Snow matters, another look

We mentioned yesterday that December was the fifth-warmest on record in Philadelphia, and that a warm start argues against a snowy winter.

It is a compelling argument, looking at the 124 years for which official snow totals are available for Philadelphia.

In the 25 years with the warmest Decembers, the average seasonal snow total is 14.7 inches, or about two-thirds of long-term averages.

In the 25 years with the coldest Decembers, the average is 27.5.

Some of the warm December years were abysmal for snow. They include the all-time loser, 1972-73, when no snow was measured officially in the city, a record that never will be broken.

They also include 2001-2002, when the grand total came in at 4 inches.

We do find two significant exceptions, however, in the winters of 1982-83 and 1913-14.

December 1982 finshed at No. 15 on the warm list, but the warmth was interrupted by a 6.8-inch snowfall on Dec. 12. Two months later, the Feb. 11-12 blizzard deposited 21.3 inches, at the time a record.

As for December 1913, it was No. 13, and, as in December 2011, no snow was measured. However, an 8-incher crowned Valentine's Day, and three substantial snows occurred in March.

The winters of 1982-83 and 1913-14 are No. 17 and 19 on the all-time snow list, respectively.

We also note that the December of the snowiest winter, 2009-10, was memorable for a cosmic snowstorm, but middle of the pack for temperature.

We'll also note that December 1958 was the fifth coldest on record, and the seasonal snow total was a paltry 5 inches.