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February 7, 2010

Baltimore headed for seasonal snow record

Even with the asterisks hanging like icicles from the Super Bowl Weekend Storm, it looks like Baltimore will set a new record this winter for total snowfall in a single season. If so, it will be the third seasonal snow record set in just 14 years.

According to the tally from the National Weather Service, we have so far accumulated 60.4 inches of snow since the first flake stuck on Dec. 5, 2009:.

December 2009: 23.2 inches

January 2010:  7.5 inches

February 2010:*  29.7 inches 

That total has eclipsed the No. 2 season and brings us within barely 2 inches of the all-time record. We could easily break that mark when the next storm strikes on Tuesday.

Here's how the seasonal rankings look now:SNowdrift, icicles

1. 1995-96:  62.5 inches

2. 2009-10:  60.4 inches*

3. 2002-03:  58.1 inches

4. 1963-64:  51.8 inches

5. 1898-99:  51.1 inches

*Through Feb. 6

On another topic, I've been thinking about the kerfuffle over the official measurements of the snowfall at BWI-Marshall. After a contractor (I believe the NWS "contractor" at BWI is the FAA staff) failed to follow NWS protocol in measuring the storm total, Sterling's meteorologists had to estimate the total accumulation, and picked 24.8 inches. The number is a conservative choice between the 28.6 inches arrived at with hourly measurements, and the 24.7 inches measured after the storm had finished accumulating and became compacted.

They concluded that the Super Bowl Weekend Storm beat the previous record for a two-day storm, which Sterling interprets to be the Feb. 16-17 piece of the four-day Presidents' Day Weekend Storm in 2003. Until yesterday, the NWS Sterling forecast office Website had always rated the 2003 storm as a four-day event that totaled 28.2 inches. Now they consider that a two-day event that totaled 24.4 inches

The new results:

No. 1 Two-day Storm: Super Bowl Weekend Storm 2010:  24.8 inches

No. 2 Two-day Storm: Presidents' Day Weekend Storm 2003: 24.4 inches

Still King of the Mountain: Three-day Knickerbocker Storm, 1922:  26.5 inches

Super Bowl Storm from spaceI can understand why meteorologists fuss over how they should count a four-day storm like the Presidents' Day Weekend Storm in February 2003. That event truly was a combination of at least two separate storms, with some brief period in between with no precipitation.

And I suppose there is something useful to scientists about distinguishing one-day storms from the two-day and three-day variety; although I'm not sure why a 20-hour storm that snows past midnight should be treated as a two-day storm, while a 20-hour storm that occurs within one calendar date is classified as a one-day storm.

And I have no clue why this is an issue now, years after the Sterling folks posted their table of the Top Twenty Snowstorms in Baltimore, (also below) listing the four-day, two-storm, 2003 blowout as No. 1. (The table has now disappeared from the Sterling Web site.)

But in the end, it seems to me that what matters to the public is how much snow has been dumped on them, no matter how many days it took for it to end. For all of us who had to wait for the snow to stop back in 2003, and then dig out, the storm was a single event. And the snow we had to remove was 28 inches deep (more or less).

My vote would be to keep the old Top Twenty list, and insert the dear departed Super Bowl Weekend Storm at No. 3, after the Presidents' Day Weekend Storm in 2003, and the Knickerbocker Storm in 1922.

What say you?

(PHOTOS: Top: SUN PHOTO/Roylance-Snowdrift/ Bottom: UCAR satellite image of mid-Atlantic snow, shot Sunday 2/7/10)

Sterling's Top Twenty Snowstorm, as it appeared on their Web site until Saturday. (It had not been updated with the December 18-19, 2009 storm (21.1 inches), or the Feb. 5-6, 2010 storm (24.8 inches, an estimate)) 

128.2 inches ... Feb. 15-18, 20031114.1 inches ... Dec. 11-12, 1960
226.5 inches  ... Jan. 27-29, 19221213.1  inches ... Feb. 11-12, 2006
322.8 inches ... Feb. 11, 19831313.0  inches ... Mar. 5-7, 1962
422.5 inches ... Jan. 7-8, 19961412.3 inches ... Jan. 22, 1987
522.0 inches ... Mar. 29-30, 19421512.1 inches ... Jan. 30-31, 1966
621.4 inches ... Feb. 11-14, 18991612.0 inches ... Feb. 16-18, 1900
720.0 inches ... Feb. 18-19, 19791711.9 inches ... Mar. 13-14, 1993
816.0 inches ... Mar. 15-18, 18921811.7 inches ... Feb. 5-8, 1899
915.5 inches ... Feb. 15, 19581911.5 inches ... Dec. 17-18, 1932
1014.9 inches ... Jan. 25, 20002011.5 inches ... Mar. 21-22, 1964

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:25 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: By the numbers


Frank, this forecast and Foot's details about it are making me so depressed I can barely speak. I wish I could levitate out of here.

Incidentally, can we please bury once and for all the notion that other states' denizens get this kind of snow "all the time"?? As you know, I grew up in Pittsburgh. I saw -- and shoveled -- lots and lots and lots of snow. But here's the latest from the Burgh, where, contrary to all the yammering and pontificating by northern clime know-it-alls, things are NOT quickly back to normal, this kind of snow is NOT routine, and everything DID come to a standstill, including the airport:

Hazards remain in aftermath of massive storm
Storm dumped about 2 feet of snow here and across the mid-Atlantic states

Read more:

Snow totals for around the region from the folks at Sterling can be found here:

We might be talking about weekly snow records by Wednesday evening.

Should the storms that came before (Dec.5 & 19) the actual start (Dec. 21) of Winter be included in 'seasonal' totals? The season of Winter did not begin until AFTER those two 'late autumn' storms.

FR: The meteorological winter begins Dec. 1 and runs through February.

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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