01 March 2010

The End of the Cold?

As much as I enjoy complaining about the weather, and we surely have around these parts this year with all the cold, but what do the numbers say? It's one thing to say (or think) it's bad, but it's another entirely to have the facts to back you up.

I reviewed the high temperatures for each day in December, January, and February for this winter, and the preceding four years, figuring that would be about the limit of my memory. Data is from the National Weather Service and valid for Omaha.

Below is the the average high temperature for these three months by year.

Year Average Temp
2005-2006 39.9°F
2006-2007 34.8°F
2007-2008 30.7°F
2008-2009 34.9°F
2009-2010 26.6°F

Well, that is really telling, 8.5°F below the average of the previous four years, that certainly makes it seem like it's been a cold, hard winter, but wait, check out this graph.

This graph shows the number of days in the range shown, except for the "freezing" column, which shows the number of days above freezing total. The chart data can be found here.

What immediately jumps out at me on the graph is how comparatively few days above freezing we have had this winter. Five winters ago there were 70 days when the temperature got above freezing, this year, only 27. The one day that the temperature was above 50°F was December 1. One of the three days the high was between 40°F and 49°F, one was December 5. Two winters ago was pretty cold, but it was broken up with 16 more days above freezing, and nine more days above 40°F.

Now that I've done my own research, I'm convinced, this winter has sucked colorful metaphors. Whenever possible, do your own research, because in the words of Mark Twain "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please."

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