Snowy winter is return to “normal” weather conditions
It seems like digging out from snow and some more snow is all Nomeites do this winter.
But according to National Weather Service meteorological technician Bob TenEyck in Nome, the climatological fact is that this winter marks a return to what is considered normal according to the 110-year old weather data base of measuring Nome’s temperatures and snowfall, among other data.
“We had twice as much snowfall this winter as in the last year, but in terms of climatological data, this is normal,” said TenEyck.
Scouring through data, he did not come up with a single record breaking day – temperature or snowfall or snowdepth-wise so far – and that tells him that this winter of 2017/2018 is just another normal winter, albeit one we haven’t seen in a while.
So although it may feel like unusually snowy, TenEyck said the 70.8 inches of snowfall that accumulated since August until Monday afternoon sets the region on track for a normal winter.
Last year, in comparison, the entire winter season only produced 35 inches of snow. The winter count begins in August, since normally, there has never been snowfall recording in July. This winter began shaping up with measurable snowfall in October that left the area with six inches of snow on the ground by the end of October. That melted away down to one inch but got replenished by a four-inch snowfall on November 15 and 5.3 inches on November 18, and by the end of November there were seven inches of snow on the ground. An early December snowfall added another four inches and then during a series of storms between December 18 and New Years Eve, Nome saw another 10.9 inches of snowfall. A fairly dry and cold January saw the only significant snowfall of 2.9 inches on January 14 and 15. Then Nome went into a cold spell with temperatures between 0°F and minus 20°F.
This pattern changed with a series of storms hitting Nome from February 9 through 13 with 5.2 inches of snowfall on Feb. 10, 2.7 inches on Feb. 11 and 3.6 inches on Feb. 13. A five-day lull gave people time to dig out until the most recent storms on Feb. 18 with 1.3 inches and on Feb. 19 with more than two inches of snowfall and mixed rain. As of Monday, there are 38 inches of snow on the ground – the snow depth, which is different from snowfall, which is the sum of all measured snowfall data this winter. That sum is 70.8 inches as of Monday. “My yard stick is not big enough to measure the snow depth,” TenEyck said half-jokingly.
TenEyck reiterates that this winter seems to have a lot of snow just because we haven’t seen a normal winter in a “long time,” he said. “I’ve been here since 1996 and I would consider this winter the first time in ten years that I would consider a normal winter in terms of snowfall,” he said.
Here are some fun facts: Whittier holds the state’s all time record with 342 inches of snow in the winter of 1986/87. In Nome, the winter of 2009 holds the record with 121 inches of snowfall. The Nome top five snowiest winters were: 1948 with 106.5 inches, 2000 with 104.2 inches; 2011 with 101.6 inches and 1993 with 100.8 inches. The last five years saw the following snowfall: 2013 had 81.5 inches; 2014 saw only 62 inches; 2015 had 63.5 inches; there is no data available for 2016, and 2017 saw only 38 inches of snowfall for the entire winter season from August through June.
TenEyck also points out that this winter seemed viciously windy. Although there were no records broken for snowfall, or wind, he remembers days that he had to launch the weather balloon in 50-mph winds. “Yes, so today, the max wind gust measured at 45 mph,” he said on Monday. Nome’s NWS weather office launches a so-called weather balloon twice a day as part of a larger system to collect data to generate weather prognosis and forecast reports. About 92 weather stations across the United States launch these weather balloons simultaneously – or at least within 20 minutes—as part of a weather data collection system that feeds into a supercomputer in Maryland to compute weather forecasts. The balloon is equipped with a radio sonde that collects data pertaining to temperature, wind, humidity and other weather data.