GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — This winter has been a bit strange. There were three large snow events, but it melted almost immediately. January has been pretty green.
This has led several viewers to ask lately if this is normal. Roger asks, “We’ve seen a lot of snow this year, but almost none of it has stuck around. I feel like it was different when I was a kid. Was it?”
I love this question because it acknowledges that memory is helpful, but it is not always fact. Therefore, it is always good to check to see what records show to confirm or aid our memories.
After accessing the data (huge thanks to Andy Schute for helping us acquire it in spreadsheet form), there were almost 50,000 daily entries to look through.
Instead of trying to figure out how each individual snow stuck around over the last 100 years, we decided to see how many days within a decade had at least one inch of snow on the ground.
- Note the 1940s had patchy data, which made it difficult to use. Meteorologist Sara Flynn helped to compile these decadal findings.
- Note the observation station for Grand Rapids (where detailed weather data is logged and kept) moved locations from the old airport to the current airport on Nov. 24, 1963.
Here are the number of days per decade that had at least 1 inch of snow on the ground for Grand Rapids.
From there, we divided each decade by 10 to see what an average winter would be like. From the 1920s to the 1980s most winters seemed to have 100 days with at least an inch of snow on the ground.
If you grew up in the 20s, 30s, 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s you definitely saw more days with snow on the ground than the people that grew up in the 90s, 2000s, and 2010s.
There is a clear drop in the number of snow-coated days from the decade of the ’80s to the dedade of the ’90s.
- Note: there have been no changes through the years to how “one inch of snow’ on the ground would have been observed or recorded from the 1920s to now.
To summarize, if you were a kid in the ’20s, ’30s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s or ’80s, you saw about 101 days with at least an inch of snow on the ground, if not more. However, if you were a kid in the ’90s, 2000s or 2010s, you only experienced about 82 days.
That’s about two weeks and five days fewer than those that grew up pre-1990s.