Historical perspective on this winter’s lack of snow

Fresh snow
Fresh snow(Terri Russell)
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 8:31 PM EST
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WNEM) -There is no secret that snowfall has been hard to come by during the winter season thus far. You know things are tough when Zehnder’s Snowfest cancels their world class carving competition!

While slow starts to winter season snowfall haven’t exactly been unheard of lately, usually we start to see signs of correction during the month of January, even if it’s closer to the end of the month. But this year, we’re looking at temperatures remaining mostly above average going into the last full week of January. Lower to middle 30s don’t completely ruin our snowfall accumulation potential, but our problem this year has been the long stretch of above-average warmth, keeping our ground temperatures mostly above freezing, too.

So is this year really near the top when it comes to our least snowy winters of all time? We took a look!

The information that we looked at for snowfall is for the meteorological season up to this point, which is December 1st through January 18th.

The Numbers Confirm We’re Running Very Low Historically

Looking at the three climate reporting stations in the TV5 viewing area (Flint, Saginaw, and Houghton Lake) it was quickly apparent not only are we in a below-average year compared to our usual pace, we are historically in the top 25% of least snowy winters through January 18th.

Saginaw is the closest to the top, with the 8th least snowy stretch through January 18th (5.5″). While the 8th ranking may not seem all that significant, when you’re talking about over 100 years, it’s up there. If that isn’t impressive, 93% of winters on record have had a better pace through this point in the season. Saginaw’s average through the 18th is 25.2″.

In Flint, we’re at the 23rd spot (9.5″), with a sizeable 78% of winters having more snowfall than 2022-2023 up to this point. The average in Flint at this point in the season is around 21.5″ of snow.

Lastly, Houghton Lake takes the 22nd spot (13.6″). In Houghton Lake, 80% of winters on record have had more snowfall up to this point. The average for Houghton Lake at this point in the season is 31.5″ of snow.

Other Interesting Snowfall Numbers

The first thing that was surprising, we actually had a slower pace at all three stations in 2019. That year was actually the 3rd least-snowy in Saginaw during that time. It was also top ten at the 9th spot in Flint.

All three stations recorded a signifcantly quiet start to the winter snowfall season in 1944. Both Saginaw and Flint had 1944 at the top of the list, and both stations had less than 1″ of snow from December 1st through January 18th during that year. 1944 is 3rd on Houghton Lake’s list, with only 3.2″.

Surprisingly, all three stations shared the same year with the highest amount of snowfall through this point in the season back in 2009. Saginaw recorded 50.1″ of snow during this stretch 13 years ago, with Flint not far behind at 42.4″. Houghton Lake, not surprisingly, beat both locations with a total of 60.4″.

Bottom line, it’s not the worst we’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely near the top when you consider the amount of years on record. Hopefully for those wanting snow and even just cold for things like ice fishing, we can turn it around soon.