Perhaps surprisingly, the “meteorological winter” that ended on Feb. 28 barely made the top 50 in the 140-year period of record for temperature. After two very mild winters, it probably felt colder.
But we maintain that this season – in reality, not yet over -- remains a strong contender for the worst on record.
Ranking winters is a subjective exercise, given that the data can only suggest what people had to put up with, which is what really matters.
Storm gurus Louis Uccellini, who now runs the National Weather Service, and Paul Kocin, who works there, have put together a scale that ranks Northeast winter-storm impacts primarily based on the total population affected.
The fact that three of the top 32 storms on the list affected the Philadelphia region in the winter of 2009-10 should make that season a strong candidate for No. 1.
We suspect, however, that if someone worked up “disruption index,” around here this one and the winters of 1993-94 and 1995-96 would finish ahead of 2009-10.
The index would consider such questions as: Did it hit on a weekday; did it ambush peak commuting periods; was it well-forecast; did it hit at a time when people simply weren’t used to driving in winter weather?
In ’95-’96, the second-snowiest in the period of record, the first snowfall arrived Thanksgiving weekend, a record 30.7 inches fell on Jan. 7-8, and measureable snow was recorded in April.
Working against its claims to No. 1: The megastorm hit on a Sunday, and the entire white mass disappeared in a rapid warm-up a few weeks later.
We’ll give the edge to this season, No. 3 for snow at 62.9 inches, just 2.6 away from 1995-96, and ahead of that winter for days on which an inch or more of snow has fallen.
Anyone who was around here back then can make a case for 1993-94, the last winter with below-zero temperatures and the year of the endless ice.
Unfortunately, the National Climate Data Center doesn’t have an ice scorecard, so we don’t know where that winter ranks in terms of ice accumulation. Take the survivors at their words: It was horrible.
Yet that one was middle-of-the-pack for snow, and for temperature, very close to this one.
For the meteorological winter, 1993-94 finished at 33.0; 2013-14, 33.1
In two other indicators, this winter had the edge. On 22 days from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28, the official temperature failed to hit 32 in Philadelphia this season, compared with 19 in ’93-94.
On 71 days this season, the official low reached at least 32, compared with 65 back then.
The hard data aside, the storms this winter have been especially disruptive because their timing has been terrible.
Even Monday’s snowfall, pretty much a bust west of the Delaware River, claimed yet more rush hour and, for hundreds of thousands of youngsters, yet one more school day.
We would stop short of calling this one the clear winner, but it still has time to argue its case.