Thursday, March 3, 2011

Our winter: Nasty, except the finish

You'll see a variety of winter-in-review articles in the next few days, because for meteorologists, it's now spring.

The meteorological seasons run on a slightly different schedule than on the traditional calendar. Spring, for example, is March 1 to May 31. Summer is June 1 to Aug. 31. You get the idea.

So for the weather world, winter has ended. Those dates seem to work well in the South, because the change to winter seems to happen often around Dec. 1 ... and around March 1 for spring (don't tell me about those March snowfalls ... I remember them, but they don't last long).

Brad Panovich, chief meteorologist at WCNC-TV, our news partner, has a nice recap on the winter of 2010-11 at

I'll try to add a few observations of my own.

1. It started almost on cue. After a 67-degree high on Dec. 1, temperatures tumbled. And with only a few exceptions, they never recovered until the last half of February. The high on Dec. 2 was 47. Eight more days in December, the high never escaped the 30s.

2. December was awful. In addition to it being the second-coldest December ever in Charlotte (see Brad's column), there was a sleet storm on the morning of Dec. 16, and, of course, we had our snowfall on Dec. 25-26. People who really wanted a White Christmas probably will take exception of my description of December as "awful," but it really wasn't pleasant. I don't think anyone enjoyed paying those heating bills.

3. January was no better. After a mild start to the new year, with highs in the 60s on Jan. 1 and 2, it went downhill. The pits came Jan. 9-13, with a 4.1-inch snowfall Jan. 10. The worst of that storm was the coating of ice on top of the snow, which made roads nearly impassable for a day or so.

4. February started the same way. We had a close call to a winter storm on Feb. 4, when nearly an inch of rain fell in Charlotte -- with temperatures only a degree or two above freezing. The rain was badly needed, but temperatures started quite cold again.

5. When it ended ... well, it ended! It was as if someone flicked a switch Feb. 12, and brought mild weather back again. It reached 58 degrees that day in Charlotte, then 62 on the following day, and 71 degrees on Valentine's Day. Just like that ... winter was over.


Todd Fuller said...

Winter is not over.

If you have lived in Charlotte long enough, in 10 days, we could have a major winter storm. Maybe it won't happen.

But don't believe me? Check the alamanac for historical records. March holds the 125+ year old record for most snow here, 18 inches, then February, second month.

I wouldn't call winter over until early April here, not early March.

Anonymous said...

You honestly make me laugh sometimes, Steve. What makes you think winter is "over"? Just because we've had a stretch of fairly mild weather?

I also dispute your statement that spring begins on March 1.

"December was awful". Really? I was here, but I must have missed the "awful" part. Cold? Yes. Snow? Yes. It was winter. What do you want? Temperatures in the sixties or seventies at Christmas? Move further south, then.

"The pits" came with a 4.1-inch snowfall in January. Come on. How can you call that the pits when you come from Ohio? Oh, and "close calls" to winter storms don't count.

Does it feel like spring? Yeah, some days. Trees are budding out, my yellow bells have flowers on them now. But temperatures are still dropping down into the thirties at night here.

We can talk about winter ending after we've had our usual final frost in April. Until them, you're being a bit premature in talking like winter's over.

Anonymous said...

December nor other parts were "awful", it's winter it's supposed to be cold, wet etc. I will take that over the heat and humidity anytime...A/C bills are always worse than heat.

Anonymous said...

I studied physical oceanography with an emphasis in atmospheric processes and we never talked about winter ending March 1st. The sun remains the indicator so please focus on the vernal equinox! Also, it was only three years ago we suffered a devastating freeze in April so don’t get too ahead of yourself.

Snuffy said...

Thanks for the article Steve, I feel the same way. Winter may not be dead, but it's back is broke.

Anonymous said...

If it snows in March 2011 I'll stand outside and dance naked in it.

Anonymous said...

March 1 is not the first day of Spring.

Anonymous said...

It was a nice conversation piece, there was a lot of agreement on my side with regard to how fast winter seemed to come, and then go. Why is it that even the most innocuous articles on the internet receive such scathing rebuke? Where is all this anger coming from? For Heaven's sake, calm down.

TK said...

Majority of people in Charlotte do NOT believe that winter is over (yet). I think it would be safe to say that Spring begins on April 1 (not to mention that's April Fool's Day) instead of March 1. Though I am not saying so, however, a surprise snow storm still can come in March.