Boston breaks seasonal snowfall record

by | March 18, 2015
Snow on February 19, 2015 in Somerville, MA (Photo credit: Jessica Welch)

Snow covered sidewalk on February 19, 2015 in Somerville, MA (Photo credit: Jessica Welch)

As of 7 pm Sunday March 15, this winter became the snowiest on record in Boston, MA with 108.6 inches, surpassing the previous record of 107.6 inches set in the winter of 1995/1996. This winter has been extreme in every sense of the word, from heavy snowfall and cold temperatures to sea ice in the coastal waters of Cape Cod. The impacts are undeniable: traveling was a serious challenge for weeks, as the public transportation system was crippled and snow banks higher than cars narrowed Boston’s winding streets and made driving through an intersection a dangerous game of chicken.

Several factors contributed to the severe impact of the snow in Boston: the sheer amount of snowfall, the fact that it fell over a relatively short span (the vast majority of the seasonal total fell during a 30 day span), and persistent cold temperatures that prevented melting.

High temperatures did not reach above freezing throughout a large chunk of the month of February (February 6 – 19), and no temperature above 40°F was observed between January 20 and March 3. Consequently, the average temperature in the month of February was 19°F, the second coldest February on record. These cold temperatures left little chance for melting and the snow was able to pile up. Since the blizzard of January 26-28, which dropped 24.6”, snow has been on the ground continually. This is unlike the winter of 1995-1996 (the previous record holder), in which snow depths dropped to zero several times during the months of January, February, and March (although, large snow piles surely remained).

This season was extreme on multiple time scales; in addition to the season total, records were set for the snowiest 7 days, 14 days, 20 days and 30 days. 94.4 inches of snow fell during a 30 day span from January 24 to February 22, which completely obliterated the previous record of 58.8” (set in 1978) and on its own would be the third snowiest season ever! In contrast, the snowfall in the winter of 1995-1996 accumulated more gradually over several months, as shown in the graph below. Boston also had to endure several individual severe snowstorms, two of which (January 26-28 and February 7-10) rank among the top 10 heaviest snowstorms of all time. No storms from the winter of 1995-1996 are on that list.

Perhaps a bit worrying for the snow-weary, snowfall in Boston through the month of April is not unheard of. As can be seen in the graph below, over 6 inches of snow fell in early April 1996, contributing to that season’s total. It remains to be seen whether nature decides to add to this season’s already record-breaking snowfall.

Cumulative snowfall for the winters 1995/1996 and 2014/2015 in Boston, MA (Logan International Airport).

Cumulative snowfall for the winters of 1995/1996 and 2014/2015 in Boston, MA (Logan International Airport).

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