Snow in October. Does that mean we’re in for a rough winter? Not necessarily, says Skilling


It snowed again in the Chicago area this morning for the second day in a row. It didn’t accumulate but it reminds us the move deeper and deeper into the autumn season continues.

The first flakes have actually appeared about on schedule if we’re to look at Chicago weather history. I asked one of my amazing WGN climate stat analysts Rich Koeneman if he’d conduct a sweep of the records and see how often snowflakes have flown here by October 27. Richard tells me, surveying the 135 years of snow data we have here in Chicago dating back to 1885, that a trace or more of snow has fallen 59 of those 135 years. That yields a climatological probability of at least flurries occurring by now (October 27) of 44%.

Nationally, the stats are quite interesting. The National Weather Service reports 34.5% of the country sits under a cover of snow this morning–up from the 26.7% of the Lower 48 yesterday.

Compare current Lower 48 snow cover to the same time a year ago, when it came in at 6.3% of the continental U.S., and you realize our current national snow pack amounts to 548%, or nearly 5 and one half times the snow on the ground a year ago.

The next question is—does this mean we’re headed for a rough winter? Not necessarily. In fact, it’s been my experience that seasons which come on strong early on often seem to back off as time goes on – not always, but enough that it’s worth considering.

And interestingly, the November outlook and the 3-month November through January temp outlook out of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center each have temps trending above normal overall here and over a huge swath of the country. And just because there a broad snow cover now doesn’t mean it can’t retreat or at least shrink in coverage in coming weeks.

Does that mean there won’t be cold outbreaks or snowstorms through the remainder of fall 2020 and going into the opening two months of winter? Not on your life. But it does caution not to automatically assume because we’re chilly now that a similar pattern will hold without interruption going forward.

See where our weather here actually goes from here is one of the things that makes following our weather unceasingly fascinating!

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