Meaningful March snowfalls...(3-2-13)
We’ve made it to March. We now have daylight past 6 pm and in another week we will turn the clocks ahead one hour. So signs of Spring are out there but we know all too well that March can be a cruel month in Syracuse and snow can certainly fall. As I write this (March 2nd) we’ve had some light accumulation of snow over the last four days. However, our chances for meaningful snow are dropping.One way to look at our snowfall is by looking at the total amount of snow that falls during the winter - an average of 123”. However, not all of that snow that falls on a day to day basis in Syracuse is impactful. One way to gauge our snowfall is to concentrate on days when we receive 3” or more of snowfall. I use that number because it seems to be a threshold that a lot of private plowers use when plowing residential areas across the region.
When you look at our winter snowfall from that perspective there are only 12 days each winter with at least 3” of snow. In a winter season that stretches from November into March that’s it. For the sake of argument, lets say the part of our winter season when we can have meaningful snow runs from mid November through the the first day of spring, March 21st. That is a period of just over 120 days. That means we truly only have snowfall that is really going to slow us down from doing our every chores (shopping, appointments, work, school etc) on just 10 percent of our winter days. I don’t want to say that the snow is not there on the days we only get an inch or two of accumulation, it is just that on the other 90% of the days it is more in the background or not falling at all.
I bring this up because, from a climatological standpoint, we are staring the end of winter in the face. Here is how the number of 3” snowfalls break down by month over the last 63 years in Syracuse (since records were kept at the airport in North Syracuse)
The numbers tell us between now and whenever the last flake of snow falls you can expect about two more days with 3 inches of snow. Given our average high temperatures rise from 38 F on March 1st to 50 F on March 31st you would think that a big majority of the March numbers would fall in the first half of the month. That has been the case over the last 3 decades with two thirds of those 3”+ snowfalls coming before March 15 and only one third after the 15th which makes sense given the rise in ‘normal’ temperatures. Interestingly, in the three decades before that (1949-1980) the split between early and late March snows is almost 50/50 so that is quite a change over the course of the last 60 years. Remember, this is just past history not a forecast.
Ave. Number of Days with 3”+
Numbers aside, just because we might not get a lot of snow, doesn’t necessarily mean we gracefully slide into warm, spring-like weather. Next week I’ll talk about how I think you can break down Syracuse’s weather into more than the typical four seasons.
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