Snow Is Here (Somewhere, Sometime)

By Casey J. McLaughlin

Several weeks ago, I reviewed drought data for the summer and thought about how it compared to previous years; work got busy and I never finished the piece (and it rained).  This weekend I saw pictures of my cousin’s new snow dragon (snowmen may be over-rated)!  I keep telling my kids, “Winter is Coming” and I now have proof in the form of actual snow!  I may be late realizing the change in weather (I was running in 60+ degree Thanksgiving weather!) here in Kansas City NOAA’s recent snowfall and depth maps verify that there is actual snow accumulation in Region 7!  Unfortunately the snow hasn’t come to my corner, but I’ll go back north for Christmas hoping they save us some powder!

Curious as ever, I was curious about past snowfalls and spent some time using the U.S. Snow Monitoring Snowfall Maps (http://gis.ncdc.noaa.gov/maps/snowfall.map?view=rsi).  I cobbled together a rough time series and casually looked for any geographic patterns.  (Unfortunately, I did not get a snow index for 1954; my family watched White Christmas this weekend).

US Snow Monitoring

Snow in 2010 was focused on the Northeast with a band from North Dakota south into Alabama;  2002 shows a strong band of snow that moved across the central (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri on into the Northeast) states.  A different snow pattern emerged (although I am moving in reverse order) in 1983 with snow in the Mountain West and Pacific Northwest while being absent from the Eastern U.S. (at least during the last week or so of December (24-29).  A swing through the Southern states occurred in 1963.

Looking through the maps series, it really hit me that the bands of snow moved around the country.  I am by no means an expert (Climatologists, speak up!) but I observed the national snow pattern moved around most parts of the continental U.S. giving almost everyone a white winter at some point in the last 100 years!

Casey McLaughlin is a first generation Geospatial Enthusiast who has worked with EPA since 2003 as a contractor and now as the Regional GIS Lead. He currently holds the rank of #1 GISer in EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.