Ninth coldest winter on record at an end

Orlan Love
Published: February 28 2014 | 4:38 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:18 am in

The coldest winter in 35 years is over by meteorologists’ December-through-February definition.

For as much misery as it has inflicted - frozen pipes, potholes, high heating bills, school closures, slick roads and wind chill warnings, among others – some might have wished it had risen higher in the record books than the ninth-coldest winter in the 141 years the state has kept records.

Though it is “over” in one sense – astronomical winter won’t end until the spring equinox on March 20 - its cold and snow will continue well into March, according to State Climatologist Harry Hillaker.

“The first week of March does not look good, and temperatures will remain below normal through the first half of the month,” he said.

The statewide average temperature over the past 90 days has been 14.7 degrees, well below the 22.1-degree normal for the three-month period, according to Hillaker.

In Cedar Rapids, which has recorded its seventh-coldest winter since record keeping began in 1893, the 90-day average has been a slightly warmer 15.8 degrees - also well below the 24.7-degree average that would be normal for the city.

To achieve the state’s ninth-coldest winter, “it took a team effort of all three months, with the 17th-coldest December, the 34th-coldest January and the eighth-coldest February,” Hillaker said Friday, with some recent temperatures from around the state yet to be included in the totals.

“It’s possible we could move up to the sixth-coldest February,” he said.

February’s 12.8-degree statewide average temperature is more than 11 degrees colder than the normal 24-degree average.

Cedar Rapids, which recorded its ninth-coldest February, registered an average February temperature of 14.7 degrees, more than 12 degrees cooler than its normal February average of 26.8 degrees.

In the last century, only three winters have been colder than this one:

  1. 1935-36, 12.3 degrees, second all-time in the 141 years of record keeping
  2. 1978-79, 12.4 degrees, fourth
  3. 1977-78, 14.2 degrees, seventh.

Iowa’s coldest recorded winter, in 1874-75, averaged 11.5 degrees.

With a statewide average of 31.4 inches of snow - more than 5 inches above the normal 25.9 inches - this has also been the 22nd-snowiest winter at this point in the season in 127 years, Hillaker said.

Cedar Rapids has recorded 36.8 inches of snow in the past 90 days, he said.

Almost half of Cedar Rapids’s snow, 16.8 inches, has fallen in February, which, with a 14.6-inch statewide average, ranks as the state’s sixth-snowiest February in 127 years, Hillaker said.

With the exception of two “classic southwest storms,” Iowa’s snow has fallen in an at times seemingly unending succession of fast-moving storms originating in Canada’s Alberta province, he said.

Buchanan County, with 50.8 inches, has been the state’s snowiest county, followed by Clayton (48.9 inches), Black Hawk (48.8 inches), Fayette (47.7 inches) and Butler (47.3 inches), according to Hillaker.

Those county figures include snow that fell in the late fall before the start of meteorological winter, he said.

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