Record Breaking Winter Weather from 2008

Winter of 2008 saw some record-breaking extremes. Find out where.

Here’s a list of some areas that broke records last winter (2007/08):

  • The average temperature across the contiguous U.S. during the climatological winter (December 2007—February 2008) was the coolest since 2001. In the contiguous United States, the average winter temperature was 33.2 degrees F, which was 0.2 degree F above the 20th century average–yet still ranks as the coolest since 2001. It was the 54th coolest winter since national records began in 1895.
  • Winter temperatures were warmer than average from Texas to the Southeast and along the Eastern Seaboard, while cooler-than-average temperatures stretched from much of the upper Midwest to the West Coast.
  • In Iowa, it was the 19th coldest winter on record; California’s ranked 27th in terms of cold.
  • Winter precipitation was much above average from the Midwest to parts of the West, notably Kansas, Colorado and Utah. During January alone, 170 inches of snow fell at the Alta ski area near Salt Lake City, Utah, more than twice the normal amount for the month, eclipsing the previous record of 168 inches that fell in 1967.
  • Mountain snow pack exceeded 150 percent of average in large parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Oregon at the end of February.
  • Snowfall was much above normal across a significant portion of the Midwest north of the Ohio River.
  • Snowfall was four to six times normal amounts from eastern Iowa to eastern Wisconsin. Seasonal snowfall totals at many locations from northern Illinois through southern Wisconsin were more than twice the norm and in the top ten snowiest seasons on record. By the end of February, Madison, Wisconsin had accumulated 89.8 inches of snow, smashing the previous seasonal snowfall record of 76.1 inches of snow in the winter of 1978—1979.
  • Record February precipitation in the Northeast helped make the winter the fifth wettest on record for that region. New York had its all-time wettest winter, while Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont, and Colorado to the west, had their second wettest. Four states, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont, also had their wettest February in 114 years.
  • Snowfall was also above normal in northern New England, where some locations posted all-time record winter snow totals. On March 21–the first full day of spring–Caribou, Maine broke its snowfall record when a blizzard roared through Aroostook County, dumping up to 17 inches; the official snowfall at Caribou reached 182.5 inches, breaking the old record of 181.1. “It’s been an incredible year,” Lee Foster, meteorologist at the National Weather Service said. “These are not the kind of records we want to break.”
  • Concord, N.H., received 100.1 inches, which was 22.1 inches above the previous record set during the winter of 1886—87.
  • Burlington, Vt., received 103.2 inches, which was 6.3 inches above the previous record set during the winter of 1970—71. Much of the precipitation fell as snow or a rain-snow mix in northern New England. Snow depth at the end of February in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont ranged from 20 to 75 inches. The combination of the snow and rain resulted in an unusually heavy snow load on area buildings, causing roof leaks and collapses. Frequent snow and ice storms throughout this winter put a strain on the supply of road salt, especially in small towns that don’t have the resources to stockpile large quantities of the product; many scrambled to find supplies, often at inflated prices, dipping into already strained winter budgets.
  • And yet despite all of this, there were other parts of the country that had almost bone-dry weather last winter. For instance, while Wisconsin had its 5th wettest winter on record, neighboring Minnesota experienced its 18th driest. Go figure!
  • In Louisiana, precipitation was above normal in the north, but below normal in the south. In Mississippi, precipitation was above normal in the central counties, and below normal in the northern and southern quarters of the state. Talk about a two-faced winter!
  • Central North Carolina, northern Georgia, and Alabama continued to be in an exceptional drought, with extreme drought in the intervening areas. Southern Florida also missed most of last winter’s storms, and remained in an exceptional drought. Conditions were relatively dry in Tennessee, with most stations reporting below normal precipitation. The extreme Southwest, California, the northwest, and most of Idaho and Montana were below normal.
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Sandi Duncan is the Editor of the Farmers' Almanac. Click here to read Sandi's full biography.

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