winter we had 7 days with a high temperature below freezing. There were some breaks from the cold though. We also tied a record high one day, January 29th when we reached 73 degrees. That tied the record set in 2002.

High Temperature Comparison
Avg Dec
44
Dec 2012
50
Avg Jan
40
Jan 2013
41
Avg Feb
44
Feb 2013
42

As far as monthly temperatures go, average high temperatures were slightly above normal in December and January, but below normal in February. Mean temperatures factor in not just the average high temperatures for the month, but the low temperatures as well. December and January's mean temperatures were slightly above average, where February's mean temperature was average, neither higher or lower.

So I would classify this winter as just slightly above average for temperatures.

Snowfall: For snow, the two main ingredients are cold air and moisture.

It seemed all winter where we had one ingredient, we just didn't have the other. December's most notable storm was the day after Christmas snow/ice storm that put the Valley to a halt.

A day of snow, sleet and freezing rain led to a solid build up of ice and snow. Harrisonburg received 3" of snowfall from that storm. (plus a few layers of ice) 4 storms lefts about a dusting for the area, adding .10" of snow per dusting. 

The biggest storm of all, was on March 5-6th. Harrisonburg received a foot of snow but some saw up to two feet.

That's the biggest widespread snow storm since the winter of Snowmageddon (2009-2010). 

The March snow didn't stop there. Another round of snow fell on St. Patrick's day and overnight.

There's even more snow in the forecast for the end of this next weekend!

I would classify this as a near average as far as snow totals.

Here are a sample of some of the area's snow totals for this winter. This info comes from our station in Harrisonburg, Stanley's totals are from weather watcher Carl Quintrell, and the other areas come from the National Weather Service.

Going through past records, I could only find one winter somewhat comparable to this winter, where hardly any snow fell by the end of February. Then several inches in March. That is the winter of 1941-1942

All in all I'd say we were extremely close to our winter forecast. Temperatures were slightly off but snowfall amounts were just about right on, although it did come down to the wire with snowfall. I remember in February people were giving up on any measurable snow!

Putting out a winter forecast is in no means meant to be exact. But more to give you an idea of what the winter could bring.

Then there is the groundhog, who did not see his shadow, therefore predicting an early spring. I didn't buy that for a second but should you believe the groundhog? (Who by the way does not have a Meteorology degree) According to Stormfax.com, the Groundhog has about a 39% accuracy rate. So it's a fun tradition but he doesn't have the best track record.

As far as the next few weeks? When we look at long range forecast we look more towards temperature trends, and things look to stay on the cool side, right through the end of March, so you may not want to think about planting those gardens just yet.

The precious blog about winter gives a good explanation of the continuing cold so keep those jackets, and even the shovels handy! Spring may technically be here but it's not going to feel like it for a few more weeks.

Follow Meteorologist Aubrey Urbanowicz WHSV on Facebook and Twitter.

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