2009-10 Record Breaking Winter

We have had a few blog entries talking about the records that were set for this winter season. It seems like every time we post an update, more winter weather drives the records even deeper into the record books. Now that the long-range maps are warming up fast, I think it is finally safe to post the full recap of the 2009-10 winter season. Many arctic blasts hit the region and most locations picked up on 5 significant snowstorms.

Summary

Winter has come to an end and the official winter statistics are in and they are stunning. It was the snowiest winter and the 5th coldest winter on record in northwest Arkansas. It was the 3rd snowiest and the 13th coldest winter on record for the river valley. To sum it all up our area had an average winter IF we lived 250 miles further north near Kansas City, Missouri.

The Raw Numbers

Temperatures

December averaged 3.2 degrees colder than average for the river valley and 3.6 degrees below average for northwest Arkansas. January was 1.1 and 1.3 degrees below average respectively and february was 5.8 degrees below average in the river valley and 7.0 degrees below average in northwest Arkansas. As a whole, this winter has been 3.4 degrees below average in the river valley and 4.0 degrees below average in northwest Arkansas.

Snowfall

Snow starting flying on Christmas Eve when rain changed to snow and northeast Oklahoma was put under Blizzard warnings. On average 3-6″ of snow greeted most of the area on a white Christmas morning. The first week of January produced sub-zero weather and another snowstorm in northwest Arkansas which put down a layer of 1-3″ on average. After a mid-January thaw a late January snowstorm put down an average 1/2″ of ice accumulation in northwest Arkansas before putting down 4-8″ of snow on top of it. A few spots got upward of 10″ in Carroll County. Just when we normally start to make the transition from snow to severe weather another snowstorm put down 3-6″ of wet snow in early February. After that, two more winter storms took a dive further south and coated the Ouachitas with more white. Then when most thought we were done with winter, the biggest snowstorm of the year struck on the first day of spring. The viewing area picked up on 6-12″ of snow on average with a few spots picking up as much as 16″ of snow. That storm broke the record for the snowiest March on record for Fort Smith. It also highlighted 2009-10 on the list for the snowiest winters on record.

There have been a lot of questions surrounding the northwest Arkansas snowfall data, and where the records stand. The historic snow totals above are based on an established coop site in northwest Arkansas, the 2009-10 snow total is based off of Fayetteville’s snow total.

Drake Field in Fayetteville has been where all of the official records come from in northwest Arkansas. This is still the case today, but when it comes to snowfall there are some problems. The records go back to the 1950s, but a large chunk of this data set has been lost some how. The National Weather Service and the NCDC are working to recover the snowfall data during that time, but so far have been unsuccessful. Second, drake field in Fayetteville is no longer a manned observation site…meaning no official snowfall data has been measured over the past couple of years and this will continue in the years and possibly decades to come. After working with the National Weather Service the weather team obtained snowfall data at a coop observation site 4 miles south of Bentonville. This site has great records of snowfall dating back to at least 1940. As a result we were able to get a top 10 list of the snowiest winters on record for that site. This is the data that we have been using this season. To our disappointment we learned that at the end of 2009 this site stopped reporting weather data all together. In a nutshell, when it comes to snowfall data only, we no longer have ANY official snowfall reports in northwest Arkansas at established observation sites.

Despite the lack of “official” snow data, many of you have helped us out significantly this season. We will continue to keep these records for years to come in order to make historical comparisons. Even though it was a historical year for snow in northwest Arkansas not everyone got the same amount of snowfall. The higher elevations got hit the worst in nearly every storm that moved into the area. Normally the hardest hit town in our viewing area is Gentry, but this year it was Strickler. For those of you that live in or around Strickler, AR you win the Golden Shovel Award for 2009-10. Here are a few seasonal snow totals in northwest Arkansas.

Strickler 32.5″

Fayetteville 25.8″

Springdale 22.5″

Rogers 17.0″

Comparing 2009-10 to previous winters

River Valley

This winter was tied for the  13th Coldest winter since 1882 and 3rd snowiest season since 1950.

Northwest Arkansas

This winter was tied for the 5th coldest season since 1892 and the snowiest season since 1940.

Harshest Winter In A Generation

River Valley

It was the coldest winter in 9 years and the snowiest in 22 years

Northwest Arkansas

It was the coldest winter in 26 years and the snowiest since records began in 1940

Ross Ellet

Follow us on twitter “4029weather”

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