Despite the persistence of snow and ice on the ground this winter, since our first real covering appeared just after Christmas Day, it has been a remarkably snowless winter thus far.
After Thursday night’s 2.7-inch snowfall, the season total for Madison rose to a paltry 21.4 inches, which places us well behind the average for the season to this point, which is 41.3 inches.
Just how unusual is this amount?
It turns out that about 25% of the time a winter season accumulates less than 30 inches of snow in Madison. In 138 seasons, dating back to 1884-85, Madison has had only 33 winters in which the total snowfall remained below that threshold — the last one of those was 2002-03, when only 28.8 inches accumulated.
Thirteen seasons have received less than 25 inches of snow, the last one being 1967-68, when only 12.7 inches fell. That season was the most recent of only five seasons in which less than 20 inches of snow fell in a season — the other four were 1933-34, 1913-14, 1901-02 and 1894-95. Of those five, the all-time least snowy winter was 1901-02 when, unbelievably, only 4 inches accumulated for the season.
Since 7 inches of snow falls in Madison in an average March, we will have to have a snowier than normal March to move past 30 inches of snow for this season.
Though it is subject to substantial revision, the forecast for the coming first two weeks of March does suggest the possibility of a couple of sizable snowfalls that just might rescue us from landing on this list of exceptionally boring winters.
Steve Ackerman and Jonathan Martin, professors in the UW-Madison department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, are guests on WHA radio (970 AM) at 11:45 a.m. the last Monday of each month. Send them your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.