Field of Science

First day of winter

Today is unofficially the first day of winter as determined by yours truly.  Today feels genuinely cold, and is the coldest day we've had so far.  A few flurries are in the air as if to emphasize the obvious.  Data published two days ago in the Chi-town Tribune (I'd present the chart, but it's behind a pay wall even for us hard copy subscribers, and it'll be a very cold day in Chi-town when TPP pays for access twice!) shows that if Chi-twon goes snowless today, it'll set a new record of 281 days between measurable snowfalls (about 1/10th of an inch, which is a strange hybrid measurement between the 8ths, 16ths, and 32nds of an inch and a decimal inch).  The 18 year old record was 280 days between the last snow fall of one winter season and the first snowfall of the next winter.  The shortest time was over 100 days less, only 173 days (!), and that was back quite a few years (forgot the year).  Snow here will not be measurable unless things really pick up later, so we'll see what happens in Chi-town some 100+ miles to the north.  There's a significant difference in weather across this distance, in part due to the proximity of the Great Lakes.  Such weather suggests a warming and drying trend as most of the most snowless years have been in the last 20 years.  People tend to forget about snow as part of the year's precipitation, but it really does count.  When the Phactor moved to this area 35 years ago, it was after spending 8 years another zone or two south, and the return to snowy winters was like a minor league return to the snow belt of my youth in upstate NY.  Nothing tops the snowfalls there.  But after the first few years, the winters just went brown.  This area has only 10-30 days of continuous snow cover on average, and snow cover surviving 40 days indicate a cold, snowy winter. Where TPP grew up the average was 3 times that long.  Chances of a white Christmas seem slight.  Chances the Phactors will get their X-country skis out seem very slight.  The unpredictable storms that really generate snow come from southwest of us along narrow diagonal tracks, and you only have to be 50 miles out of the track either way to almost escape completely, so you never really know. 

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