Tuesday, October 13, 2009

So, how rare IS measurable snow this early?

Snow on Burning Bush (Euonymus alata), October 12, 2009
Click on the photo to step into the scene - you'll feel like Lucy in the snowy forest in Narnia before she meets the faun. The evergreens in the background have fully-leafed cottonwood trees behind them.

When we got a coating of snow on Saturday morning (Oct. 10) and even more snowfall yesterday (Oct. 12), my impression was that it was very rare to have snowfall that early. Flurries once in a while, maybe, but even that would be uncommon.

It was certainly an odd sight yesterday to see snow all over trees and shrubs that were still in full leaf, like my Burning Bush (above) -- and in many cases still green.

Even by the end of the month snow is not common. Our Halloweens here in southern Minnesota are mixed: usually a coat or a warm layer under the Halloween costume is appreciated, but sometimes it's not necessary and rarely is it colder than the 40s. My younger daughter was born on October 23 and I remember we were having something of a heat wave -- the Asian beetles were living it up on my living room ceiling (I remember it well because I spent several nights in the recliner looking ceilingward, coping with early labor pains) and I wore shorts to the park the day before she was born. Of course, we did also have the notorious Halloween blizzard (see link in the quoted section below) the year before that.

I found a nice history of October snowfall in a weather blog that meteorologist Paul Douglas now writes for the St. Cloud Times:

How rare is measurable snow this early in the season? In recent years it has been uncommon to see measurable snow in October in the Twin Cities. The last time there was measurable snow in October in the Twin Cities was .2 (two tenths) of an inch on October 20 and .4 (four tenths) of an inch on October 21, 2002. The most snow for the month of October is (of course) the 1991 Halloween Blizzard with 8.2 inches, which all fell on October 31.

What is more unusual is having measurable snow fall in the first half of the month. This has happened only eight times in the last 60 years, with the most snow being 2.5 inches on October 10, 1977....

The earliest measurable snow on record for the Twin Cities is .4 inches on September 24, 1985 which fell during the afternoon and surprised many people.

Douglas includes a chart showing the eight dates mentioned, only one of which occurred since I've lived in Minnesota (nearly 20 years now). Oddly, that year was 1992, the very same year we were having the late-October heat wave I mentioned above. I don't remember this, but apparently .3 inches of snow fell on October 15 that year. That's Minnesota weather for ya!


Christopher Tassava said...

Thanks for posting this! Shannon and I were just talking about this! I'd read that '85 was the last early-October snowfall, then she'd heard '77. Turns out both of us were right.

dAwN said...

Yikes...my nose is cold just looking at this..wow..thats pretty early for snow...
hope it melts for ya soon.

RuthieJ said...

It sure has been an unusual weather year. And I'm hoping we don't ever get a repeat of that Halloween storm! We were only without power for about 36 hours, but lots of folks down here in the SE corner didn't get it back for weeks!!