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The 2012–2013 Snow Report: Ignoring the Calendar

The 2012-2013 snow season across the lower 48 states and in Alaska defied the calendar on a number of occasions. Early season snows visited the East, while the Alaskan snowpack was slow to grow. Western snowpack came on strong early in the season but then growth just about ground to a halt. January storms were rather tranquil, yet come spring, the snow season was exceedingly slow in relinquishing its grip over the central United States and Alaska. As reported in Weatherwise each year since 1955, here is a month-by-month summary of noteworthy snow events, totals, and oddities from this past season.

July 2012

The snow season began with the previous winter's snowpack still holding on at Rainier Paradise, Washington, decreasing from 102 inches at the start of the month to a trace on July 29. Crater Lake, Oregon's cover went from 2 inches on July 1 to a trace on July 2. As is often the case, Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost community in the United States, kicked off the snowfall season with 0.2 inches on July 21. No other measurable snowfall was reported in July.

August 2012

No measureable snowfall was reported. Barrow received traces of snow on six days.

September 2012

The summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire, was dusted with 0.4 inch on September 15, as was the northern Great Lakes region on September 21-22. Out West, the season got underway with Lindbergh Lake, Montana, receiving 5.0 inches on September 23 and Climax, Colorado, 2.8 inches on September 26.

The mountains and North Slope of Alaska saw flakes fly in September. Snow fell on 24 days in Barrow, amounting to 0.1 inch or more on 15 of them. Still, the largest daily event was 1.0 inch on September 27, and the monthly total was just 5.8 inches. A late-month storm brought 8.0 inches to Glen Alps on September 28-29. McGrath caught 1.6 inches on September 29, just three days after reaching a 60°F record high.

October 2012

Cold air drained into the northern border states early in the month, bringing accumulations on October 3-6 of 5.0 inches at Petersburg, North Dakota; 8.0 inches in Camp Norris, Minnesota; 8.2 inches in Story, Wyoming; and 8.0 inches at Harrison, Nebraska. The first major Intermountain West snow of the season fell from October 23-25. More than a foot fell in portions of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada; 28 inches accumulated in Liberty, Utah; 18.0 inches fell in Woodruff, Utah; and Denver, Colorado, got into the act with 5.1 inches.

Call it what you wish, Hurricane, Superstorm, or post-tropical cyclone Sandy, but not only did this massive storm devastate portions of the coastal mid-Atlantic with high winds and record storm surges, it also dropped crippling, dense, wet snow over the central Appalachians. Two- to three-foot snows were common at higher elevations from the Great Smokies of Tennessee and North Carolina, through hard-hit West Virginia, to the Laurel Highlands of Southwest Pennsylvania. West Virginia totals included 33.0 inches in Clayton, 31.0 inches at Mount Nebo, 22.9 inches at Beckley, and 10.1 inches at lower-elevation Charleston. Elsewhere, accumulations included 12.5 inches at Beech Mountain, North Carolina; 35.0 inches at Mount Leconte, Tennessee; 10.2 inches at Cumberland, Kentucky; 24.0 inches at Oakland, Maryland; and 13.3 inches at Laurel Summit, Pennsylvania.

By mid-October, a consistent snow cover signaled that winter had settled into the 49th state. King Salmon received 11.1 inches on October 13-14. The first inch of snow of the season fell in Anchorage on October 13 and in Fairbanks on October 15. The most October snow, 25.5 inches, fell at an observing station 40 miles northwest of Haines.

November 2012

A potent nor'easter brought unusually early heavy snow to lower elevations of the northern mid-Atlantic that had only days before been pummeled by Hurricane Sandy. Freehold, New Jersey, just 10 miles from the ravaged North Jersey coastline, received 13.0 inches on November 7-8. Newark, New Jersey, and Bridgewater, Connecticut, set November single-storm records with 6.2 inches and 8.3 inches, respectively. Central Park, New York, with 4.7 inches, experienced its earliest 4.0-inch snowfall, breaking the previous record by two weeks. Islip, New York, on Long Island, received 4.2 inches.

The Intermountain West and High Plains received their second major storm of the season from November 8-11. Impressive lower-elevation totals included Great Falls, Montana, with 15.8 inches; Helena, Montana, 17.0 inches; Salt Lake City, Utah, 15.2 inches; and Crosby, North Dakota, 15.0 inches. To skiers' delight, Utah's Wasatch Mountains caught 45.0 inches at Alta and 27.0 inches in Silver Lake Brighton. A low-pressure system clipped the northern Midwest on November 22-24, bringing 9.0 inches to Isabella, Minnesota. Lake effect squalls plagued the upper Great Lakes from November 23-29, depositing 23.0 inches at Bergland Dam and 16.4 inches in Sault Sainte Marie, each in Michigan.

Most of Alaska experienced a dry and frigid November, except on the North Slope, where above-normal precipitation and temperatures prevailed. Limited snow cover adversely impacted outdoor recreation and failed to provide adequate insulation for buried utilities. Anchorage received 3.2 inches during the month, and Fairbanks 4.2 inches with at best a 7-inch cover. At least a trace of snow fell in Barrow on 27 days and totaled an impressive 14.8 inches. The monthly state maximum snowfall was 44.4 inches at Annex Creek.

December 2012

Milder than average temperatures prevailed throughout most of the lower 48 states during December. The first moderate storm crossed the northern tier from December 7-10. It first deposited an early season record 7.7 inches in Missoula, Montana, on December 7. Farther east, Aberdeen, South Dakota, received 10.8 inches; Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota, 10.6 inches; and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 14.7 inches.

The first hefty totals of the season in the Southwest arrived on December 14-15. In Arizona, Flagstaff received 20.3 inches and Sunrise Mountain 22.0 inches. Ely, Nevada, was hit with 11.0 inches on December 18, and Rangely, Colorado, got 8.5 inches as a storm came out of the southern Rockies and headed from northern Texas to Illinois from December 19-21. Some of the largest totals of this disruptive storm included Goodland, Kansas, with 4.2 inches; Gallatin, Missouri, with 12.0 inches; Marshalltown, Iowa, with 13.0 inches; Gran Meadow, Minnesota, with 10.0 inches; Westford, Wisconsin, with 24.1 inches; and Gaylord, Michigan, with 13.8 inches. The 1.4 inches and 0.2 inches that fell in Rockford and Chicago, Illinois, respectively, on December 20 ended a record measurable snow drought of 290 days (beginning on March 5) at each location. The previous records had been 287 days (1922) in Rockford and 280 days (1994) in Chicago. As the snow flew in the Midwest, the Northwest received its heaviest snow of the early season, with 24.0 inches in Stehekin, Washington, from December 18-20. Meanwhile, Rainier Paradise, Washington, was buried under 54.0 inches just on December 18. For the month, this well-known snowy location received a staggering 230.5 inches, and at one point the snowpack was 138 inches deep.

On Christmas Day, a major storm blanketed the southern Plains into the mid-South. Dekalb, Texas, picked up 6.0 inches; Walters, Oklahoma, 4.0 inches; Perry, Arkansas, 17.5 inches; and West Paducah, Kentucky, 4.6 inches. The 9.0 inches in Little Rock, Arkansas, on December 25 easily bested the previous Christmas record of 4.2 inches in 1926.

During the last week of 2012, attention turned both east and west. From December 27-30, snow totals reached 10.8 inches in Columbus, Ohio; 10.2 inches in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 20.9 inches at Syracuse, New York; 26.0 inches in Burlington, Vermont; 19.3 inches at York Pond, New Hampshire; and 16.7 inches in Rangeley, Maine. In the West, December 20-30 brought over four feet of snow to the Sierra Nevada range, including 60.5 inches at Tahoma and 52.0 inches to Tahoe City, each in California. This amounted to an eight-inch increase in the average water content of the high-elevation snowpack in California, and proved to be 42 percent of the 2012-2013 seasonal total. Elsewhere, December 22-27 saw snow each day in Elko, Nevada, that amounted to 15.8 inches, while Alta and Salt Lake City, Utah, received 23.0 inches and 6.2 inches, respectively, from December 26-28.

Alaska had a generally colder and drier than average December. Snow still fell, of course, with the first eight days of the month seeing 18.1 inches accumulate in Juneau and 25.2 inches at Petersburg. Valdez received 34.7 inches from December 8-12, Anchorage saw a daily record 8.6 inches on the 12, and Fairbanks was clobbered with 18.2 inches between December 9-14. Barrow only received 3.9 inches for the month, with all but 0.2 inch falling during the first six days. Kotzebue in the coastal northwest had just a trace of snow on the ground until December 18. Meanwhile near the south coast, Annex Creek received 74.8 inches in December, and at 62 inches, Main Bay had the deepest cover.

MODIS image from NASA's Aqua satellite on December 19, 2012, showing extensive snowfall covering the Rocky Mountains. On December 20, the National Weather Service reported snow depths exceeding 39 inches in some places in the area.
Caption: MODIS image from NASA's Aqua satellite on December 19, 2012, showing extensive snowfall covering the Rocky Mountains. On December 20, the National Weather Service reported snow depths exceeding 39 inches in some places in the area.

January 2013

Above normal temperatures over the eastern two-thirds of the nation and cold, dry conditions in the Intermountain West resulted in few notable storms impacting the nation during January. Toward the end of the first week, Spokane, Washington, picked up 9.0 inches and Holden Village, Washington, 21.1 inches. January 10-12 saw snow covering the Intermountain West, with 13.0 inches falling in Havre, Montana; 27.0 inches at Shonkin, Montana; 17.0 inches at Grangeville, Idaho; and 42.9 inches at City Creek, Utah. January 17-18 brought enough cold air and moisture together to whiten the ground over portions of the lower Mississippi Valley and southern mid-Atlantic. Snowfalls included 1.7 inches in Jackson, Mississippi; 4.5 inches at West Point, Alabama; 3.5 inches at Bristol, Tennessee; 9.0 inches at Beech Mountain, North Carolina; and 11.0 inches at Trout Dale, Virginia.

Lake effect snows from January 21-26 amounted to 26.2 inches in Muskegon, Michigan; 22.0 inches at Bloomingdale, Michigan; 22.2 inches at Chardon, Ohio; 16.3 inches at Erie, Pennsylvania; and 37.0 inches at Palermo, New York. This was Erie's snowiest January day on record. Widespread snow again visited the Intermountain West and the northern tier as January ended. Salt Lake City, Utah, received a daily record 9.3 inches and Ely, Nevada, 5.1 inches on January 27. Lingering snows brought 22.9 inches to Logan, Utah, from January 28-30, while Aberdeen, South Dakota, saw 7.9 inches on January 28 and Great Falls, Montana, received 5.5 inches on January 29, each a daily record. Rain changed to snow across the Midwest on January 30, with daily snowfall records set in Des Moines, Iowa, with 6.1 inches; Green Bay, Wisconsin, with 8.2 inches; and Marquette, Michigan, with 14.3 inches.

Above average temperatures enveloped Alaska during January, with precipitation above average most everywhere except the North Slope. As a sign of the warmth, Fairbanks received 0.15 inch of rain on January 15-the city's greatest January rainfall in over 50 years. McGrath saw 11.6 inches of wet snow from January 10-13, and Anchorage recorded 8.2 inches on January 16-17. January 12-16 brought Valdez a smothering 44.4 inches, part of its state monthly maximum of 93.5 inches. Main Bay recorded the month's greatest depth at 81 inches.

February 2013

February produced a more active storm pattern than January. Still, the West stayed dry, most often leaving this region out of the wintry equation. The first major storm arrived on February 8-9 in the form of a massive snow-producing nor'easter. Portions of Long Island, New York, and eastern New England were clobbered, with some of the more crippling storm totals including Islip, New York, with 27.8 inches; Bridgeport, Connecticut, with 30.0 inches; Worchester, Massachusetts, with 28.7 inches; North Foster, Rhode Island, with 26.3 inches; Greenville, New Hampshire, with 30.0 inches; and Portland, Maine, with 31.9 inches. Ansonia, Connecticut, was choked with 36.0 inches in a 24-hour period, and that total was a state record. Portland experienced its greatest snowstorm on record, surpassing the 27.1 inches total on January 17-18, 1979. Winds were clocked as high as 76 mph in Boston, Massachusetts, and 63 mph in Providence, Rhode Island.

Next up, a February 9-11 storm brought heavy totals to Lander, Wyoming, which received 15.8 inches; Sisseton, South Dakota, 17.3 inches; Aberdeen, South Dakota, 13.2 inches; and Oakes, North Dakota, 16.0 inches. Further south on the Plains, February 12-13 saw snow accumulate to 8.0 inches in both Dalhart and Conlen, Texas, and 5.0 inches in Laverne, Oklahoma. The upper Midwest and Great Plains took center stage on February 17-21, when International Falls, Minnesota, caught 8.6 inches and lake effect squalls in Michigan dumped 24.8 inches at Herman, 16.5 inches at Tahquamenon Falls, and 8.2 inches in Muskegon. This was part of a February record 53.3 inches in Muskegon, exceeding the previous record of 45.8 inches established in 1981.

The first of two significant storms emerged from the Southwest and headed toward the Great Lakes from February 20-22. Snowfall along the storm's path included Wichita, Kansas, with 14.2 inches; Columbia, Missouri, with 10.2 inches; and Grand Island, Nebraska, with 10.2 inches. The Wichita total was its second-highest single-storm snowfall on record, just 0.8 inches behind a January 17-18, 1962, event. The second storm made its way to the Great Lakes by February 27. Along its path, Amarillo, Texas, was buried under 19.0 inches; Borger, Texas, 16.0 inches; Wichita, Kansas, 7.0 inches; Arnett, Oklahoma, 18.0 inches; Kansas City, Missouri, 11.0 inches; Waterloo, Iowa, 10.4 inches; and Paddock Lake, Wisconsin, 11.0 inches. This double whammy resulted in a record 17-inch snow depth at Amarillo on February 26 and gave Wichita its snowiest month on record with 21.2 inches. This surpassed the previous record of 20.5 inches established in February 1913. With 20.5 inches in both locations, Kansas City and Columbia, Missouri, recorded their second snowiest Februaries on record.

Kuparuk and Barrow on Alaska's North Slope only accumulated 1.0 inch and 2.7 inches, respectively, during February. Snow fell on 12 days in Barrow, although the biggest daily catch was only 0.8 inch. Mild conditions in the southeast resulted in Juneau receiving just 1.4 inches and having the ground snow covered on only two days. Snow fell in Anchorage on 22 days, with 3.1 inches on February 15 being the largest daily total. Fairbanks closely matched this with 17 days of snow falling and a daily 2.1 inches maximum. Main Bay was the big winner in the snow department, with 130.4 inches falling and a maximum cover of 120 inches. Snowfall was an inch or greater on 22 days, with six days exceeding 10 inches.

A powerful winter storm on February 8-9, 2013, left New Englanders digging out from heavy snow. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite captured this natural-color image on February 10, 2013.
Caption: A powerful winter storm on February 8-9, 2013, left New Englanders digging out from heavy snow. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite captured this natural-color image on February 10, 2013.

March 2013

Winter was slow to ease its grip over the eastern two-thirds of the nation. A series of storms deposited moderate to occasionally heavy snow and kept the ground covered over a broad expanse east of the Rockies and north of Interstate 70 late into the month.

The first storm whitened the northern tier from March 6-8 prior to redeveloping off the mid-Atlantic coast. Totals along the storm's path included Rolette, North Dakota, with 20.0 inches; Northome, Minnesota, 11.4 inches; Yorkville, Illinois, 11.7 inches; Fort Wayne, Indiana, 10.4 inches; Davis, West Virginia, 11.1 inches; Charlottesville, Virginia, 15.5 inches; Sines Deep Creek, Maryland, 10.0 inches; Highland Lakes, New Jersey, 11.8 inches; Staffordville, Connecticut, 22.0 inches; and Worcester, Massachusetts, 22.8 inches.

The central Plains and Midwest were blanketed from March 10-12 with Ogallala, Nebraska, receiving 14.0 inches; Mason City, Iowa, 14.3 inches; Rushford, Minnesota, 10.0 inches; Augusta, Wisconsin, 7.0 inches; and Marquette, Michigan, 22.4 inches. From March 17-20, another northern tier storm deposited moderate snows under 10.0 inches before redeveloping off the East Coast and bringing 36.0 inches to Jay Peak, Vermont, and 16.0 inches to Houlton, Maine.

While the astronomical calendar said spring, conditions across the central United States and mid-Atlantic were quite wintery from March 22-26. Some of the more impressive snow totals included Burlington, Colorado, at 17.6 inches; Goodland, Kansas, at 15.0 inches; Saint Louis, Missouri, at 12.8 inches; Springfield, Illinois, at 18.5 inches; Laurel Summit, Pennsylvania, at 14.5 inches; Terra Alta, West Virginia, at 16.0 inches; and Oakland, Maryland, at 11.0 inches. Springfield received 17.0 inches on March 24, breaking its calendar day record of 15.0 inches set on February 28, 1900.

Little was heard from the Sierras following heavy December snows. The water content of the snowpack peaked at 17.0 inches in mid-March. This is 60% of the April 1 average, which is traditionally the date of maximum accumulation. This year the water content was down to 13.0 inches by April 1.

In the 49th state, March 15-16 brought Yakutat 6.4 inches and Juneau 4.0 inches. Valdez received 42.3 inches on March 22-24 and Anchorage 13.1 inches on March 24-25. Barrow experienced its second wettest March in 90 years, which translated into 7.9 inches of snowfall. Main Bay topped the state with 87.3 inches falling during the month and a maximum depth of 148 inches.

Extent of snow cover across the United States on March 25, 2012, and March 25, 2013, showing exceedingly more snow cover on this date in 2012. Areas in white were snow-covered on this date in both years. Those in yellow were snow covered in 2012 but not in 2013. Gray areas were snow-covered in 2013 but not in 2012. Also shown (red line) is the average extent of snow cover on this date for the period 1999-2013. Data are gleaned from NOAA Interactive Multisensor Snow and Ice Mapping System maps.
Caption: Extent of snow cover across the United States on March 25, 2012, and March 25, 2013, showing exceedingly more snow cover on this date in 2012. Areas in white were snow-covered on this date in both years. Those in yellow were snow covered in 2012 but not in 2013. Gray areas were snow-covered in 2013 but not in 2012. Also shown (red line) is the average extent of snow cover on this date for the period 1999-2013. Data are gleaned from NOAA Interactive Multisensor Snow and Ice Mapping System maps.

April 2013

Winter still refused to relinquish its grip across the northern United States. April 1-2 brought 12.0 inches to Syracuse, New York, including the snowiest April calendar day on record with 10.5 inches on April 2. For the remainder of the month, attention focused on the High Plains and upper Midwest. April 8-10 brought record snows to Lander, Wyoming, with 20.6 inches, and Rapid City, South Dakota, with 28.2 inches. The 20.0 inches on April 9 exceeded Rapid City's previous snowiest day on record. Other storm totals included Boulder, Colorado, with 15.5 inches and Harrison, Nebraska, with 32.0 inches. Energy from the Plains system made it to the upper Midwest from April 11-13, resulting in 17.5 inches falling on Ortonville, Minnesota; 13.0 inches in Duluth, Minnesota; and 10.9 inches at Marquette, Michigan.

Yet another storm impacted the region from April 13-15. Bismarck, North Dakota, led the way with 17.7 inches, with all but 0.4 inch of this falling on April 14, making it the snowiest day on record in the capitol city. Big Sky, Montana, received 10.2 inches and Faulkton, South Dakota, 14.5 inches. The final storm of the month, but not the season, visited the Plains and upper Midwest from April 20-23. Cascade, Montana, received 9.5 inches; Tensleep, Wyoming, 11.0 inches; Pactola Dam, South Dakota, 13.3 inches; Goodland, Kansas, 9.2 inches; and Duluth, Minnesota, 9.2 inches.

By month's end, 21.5 inches of snow had been measured in Bismarck, North Dakota, which exceeds the previous monthly record of 18.7 inches in 1984. Rapid City not only exceeded its April record with 39.5 inches, but this also exceeds the previous record for any month. So, too, was the 50.8 inches (736% of normal) a record for any month in Duluth, Minnesota, surpassing the record of 50.1 inches in November 1991.

April was an exceptionally cold month across Alaska. This resulted in some hefty late-season snowfall and kept the ground covered in snow most everywhere. Valdez received 40.1 inches from April 7-9, bringing the snow depth to 84 inches. Yakutat caught a daily-record 10.6 inches on April 16. Juneau even got into the act on April 26 with 4.4 inches, which was the largest late season snowfall in over 100 years of observations. Its 12.0 inches for April was the second snowiest over the past 50 years. At month's end, 18 inches of snow remained on the ground in Fairbanks, the deepest end-of-April cover there since 1937. Even Anchorage still had a three-inch cover on April 30, following 16.0 inches that fell during the month.

May 2013

A remarkable snowstorm impacted the western Midwest from May 1-4, with the major action on May 2. Unprecedented totals of more than a foot occurred in portions of Southeast Minnesota and Northwest Wisconsin, and an inch fell as far south as Dodge City, Kansas, and Springfield, Missouri. Dodge Center, Minnesota, picked up 17.2 inches, exceeding the previous single-storm May record for the state by over five inches. Rochester, Minnesota, received 14.5 inches, and Des Moines, Iowa, 6.9 inches, which was the first time either location had ever received more than 1.2 inches on a day in May. Omaha, Nebraska, came in with 3.1 inches; Lexington, Missouri, 7.0 inches; Britt, Iowa, 11.0 inches; Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 9.3 inches; and Courderay, Wisconsin, 13.0 inches. The last time Missouri had a May storm of this magnitude was on May 2, 1929. The first measureable May snow on record fell in Arkansas, with 0.5 inch in Fayetteville. Lightning accompanied the snow in a number of locations, including Lincoln, Nebraska, where the 2.7-inch fall was the second highest May total on record. This snowy extreme was followed by an extreme of an entirely different sort come mid-month. Lincoln reached 100°F and Sioux City, Iowa, 106°F on May 14-the earliest such seasonal occurrences on record in these communities.

Unseasonable cold air arrived in the Great Lakes region on May 11-13, accompanied by snow in a number of locations. In Michigan, Sault Sainte Marie received 5.9 inches, and Bergland Dam, Michigan, 5.0 inches, while a trace fell on May 13 in a number of upstate New York communities. Yet more snow fell in the Northeast on May 24-26. This included an unofficial 36.0-inch total atop Whiteface Mountain, New York, and 13.2 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively, on the summits of Mount Mansfield, Vermont, and Mount Washington, New Hampshire. The traces at Syracuse and Binghamton, New York, on May 24 were the latest ever observed. Mount Washington had lost its seasonal snow cover on May 19 and Mount Mansfield on May 20 before each briefly was covered again from May 25-29. May 29-31 brought 5.0 inches and 4.0 inches to the Colorado communities of Climax and Winter Park, respectively.

Crater Lake, Oregon, received 6.5 inches during May; however the snow depth was down by months end to an unusually low six inches. To the north, Rainier Paradise, Washington, saw 33.5 inches fall, including 19.0 inches from May 22-24. The snowpack started at 179 inches, decreasing to 134 inches by month's end.

The snow season failed to relinquish its grip on much of Alaska until later in the month. Valdez was blasted with 23.3 inches from May 1-5, with a record-deep May snowpack of 56 inches on May 5. The 32 inches on the ground on May 17 was 20 inches greater than the previous record depth observed on that date in 1964. Snow cover was down to a trace by May 27. May 4-5 brought 26.0-30.0 inches of snow to Mentasta Pass and 30.0 inches near Nabesna. The winter snowpack melted out on May 11 in Fairbanks, which was the second latest date on record.

Anchorage received 0.4 inch on May 17-18, and the west coast communities of Nome and Kotzebue received 7.2 inches and 3.1 inches, respectively, from May 18-21. Nome's May total of 10.8 inches was 0.2 inch short of the May 1937 record. Snow fell at Barrow on 25 days, but with the largest day's total of 0.9 inch on May 7, the monthly total was only 5.4 inches. Barrow snow cover was down to a trace on May 25. Mentasta Lake received the most May snow with 41.0 inches, while Main Bay's snowpack declined from 128 inches on May 1 to 86 inches on May 31.

June 2013

The summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire, was dusted with 0.2 inch on June 4 and 0.4 inch on June 18. Out in the Northwest, Rainier Paradise, Washington, received 0.3 inch on June 12, with the snowpack down to 50 inches by month's end.

In a marked turnaround from earlier in spring, June was quite warm throughout Alaska. This resulted in a rapid loss of remaining snow and little new snowfall. Alpine, on the North Slope, was whitened by 1.0 inch on June 5, while its 18-inch snowpack on June 1 was gone by June 8. Barrow was dusted with 0.2 inch on June 3 and 0.1 inch on June 25, thus making for a 341-day measurable snowfall season. Main Bay did not receive any new snow, and the pack was down to one inch on June 30.

Seasonal Snowfall

Totals for the 2012-2013 snow season are reported for 36 communities across the nation in the accompanying table. Unlike the 2011-2012 season, when all 33 stations in the coterminous United States recorded below-average snowfall, annual departures were split down the middle this season, with 17 stations above average and 16 below. All three Alaskan stations were above average, as much as 166% of normal in Barrow. Of those in the lower 48 that normally accumulate over 50 inches, Portland, Maine, at 159% (+36.2 inches) received the highest percent of average. For the second consecutive year, Buffalo, New York, was on the low end of big snow cities with 62% (−35.9 inches) of average. Of those locations that regularly accumulate 20-50 inches, Rapid City, South Dakota, took top honors with 187% (+35.6 inches) of average, while Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at 37% (−14.1 inches) came in lowest for the second year in a row. Of those normally receiving fewer than 20 inches, Kansas City, Missouri, was most above average at 169% (+12.9 inches), and Washington, D.C., repeated on the low end with 21% (−11.4 inches). The Rapid City, South Dakota, seasonal total of 76.7 inches was the city's third highest, just a few inches behind the record 80.9 inches in the winter of 1985-1986.

Seasonal Snow Cover Extent

The extent of snow cover across the coterminous states got off to a slow start in October, averaging 31% of the nearly half-century average. However, as determined from analyses of satellite-derived maps, snow cover expanded rather quickly come November and remained above average through April. Dating back 47 years, the cover was the 25th most extensive in November. Extent was 108-112% of average from December through February, ranking from the 14th-17th most extensive during these months. March ranked 10th or 133% of average, and April an impressive fifth (176%). Once snow departed the northern Plains and Midwest in early May, the season-long sub-average snowpack in the western mountains was exposed, resulting in a national ranking of second lowest for the month, only 11% of average.

Alaskan snow extent was a bit below average in September and October. The state was mainly blanketed with snow from November through April. This is a common occurrence for the first five of these months, but had only been seen during 11 other Aprils since 1967. May ranked as the 12th most extensive monthly cover, while June ranked as the 12th least extensive.

Annual snowfall totals

Table: Table 1. 2012-2013 snowfall for select United States cities.


Snowfall Total (inches)

Average Snowfall (inches)

Marquette, Michigan



Duluth, Minnesota



Portland, Maine



Anchorage, Alaska



Cheyenne, Wyoming



Burlington, Vermont



Rochester, New York



Rapid City, South Dakota



Salt Lake City, Utah



Fairbanks, Alaska



Minneapolis, Minnesota



Barrow, Alaska



Buffalo, New York



Bismarck, North Dakota



Des Moines, Iowa



Denver, Colorado



Cleveland, Ohio



Detroit, Michigan



Milwaukee, Wisconsin



Spokane, Washington



Sioux Falls, South Dakota



Billings, Montana



Indianapolis, Indiana



Kansas City, Missouri



Chicago, Illinois (O'Hare)



Amarillo, Texas



St. Louis, Missouri



Lincoln, Nebraska



New York City (Central Park)



Charleston, West Virginia



Boise, Idaho



Reno, Nevada



Richmond, Virginia



Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



Washington, D.C. (Reagan)



Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina



Note: Averages are based on the 1981-2010 period.

DAVID A. ROBINSON is a professor in the Department of Geography at Rutgers University and the New Jersey State Climatologist. He would like to thank his colleagues in a number of state climate offices, the National Climatic Data Center, National Weather Service offices, and especially Mathieu Gerbush, Daniel Manzo, and Tom Estilow at Rutgers University for assisting with information gathering.

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