I’ve got your number(s)

Well, we certainly saw a swift snow recovery following the big pre-Christmas thaw, with more than two feet falling at Caribou between then and the 11th of January.

It’s been a pretty strong snow season thus far, so I decided to run some numbers to find out where this season stood in the rankings for most snow on record, through Jan. 11, the day I did the numbers, and a day which is a bit shy of the halfway point of the core of the accumulating snow season.

Surprisingly, the record season of 2007-2008, in which 197.8 inches of snow fell at Caribou (against a 30-year climatological norm of 108.7 inches) was not in the number 1 position of top snow seasons through Jan. 11. Two winters had slightly higher totals, the winter of 1972-73 and the winter of 1968-69.

Let’s look at some of the specifics.

1972-73 had 80.6 inches through Jan. 11, and 1968-69 had just two-tenths less, 80.4 inches, through Jan. 11.

Close behind, in third place, is the record year of 2007-08, in which 79.1 inches had accumulated through Jan. 11. That year then went absolutely nuts in February and March, with more than 92 inches falling at Caribou in those two months combined.

The top three seasons on the “through the 11th of January list,” 1972-73, 1968-69, and 2007-08, each ended with seasonal totals at Caribou in excess of 150 inches, and there have only been six snow seasons in which that has occurred in the 80 years of record-keeping at Caribou.

So now let’s have a look at this season. To make an “apples-to-apples” comparison, I computed this season though Jan. 11 as well, and found the total to be 76.3 inches.

That makes this season the fourth snowiest on record through the first third of January, and in terms of comparison to the top three, it’s right in the same neighborhood of seasons that ended at 150-plus.

By the way, as I was compiling these stats, I also was looking at snow depths, and, through Jan 11t, Caribou was reporting 22 inches on the ground. So imagine this: back in February of 1977, Caribou’s deepest-on-record snow depth was measured at an astonishing 60 inches — yes, 5 feet on the level.

A few more numbers in this “I’ve got your numbers” column. And these really blow my mind.

First, in the winter of 2009-10, my hometown of Alexandria, Va., just south of Washington, D.C., received more snow than Caribou did — 74 inches vs. 70 inches.

Alexandria only averages 16 inches for a season. Caribou averages about 109 inches.

For Caribou, on a percentage basis, to match what happened in Alexandria that season, 500 inches of snow would have to fall.

Ted Shapiro holds the Broadcast Seal of Approval from both the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. An Alexandria, Va. native, he has been chief meteorologist at WAGM-TV since 2006. Email him at tshapiro@wagmtv.com.

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