What does a snowy November say about the rest of the winter?

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Snow blowing on Monday, November 17, 2014 (Marcelle Grassette, Kentwood)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — By the end of the day Tuesday, Grand Rapids will likely have climbed into the top ten rankings for November snowfall out of more than one hundred years of records.  That has many people in West Michigan concerned that we are bound to see another season of near-record snow and cold.

The 30-year average (1981-2010) of snowfall for the month is 6.8″.  Here are the listings for some of the seasons with the snowiest Novembers in Grand Rapids history, with snow at least double the monthly average:

Season Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Total
1951-1952 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 26.9 51.3 21.2 12.6 9.5 10.5 0.0 0.0 132.0
1991-1992 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 25.3 27.9 13.4 3.5 15.1 2.3 0.0 0.0 87.8
2000-2001 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 23.0 59.2 4.1 7.4 4.1 0.2 T 0.0 98.1
1995-1996 0.0 0.0 0.0 T 20.8 17.4 13.5 6.9 19.3 1.8 0.0 0.0 79.7
1989-1990 0.0 0.0 0.0 5.8 19.4 25.2 10.6 23.8 2.7 2.1 0.2 0.0 89.8
1955-1956 0.0 0.0 0.0 T 18.6 9.4 5.3 22.9 17.5 5.6 0.0 0.0 79.3
1898-1899 M M M 0.0 18.5 18.0 20.0 3.4 16.0 0.0 M M 94.5
1950-1951 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 17.5 24.0 18.4 4.8 11.1 5.7 0.0 0.0 81.5
2005-2006 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 17.3 28.9 9.6 10.1 3.3 T 0.0 0.0 69.2
1940-1941 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 17.3 7.0 10.4 9.9 10.1 T 0.0 0.0 54.7
1966-1967 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 16.6 17.6 29.8 17.5 10.3 T T 0.0 91.8
1959-1960 0.0 0.0 0.0 T 15.3 10.6 25.0 25.6 13.2 1.0 0.0 0.0 90.7
1971-1972 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 14.9 3.7 22.6 16.9 14.2 7.5 0.0 0.0 79.8
1969-1970 0.0 0.0 0.0 T 14.3 11.8 23.2 8.2 19.3 7.8 0.0 0.0 84.6

In nearly all of these months, November already puts the season at one-fifth of the overall average season snowfall of 74.9″.  So, as you might imagine, we’re already way ahead of the game to see another season of above-average snowfall.  That’s a big contrast from last winter, when we only had 2.2″ of snow in November before the cold air really kicked in during December.

The average of these 14 seasons above is 86.7″ — less than a foot above the 30-year average (1981-2010), and just outside the top 20 in the overall rankings.  So, while that is high, it isn’t extreme by Grand Rapids standards.  In fact, of the top 10 winters in overall snowfall, only two of them appear on this list — 1951-52 and 2000-01.  Those two seasons continued the heavy snow right on through December.

However, there are few discernible patterns in this data for how the rest of the season plays out.  In some years, most of the snow falls in November and December, with quiet conditions the rest of the season.  Others temper the snow in December, only to start it up again later in the winter.

So, while we can make a reasonable guess that we probably won’t see below-average snowfall for the whole season at this point, we also can’t assume that the rest of the winter will continue this trend.

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