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Albany winters 1896-2016

Please see the note below explaining how these graphs were made. The super short version: each winter was plotted by how much it differed from the normal for average temperature and snowfall. The blue shaded areas represent a "usual" range for each measure. If a winter is outside those area, it's probably safe to say it was "unusual" in that regard.

albany_winters_cold_and_snowy_base.png

Albany winter 1896-2016 by period

This is the same graph, but animated to show groups of winters by period (usually 25 years).

albany_winters_cold_and_snowy_by_period.gif

Weird winters

This graph highlights what you might call the "weird" winters. These are winters that were outside the usual range in some way for both average temperature or snowfall. For example, the 2015-2016 winter was both unusually warm and unusually snowy (see it down there in the lower right quadrant).

albany_winters_cold_and_snowy_weird_annotated.png

Bonus graph: Albany winter average temperature 1896-2016

Here's a look at the trend in average winter temperature in Albany for the last 120some winters. Yep, they've been getting warmer, by about 0.3 degrees per decade, according to NOAA's data. (This graph was generated by NOAA's website.)

albany_winters_avg_temperature_1896-2016.jpg

Yep, winter's been odd in recent years

scarce snow on winter grass

That this sort of sight has been more familiar in recent winters than what we're seeing Thursday is odd.

It's fair to say that winter hasn't been itself for a while, going almost two full seasons now.

Last winter was extraordinarily warm and un-snowy. And this winter has also been... underwhelming. As of February 8, this winter is almost 18 inches behind the normal pace for snow (though it should pick up some of that during Thursday's storm). And the January we just finished had an average temperature 8 degrees warmer than normal.

Winter, we're starting to worry about you, old man.

It's felt like winter has been acting strangely for years now. But memory can be a blurry thing, a picture where the unusual events stay sharp and the ordinary fades into the background.

So we thought it'd be interesting to look at more than a century's worth of winters in Albany to get a sense of whether things really have been weird lately.

Look up

This post is mostly some graphs. They're in large format at the top of the page -- click or scroll all the way up.

But, first, you probably want to read this...

What is this?

We decided to look at winters in Albany by two measures that we figured would give some overall sense of what a winter was like and how it felt to people living during that time:
+ Snowfall for the entire winter season (from the NWS Albany website)
+ The average temperature across December, January, and February (via NOAA's website)

Admittedly, those are blunt measures that will smooth over some extreme events. But they're an easy way of comparing across many years.

For each winter we calculated how much that winter's average temperature and snowfall total differed on percentage basis from the current 30-year normals (1981-2010) for each measure -- 26 degrees for temperature (as calculated in the NOAA's output) and 60.3 inches for snowfall. Then we plotted each winter on a graph according to how it compared to those normals.

One more thing about the graphs: They include blue shaded areas for temperature and snowfall. Those represent what you might consider the "usual" range for those measures. (To be more specific, they represent one standard deviation for each measure.) We added those ranges to have a sense of which winters really were unusual and not just a little high or low for some measure.

A few things

2015-2016
There's a reason it seemed weird -- because it really, really was. It's an outlier among outliers for both temperature (very warm) and snow (very little).

Weird winters
As mentioned above, the blue shaded areas indicate what you might consider the typical ranges for average temperature and snowfall for a winter. So winters that fall outside those ranges for a measure could be considered unusual. And winters that fall outside the range both measures could be considered... weird.

Figured that way, there have been 13 "weird" winters in the last 121 years. And three of those have come in the last 15 years -- 2015-2016 (not cold and not snowy), 2011-2012 (not cold and not snowy), and 2002-2013 (cold and snowy).

Weirdest winters?
This whole analysis is squishy, but let's make it even squishier by creating a "weirdness" score for each winter by adding together how much each winter was different from the normal in both temperature and snowfall. By doing that, we can rank the winters by overall weirdness (so very much not a technical term). And when we do that, 2015-2016 ranks as the #2 weirdest weather on record for Albany -- behind only 1970-1971 and it's crazy record-high snowfall total (112.5 inches) and unusually cold temps.

As it happens, the three "weird" winters of the last 15 years all rank in the top 5 all-time in this ranking.

Warming winter
There's a bonus graph above about how the average winter temperature has changed over time in Albany. It's been warming by 0.3 degrees per decade over the last 120some years, according to the NOAA data.

That's not surprising. The average annual temperature in New York State has been on a similar rise over the same period. It's up more than 1 degree Fahrenheit during that time.

Earlier

+ 2016 was hot
+ Adapting for a more extreme future
+ A peek at our possible future climate
+ A future of more extremes
+ An exit interview with winter
+ Dear Winter...

Comments

Climate change, rising oceans, wasn't this past August the warmest on record?

Yawn.....planets been here for ?few billion years.....industrial revolution about 150 years old......a mere millisecond in the big picture.....we will survive.....pretty warm summer in 1867,1922,1971.......even if it's true won't matter a hill of beans different if USA taxes the heck out of fossil fuels.....also hate being preached to by hypocrites with multiple 40 room manisons(Al Bore) or dopey Hollywood dingbatswho fly in private jets as often as I drink coffee(Dicraprio) PLEASE.....ps let the fun begin "denier!!!!" "Blasphemy" "9 out of 10 dentists say!!!!" Again yawn

Yeah I don't believe in science either! What did science ever do for us anyways...

That's so funny because I am a scientist.....and I'm ALWAYS forever questioning everything, even things that seem so well established. I never accept anything as 100% except death and taxes. Most "climate change" acceptors that I meet tend to be in liberal arts fields, or playwrights, or barristers at coffee shops.......I am also not denying that "climate changes" ......it certainly does. I'm just saying that imposing taxes on US citizens at rates that are disproportionate to China, India, and others will not do anything except continue to enrich somebody whether redistributed to the Third World or dropped into Al Bore's bank account....not even worth having a discussion about because "it's settled science".....LMAO

I'm not sure the hallmark of science is "always forever questioning everything" so much as a careful methodology for determining facts from speculations.

Like, for example, analyzing the consensus of climate scientists vs. anecdotes attesting to the opinions of "barristers at coffee shops." I'm sure there are many fine barristers there, but I'm not sure they're qualified to weigh in (or make my coffee).

I guess I just read evidence from a more diverse group of scientists and those who try to keep their financial influences and funding out of it. I do think anyone who is that concerned about climate change should not drive a car, fly in a plane, heat a house, use a cellphone, play golf and most of all not use the internet....these a carbon toxins activities.....not to mention fly in private jets(prophet Dicrapio), own enormous mansions(messiah Gore) , and own SUV's(hypocrite Redford) to name but a few of the religious disciples......I must stop I could be arrested for blasphemy....

If you are a scientist (as you say) then you should know that nobody's making money off of climate change except the lobbyists and marketers who conduct their astroturfing campaigns....https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/25/fossil-fuel-firms-are-still-bankrolling-climate-denial-lobby-groups

Perhaps we all should pray to somebody else...Joe Pesci?

Ps Al Gore is the world's first "green billionaire"....got to go....have to shovel snow from my driveway again....

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