The buzz around my stepdaughter's school this winter here in Central Pennsylvania has been the lack of snow (and snow days -- not a single one). For her 3rd grade science project, we decided to compare the local snowfall so far this winter (Oct. 1 - Jan. 31), with temperatures and snow days. The State College Area School District was unable to provide the snow day stats in time, so we just looked at the weather for the last 10 winters.
What we found, as you can see from the graphs below, was that it was unusually warm and snow-less this year in State College, but it's far from unprecedented -- the 2006-2007 season had less snow and was warmer through Jan. 31! People have short memories. The other correlation we made was that warmer temperatures (compared to normal) led to less snowfall (not surprising to me, but a good use of the scientific method). Presumably, there would have been a correlation between more snow and more snow days as well.
Below is the project, in her words:
Introduction: Question: Why haven't we had any snow days this season? Is this winter unusual? People keep asking "Where's the snow? Is this winter normal for State College?" So I decided to look at recent years of weather of the season of State College from 2002-2012.
Methodology : I collected monthly snowfall and temperature for Penn State, from AccuWeather.com to find out about the winters between 2002-2012. I entered this data into EXCEL. Because this winter is not over, I could only look at October through February. Then I compared the data using bar graphs.
Conclusion: From the data collected I determined that there was less snow this season than seven out of ten winters that I looked at, but more than 2004-2005 and 2006- 2007. This season was also the 2nd warmest but 2006-2007 was warmer. In conclusion, this winter was not the least snowy in the last 10 years. Also, warmer years usually mean less snow.
Updating the data and graphs for the October - February period (because what good Dad wouldn't), now we're seeing something more impressive -- the continued lack of snow has put 2011-2012 in the #1 spot (by a hair) for least snowy winter, and (by far) the warmest winter in the last ten.
But for Penn State's extensive weather record, this winter is not as impressive. They say that the record least snow for a Cold Season (July-June) was 1979-1980 with 17.9 inches, and we already have 19 inches this year, placing us in 98th place (out of 117 - higher numbers meaning less snow). So we'll probably have to get no snow for the rest of the season be in the top 10 least snowy years.
How likely is that? I didn't have stats from Penn State for the entire record, but for the last 10 years, it's statistically possible. It happened in 2009 and nearly in 2010 (only 0.8"), but interestingly enough, in the minimum winter snow season 2006-2007, another 17.1" fell after March 1st -- the most of any year examined, and nearly half the seasonal total.
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On the evening of September 5, 1996, as Hurricane Fran approached the North Carolina coast, I embarked on my first-ever hurricane storm chase trip.
Twenty years ago, Hurricane Fran roared into eastern North Carolina, and I was there -- and I've got the VHS tapes to prove it.
Until yesterday, Hurricane Wilma was the last Hurricane to strike the state of Florida, 11 years ago.
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