Has a Chicago winter ever been rain-free?


Dear Tom,
Many people think of Chicago winters as being very cold and snowy, but it rains here a lot also with milder temperatures. Has there ever been a Chicago winter that had nothing but snow?
William Alther, Chicago
Dear William,
A Chicago winter (December through February) has never been absolutely rain-free, at least in the years of Chicago’s official snowfall records, which began with the winter of 1884-85. No matter how cold a given winter has been, a mild spell (although usually brief) has always shown up to give a little bit of rain. In reality, snow contributes just a fraction of Chicago’s annual 36.89 inches of precipitation. Assuming our average yearly snowfall, 36.3 inches, yields about 3.63 inches of water (which is the usual ten-to-one snow-to-water ratio), then Chicago snowfall contributes only about 9.8 percent of its total annual precipitation.


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