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Astonished By Apparent Absence Of Snowfall Data


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I am thoroughly perplexed and seek enlightenment.

In the United States, one can immediately access a great variety of snowfall data. For example, with respect to New York City, you can easily find: 1)Monthly and seasonal totals of snowfall to the tenth of an inch going back to the start of official record-keeping at Central Park in 1869 (that's a chart with about 1700 different numbers, updated monthly), 2)The norms for monthly and seasonal snowfall, based on the previous 30 years, updated every ten years, 3)The ten greatest snowstorms, exact dates and snowfall amounts, 4)the record snowfall for each of the 365 days on the calendar, with year and snowfall amounts to the tenth of an inch (this is different from item 3 since a 'snowstorm' rarely occurs on a single calendar day, but usually bridges two calendar days, and sometimes three). A poorly educated orangutan can access all that with a few clicks, but in addition, with just a little more effort and a bit of ingenuity, you can find detailed official reports about all major (and many minor) snow events, with snowfall amounts from scores of communities in and around the city, plus some interesting anecdotal details, as well as the specific meteorological factors responsible for that particular storm's characteristics.

For all major US cities similar data is available, with regional idiosyncrasies--in Chicago, for example, you can easily get the dates and exact amounts of every snowfall of ten inches or greater-- a very large number!! Substantial information, though not as extensive as in the US, is available from Environment Canada.

But the UK and the rest of the world appear to be a vast wasteland where snowfall data is concerned!! I spent considerable time seeking it, and all I could find were some unofficial diary-like anecdotal references with crude approximations of amounts for vaguely-defined locations and, in some countries, the number of days per month of snow--as useless a piece of information as one could ever conjure up! I made a special effort to ferret out data on the UK, choosing it as a kind of test case since a)there's no language barrier for me, b)it's been not just civilized but science-oriented and number-sensitive since at least Newton (approaching four centuries!), c)it certainly has a history of regular and often significant snowfall, d)many of its cities are extremely vulnerable to the effects of snow (and thus there should be a high level of interest and concern on the part of the citizenry-- and a responsible weather service in a democracy should respond to that), and e)most significantly, in newspaper reports of major snow events there are references like "the greatest snowfall since ----", suggesting that detailed records exist SOMEWHERE. But it appears that every possible weather phenomenon has a plethora of precise, official data concerning it available online except snowfall. In fact, I was practically unable to even find the word 'snow' in official records.

So I have several questions for this large and very well-informed forum. 1)Am I looking in the wrong places for UK data, and if I only click 'here' or 'there' I'll be inundated with precise, official snowfall information comparable to what's available in the US? (If so, I won't even bellyache about converting centimeters to inches!) 2)Since I didn't conduct extensive searches for data regarding the rest of the world, am I correct in concluding that other countries are almost as barren as the UK? 3)If all this is true, how can it possibly be so? In the US, people are more interested in snow ("They're predicting snow??!! Where? When? How much? How big was yesterday's snowfall? Was it a record?") than any other aspect of weather. Here in New York, before, during, and after every major snow event, (and in New York City we get storms of greater than 30 cm. perhaps three times a decade and have had three in excess of 50 cm. since 1996, including one of 68.3 cm.-- and I'm not referring to drifts) many of the local TV stations suspend normal programming and devote obsessive coverage to the storm, complete with all the numbers anyone could wish for, both those concerning the storm at hand and those offering a historical perspective. And in areas where snow is not as common, or is downright rare (the southern US), the interest is perhaps even greater, as is the quantitative information, since the disruption of normal life by even minor storms is enormous--those cities lack the snowplows and salt-spreaders that are ubiquitous in NYC, its cars aren't equipped with snow tires, and its drivers don't know how to cope with snowy roads.

So, are the people of the UK and the rest of the world, however inexplicable it may be to me, vastly less fascinated with the phenomenon than Americans? Is there no demand for easy access to hard numbers? If I lived in Britain would mine be a lone voice, would I be regarded as an obsessive eccentric who should just sit back and watch the pretty flakes fall and not talk about numbers?

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Posted
  • Location: Hayward’s Heath - home, Brighton/East Grinstead - work.
  • Weather Preferences: Snow and storms
  • Location: Hayward’s Heath - home, Brighton/East Grinstead - work.

    I had a 0.5cm 4 years ago that melted within an hour - would that make it onto the US record keeping charts?

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    Posted
  • Location: Derbyshire Peak District 290 mts. Wind speed 340 mts
  • Weather Preferences: Rain/snow, fog, gales and cold in every season
  • Location: Derbyshire Peak District 290 mts. Wind speed 340 mts

    As far as I'm aware there is no comprehensive listing of British Snowfall events comparable to those you describe for places in the U.S.A; myself and TWS (Thundery Wintry Showers ) have discussed this very matter recently both on the forum and in p.ms.

    The Met' Office used to publish The Snow Survey of Great Britain from about the mid 1950s until the early 1990s but even this did not contain the detail you describe. More recently Richard Wild has produced a list of all major British snowfalls since about the 1870s until the present and this has been published, in sections, in various editions of The Journal of Meteorology.

    The basic fact seems to be that, despite the supposed British obsession with the weather, when it comes to actually compiling hard facts and presenting them to the public ,via whatever medium, we lag way behind the U.S.A. This is nowhere more evident than with the daily weather forecasts. In the U.S there are whole channels devoted to the weather and what it's going to do, even on a local basis, whereas in Great Britain the weather forecast is a 30 second filler between a political item and the programme news on Radio 4 and a couple of minutes at best on the T.V.

    Regional forecasts in this country are, by and large, presented by people with no meteorological background ( and in some cases no knowledge ) and the consensus of opinion among t.v channel bosses seems to be' keep it as simple as possible and at all costs steer clear of anything with the slightest whiff of technical'.

    Contrast this with the U.S where forecasters will talk about the upper air charts, dew points, wind sheer etc if it's relevant.

    As regular posters will already know, this is a pet subject of mine and your post highlights the fact that the meteorological information gulf between the two countries is as wide as the water which separates them.

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    Terminal, if I may address you by your 'first name', thanks for your excellent response. May I press you a wee bit for clarification, if you don't mind?

    From what you've said, it seems evident that substantial records have been compiled, although the extent in time and geography, and the degree of precision, are not clear to me. But it does seem likely that for some period of time, probably continuing to the present, accurate measurements (at least to the centimeter, perhaps even more precise) have been made of many, possibly every, snow event beyond a trace in some areas of Britain--and unless the UK has suffered an event comparable to the fabled destruction of the Library at Alexandria that I'm unaware of, those records must still exist. And truly, if they do, even the most extensive compendium (a record of say 150 years for 5 or 10 major cities, nicely distributed geographically)wouldn't take up more than 10 or perhaps 15 pages. Therefore, it would be relatively short work for someone in possession of such a record to make it available online, don't you think? Or failing that, simply the monthly and seasonal norms of 10 large cities in your country, based on the entirety of the record, or the last 30 years, or on some representative sample of years. That would fill all of one-quarter of a page, and could easily be posted right here, in response to my post.

    Terminal, could you elaborate on those Snow Surveys of Great Britain that you mentioned? Exactly what sort of information do they contain?

    I would appeal to anyone reading this who has access to any concrete snowfall data to either provide a link, or simply post it right here. Since, despite my efforts, I have quite literally zero data, even the most minimal contribution by any of you would represent an infinite improvement in my state of knowledge. And you have no idea how much I would appreciate it.

    By the way Terminal, I had to grin at reading your tag line. Beautifully put. But for me, I'm IMpatiently waiting for the return of the Younger Dryas. So, clearly, you have a more virtuous character than I.

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    Posted
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl
  • Weather Preferences: Snow and lots of it or warm and sunny, no mediocre dross
  • Location: Cheddar Valley, 20mtrs asl

    Good morning Christina, welcome to NW.

    You're not alone in your search, I've looked too, also with dismal results. This is the most I've been able to find:

    http://www.napier.eclipse.co.uk/weather/bonacina.html

    http://www.netweather.tv/index.cgi?action=...r;type=winthist

    http://www.booty.org.uk/booty.weather/climate/wxevents.htm

    Hope it helps.

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    Posted
  • Location: Bexley (home), C London (work)
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms
  • Location: Bexley (home), C London (work)

    Maybe it all sheds some light on why when ever it does snow, particularly in England, chaos ensues!

    If there were surveys carried, or made more readily available, various companies and organisations (transport, AHEM!!) would have a slightly better idea about snow, where it falls, when it is most likely to fall - there is a myth that the SE doesn't get much snow relative to other parts of the England - if data was more readily available, many would know places like C and E Kent get proper coverings of snow on a few occasions each winter, as opposed to 'one off' scenarios experienced around London and it's UHI....which would affect train companies which run into EA and also Southeastern railways!

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    Posted
  • Location: Beccles, Suffolk.
  • Weather Preferences: Thunder, snow, heat, sunshine...
  • Location: Beccles, Suffolk.

    Aye, welcome Christina...I think some of us have forgotten what snow even looks like! :D

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    Posted
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire
  • Weather Preferences: Sunshine, convective precipitation, snow, thunderstorms, "episodic" months.
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire

    I have devised my own categorisation of British winter snow events, locating every event that I am aware of, and ranking the events on a scale from 1 to 5 in terms of severity. The events are added together to make a total for a given season, so each season gets a "snowiness" ranking.

    No categorisation is perfect and mine is no exception- the main problems are that some snow events will inevitably be missed out, and it is often difficult to decide whether an event should fall into category 2 or 3 for example.

    My previous version used a combination of Bonacina's analysis (now updated by Dave O'Hara) Trevor Harley's data, the Wetterzentrale archive and various sources by Philip Eden. The updated version, which I aim to release soon, adds the Snow Survey of Great Britain and Richard Wild's analysis to the list of sources used, so should hopefully be far more comprehensive. "Snowiness" totals have been inflated by an average of about 10 since the last update as a result. I've completed the revised versions back to around 1954 but am still yet to update the earlier years. The 1954-2009 results suggest that winter 2008/09 was the snowiest over the UK as a whole since 1995/96, and that 1978/79 was the snowiest winter of that period (1962/63 had more persistent snow cover but less in the way of snow events). The most snowless was 1991/92.

    Once I've finished it I have every intention of uploading it to the forum for anyone who is interested- I may even include it on my website.

    In the meantime if you want data on the distribution of falling and lying snow since 2001 you can get mapped versions of it here:

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/anomacts/

    and long-term averages here:

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/ave.../ukmapavge.html

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    Posted
  • Location: Derbyshire Peak District 290 mts. Wind speed 340 mts
  • Weather Preferences: Rain/snow, fog, gales and cold in every season
  • Location: Derbyshire Peak District 290 mts. Wind speed 340 mts
    Terminal, if I may address you by your 'first name', thanks for your excellent response. May I press you a wee bit for clarification, if you don't mind?

    From what you've said, it seems evident that substantial records have been compiled, although the extent in time and geography, and the degree of precision, are not clear to me. But it does seem likely that for some period of time, probably continuing to the present, accurate measurements (at least to the centimeter, perhaps even more precise) have been made of many, possibly every, snow event beyond a trace in some areas of Britain--and unless the UK has suffered an event comparable to the fabled destruction of the Library at Alexandria that I'm unaware of, those records must still exist. And truly, if they do, even the most extensive compendium (a record of say 150 years for 5 or 10 major cities, nicely distributed geographically)wouldn't take up more than 10 or perhaps 15 pages. Therefore, it would be relatively short work for someone in possession of such a record to make it available online, don't you think? Or failing that, simply the monthly and seasonal norms of 10 large cities in your country, based on the entirety of the record, or the last 30 years, or on some representative sample of years. That would fill all of one-quarter of a page, and could easily be posted right here, in response to my post.

    Terminal, could you elaborate on those Snow Surveys of Great Britain that you mentioned? Exactly what sort of information do they contain?

    Hi Christina. I'm sure the archives of the Met' Office contain the sort of snowfall data you require as they will have the detailed records from every reporting station. Unfortunately this data is not published and you would have to pay to access it, probably quite a tidy sum.

    With regard to the Snow Survey of Great Britain; it provideda table of the number of days with sleet/snow falling and mornings with snow lying for 10 stations scattered across the British Isles, back to 1946/47 and up to the year of publication.

    This was followed by monthly tables from November to April of the winter in question with the depth of snow lying at 0900 for 20 stations, both upland and lowland.

    The third section contained data of days with sleet/snow falling and mornings with snow lying, plus the maximum recorded depth for each month, and the date, from November to May of the winter in question for about 170 stations in Britain.

    Lastly there was a section devoted to the mountainous areas of Britain with the number of mornings with lying snow at various altitudes on different mountains/hills from October to May.

    In addition to this there will no doubt be hundreds of amateur observers, such as myself, who have detailed records of snowfall going back many years but it would be a question of contacting each person individually and with no guarantee that the data would be readily available for uploading onto a p.c.

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    Posted
  • Location: Powys Mid Wales borders.
  • Location: Powys Mid Wales borders.

    Something I most cherish is records of past weather events, but memorys do help :clap: exactly when though is another story :angry: , sadly I don`t have records of the 80`s here :cray: which goes as the best decade as far as I`m concerned of snow and thunderstorms on average I`ve seen ever lived to see to this day.

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    Posted
  • Location: Just north of Cardiff sometimes Llantrisant.
  • Weather Preferences: Winter: Cold & Snow. Summer: Hot and Dry
  • Location: Just north of Cardiff sometimes Llantrisant.

    I think records should be kept for the North and West like Ireland, Wales and Scotland where land and climate is cooler than that of the SE. I has 5 snow storms this year all in the 2 weeks of 1st feb to 14th feb where 40oed inches fell collectively, imbetween the snowstorms alot melted then it built it self up again the average snow fall i toke was around 12inches but i had drifts of nearly 25inches as shown in my sig. Which was the highest amount of snowfall in my lifetime anyway but im only 15 lol but my dad whos 50 hadnt seen snow in the UK like it since the 1980s.

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    First, thank you Pete for that "Aye, welcome Christina"; I appreciate the welcome and I LOVE that "Aye"--it instantly makes this American feel she's in the deeply exotic climes of Scotland. (Laugh in amazement if you will Pete, but to me Scotland is exotic! Deeply!!) As for "I think some of us have forgotten what snow even looks like"-- while you UKers are prostrate with swollen bellies from snow starvation it would be highly insensitive for me to drum my fingers impatiently because my next serving of blizzard caviar has been delayed, but...honestly, the four consecutive seasons ending in 2006 all had 40 inches of snow or more, unprecedented for NYC, and included two mammoth storms, the latter 26.9 inches, a record, so that in the ensuing three winters a storm of a mere six inches has been regarded by me as a personal affront from the weather gods. I know, I know--as my grandmother once said in an entirely different context, "Christina, you're spoiled rotten."

    Harry, you're completely correct--This absence of data, or its inaccessibility, really has a palpable detrimental effect on people's lives because city fathers can't plan rationally for snow. I know in NYC not only do sanitation officials (they're responsible for snow removal) pre-position plows and salt-spreaders based on an intimate knowledge of the highly variegated snow history for each of the hundreds of communities that comprise NYC (remember, some are on the often warm ocean, some many, many miles removed from the sea, some in areas that traditionally get the brunt of the precipitation shield of major "Nor-Easters", etc.) but they also have scores of spotters relaying snow depths in real time so they can deal swiftly with each storm's idiosyncrasies.

    Jethro, though I grasp why you called the results of your search dismal, from my standpoint (having had till now nothing but Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens novels on which to base my sense of British winters!) your links provided a real treasure trove, especially the booty.org one. I had a fine time reading about the "Severe Winters of World War II" curled up in front of my air-conditioner! But yes, we want comprehensive charts and graphs, not just charming anecdotal accounts.

    Thundery Winter Showers (I must be formal, nay, deferential, as Member 10,117 addressing Member 7!), I await your categorization project more impatiently than I do the return of the Younger Dryas (see above)! Please provide a link to your website. In looking at Jethro's links, I saw some of the previous work you alluded to, and so I have an idea of what it is you're doing. One point I wanted to raise was this: I'm someone who has personally been through relatively mild and snowless winters, average ones, and exceptionally brutal ones. The winter of 1996, for example, was one of perpetual snow in NYC; we shattered the existing seasonal snow record (itself a notable outlier) by about 20%, and endured a 20.2 inch blizzard to boot. While of course, I (imagine the most dramatic bold face type for that "I") enjoyed every minute of it, the rest of the city's population, including self-described snow-lovers, were becoming seriously deranged by its relentless savagery. But if you compare the total snowfall to the norm, you would say that the winter was only about three times worse than average. It wasn't. From a subjective standpoint, people suffered some immeasurably large multiple more than they did in an average winter. My point is that, though the depth of snow increases linearly, the real-life impact of depth increases exponentially. Just as 20 inches of snow compared to 2 inches physically impedes you many times more than the ten times greater depth it represents, so a very snowy winter may be only 2 of your categories away from an average winter, but psychologically and emotionally they're not even part of the same multiverse!! I hope your work somehow constantly reminds people of that fact, especially those (probably a majority) who have never personally experienced a truly snowy winter.

    And, Thundery Winter Showers (do you intend the oxymoron of "winter thunder" to suggest you have a contradictory nature, or perhaps one full of the most unexpected surprises?) your links were wonderful. In studying them, I felt I finally had something firm to grasp. And I realized I was wrong in declaring that your weather service had banned the very word 'snow' from its website. It was there. Actually it was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay over there. But still.

    And finally, Terminal. Thank you so much for elaborating on the contents of the Snow Surveys. But when I consider it in conjunction with Thundery Winter Showers' links to the anomaly and actual snow information that your government publishes, I must say I'm not nearly as optimistic as you that "the Archives of the Met Office contain the information that {I'm} looking for", as you put it, available for "probably quite a tidy sum". In fact, I've come to the diametrically opposite conclusion. Here's why: All the information that they have published, in every category not just snowfall, has one thing in common--they are collectable just once daily and/or remotely. Accurate snowfall records of the type I wanted (notice my shift to a sadly resigned past tense) would not only have to be created with a human being on the scene, but on the scene at any hour of the day or night since melting, compacting, and washing away of snow when it turns to rain would render delayed measurement scientifically meaningless. And of course, the observer would also have to go to the site at midnight during a snowstorm to get the information for the calendar day. The snow measurements at the Met Office website and in your Snow Surveys is notable for its requiring the observer to go to the site only once a day, and at a pleasantly convenient 9 AM. Also, the fact that comprehensive snowfall charts (of the type that are omnipresent in the United States and that I described in detail in my original post) have never actually been seen by you or Thundery Winter Showers, two passionate, pro-active, go-getters, tells me that they simply can't exist.

     

     

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    Posted
  • Location: Derbyshire Peak District 290 mts. Wind speed 340 mts
  • Weather Preferences: Rain/snow, fog, gales and cold in every season
  • Location: Derbyshire Peak District 290 mts. Wind speed 340 mts
     

     

    Sadly, Christina, I think you were born too late. The detailed information you ( and I ) long for is, I fear, consigned to the halcyon days of meteorological recording in the Victorian and Edwardian era, at least as far as the British Isles are concerned.

    It is this sort of dedicated and selfless devotion to accurate recording which characterises publications such as the earlier volumes of 'British Rainfall', and which makes those volumes a joy to read.

    As more and more meteorological stations replace human beings with automated systems it is the detail, the subtlety and the nuances of the weather and climate which are lost. Automatic weather stations do have their uses but they will never tell you at what time it thundered and how loud it was, nor how deep the snow was at any given time, or when it melted, or etc etc etc.

    Edit; not sure what happened to the quote from Christina's post but I'm sure you get the gist.

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    Posted
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire
  • Weather Preferences: Sunshine, convective precipitation, snow, thunderstorms, "episodic" months.
  • Location: Lincoln, Lincolnshire

    My categorisation isn't up on the site yet. I hope to have it up on there within 2-3 weeks, no more than a month, but at present I am still yet to update the years prior to 1954.

    I do have weather records for Cleadon which include snow data back to 1993 albeit for just one location. The phasing out of manned stations and converting to automatic weather stations is indeed an issue, resulting in a decline of the reporting of "days of" variables and the like. Although I use an AWS I still record them for Cleadon but often have to rely upon other people's reports and webcam/radar imagery since I am often away from the location. Those are currently up on my website.

    The problem with my Cleadon records is that they are available only on a "once daily" basis, just like many others. I don't have the time or resources to do more than that, sadly.

    Btw for those who are unsure about me calling myself "thundery wintry showers", it's partly due to it combining my favourite weather types (thundery weather, wintry weather and convective/showery type weather, which is implied by the 'thundery' part) and partly due to the fact that on the Tyne & Wear coast I sometimes used to experience "thundery wintry showers", i.e. wintry showers accompanied by thunder.

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