NOTEBOOK: New Winter Tool

Purdue’s online interactive “toolbox” answers snowfighters’ questions about snowfall totals in their markets.

Midwestern Regional Climate Center (MRCC)
Suppose you’re seeking additional snowfall and winter weather data about your markets. In that case, you’ll want to check out Purdue University’s Midwestern Regional Climate Center (MRCC) new online interactive Snowfall Climatology Toolbox.

This easy-to-use online tool (CLICK HERE to check it out) offers visually appealing data on annual snowfall, monthly snowfall, number of snow days, first and last snow dates, and record one-day snowfall for the entire United States. Data is updated once a year to reflect the previous snow season’s totals.

Common snow pro questions, such as “What’s our snowiest month?” “What’s the earliest snowfall we’ve ever had on record?” “How many times a year do we get a 2-inch or 4-inch snow?” “How much snow do we get for the whole season?” Or, “How much should we get in a single month?” are easy to answer with the toolbox, says MRCC director Beth Hall.

“We tested the toolbox with some of our National Weather Service and state climate partners,” Hall says. “Then we improved and updated it with new visualizations and software that provide a streamlined site for accessing this snowfall data in an appealing way."

The toolbox contains climate “normal” statistics for the most recent 30-year period, with updates every decade. The current climate “normals” period spans 1991 to 2020, replacing 1981 to 2010. The annual snowfall year runs from July to June because the typical snowfall season falls in two calendar years.

Since snowfall can be challenging or inconsistent to measure,  the MRCC applies stringent missing-data filters to ensure users have access to the best available information.

“We combed through all of this data to make sure that these are high-quality, long-term data stations,” says MRCC associate director Melissa Widhalm. ”When you look at an average or a record, you can feel confident that it’s capturing reality, that it didn’t miss a major event,” she said.

MRCC’s climatologists have ongoing plans for the toolbox, including adding more snow statistics when version two is released later this winter or next snow season.

Mike Zawacki is the editor of Snow Magazine.