Every year, right before we launch our newest weather forecast for the winter ahead, we like to “rewind” and take a look back at last year. Our winter prediction for 2018-2019 brought about a lot of attention and controversy. In our long-range outlook, which we released in August 2018, we called for “teeth-chattering cold and unusually snowy and/or wet conditions across the Pacific Northwest, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic States.” We forewarned that the coldest temperatures of the season would arrive in mid-February for zones 1, 2, and 3, and predicted a stormier-than-normal March, which would push snow totals to above normal for the northern/central Rockies and Plains.
So what happened? Here are some winter 2018-2019 highlights:
- A late January Arctic blast resulted in Chicago having subzero temperatures for 52 straight hours. No all-time records were broken in the Windy City, but the low temperature of -23°F was close to breaking the all-time record of -27°F. On January 29th, Chicago’s wind chill dipped to -52°F! That’s some teeth-chattering cold!
- On January 31st, 2019, the all-time coldest record for Illinois was reported in Mt. Carroll at -38°F.
- February kicked off on a frigid note from Minnesota and Wisconsin east through the Great Lakes into upstate New York and across to New England. High temperatures were as much as 30°F colder than normal, and low temperatures were subzero or in the single digits for most areas. Strong winds created dangerously low wind chills, causing some schools to close.
- For the first time on record, Los Angeles went an entire February without once hitting 70°F. And the City of Angels registered this past February as its coldest month since 1962, with temperatures averaging about 5 degrees colder than normal.
- And the month of February across the contiguous U.S. averaged nearly 2°F below normal, ranking it in the coldest top third in 125 years of record keeping.
- Caribou, Maine, had its snowiest January ever, with 59.8 inches, and 165 had its snowiest January ever, with 59.8 inches, and 165 inches total for the winter months!
- Record snowfall and cold temperatures were reported from Washington State to Wisconsin in February. Eau Claire, Wisconsin, set a record for all-time snowiest month with 53.7 inches.
- Sea-Tac Airport (Seattle) saw its snowiest February (20.2 inches) since record-keeping first began in 1945.
- On February 20th, the first measurable snowfall (½ inch) in more than a decade fell in Las Vegas, Nevada. And the very next day, a total of 35.9 inches of snow was measured at Pulliam Airport (just south of Flagstaff, Arizona)—a new 1-day record.
- Omaha, Nebraska, saw its all-time snowiest winter with 46.1 inches.
Sounds like a pretty accurate forecast, doesn’t it? You may be surprised to learn that climatologists have indicated that winter 2018-19 turned out to be slightly warmer (1.2°F) than normal, statistically speaking.
The reason? Taking into account the 90-day interval from December 1st to February 28th (defined as “meteorological winter”), the mean temperature was 33.4°F or 1.2°F above average. Yet, the last week of January through February, and into early March, temperatures averaged more than 2°F below normal nationwide. But overall, January was 2.6°F above normal, and December was 2.9°F above normal.
However, we would contend that the overall 1.2°F above-normal winter temperature was of little solace to the folks in the southeast U.S. who were digging out of their big pre-Christmas snowfall, or the folks around the Great Lakes and Plains who were enduring hours of subzero temperatures and life-threatening wind chills in late January!
What’s in Store for Winter 2019-2020?
Our winter weather outlook is out! Take a look at what we’re predicting!
Caleb Weatherbee is the official forecaster for the Farmers' Almanac. His name is actually a pseudonym that has been passed down through generations of Almanac prognosticators and has been used to conceal the true identity of the men and women behind our predictions.