SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) How do you go about judging the severity of a Syracuse winter? For most folks they probably just look back at the amount of seasonal snowfall and if it is more than 123”, our normal snowfall for the season, it’s been a bad winter.
However, I think there should be more that goes into ranking our winters.
There’s not just how much snow falls but how long it stays on the ground.
How many days does the snow have a big impact? A day with 3, 6 or certainly 12 inches of snow has a bigger impact that ones with only an inch or two.
What about the cold? How many days does the temperature drop below zero?
Then there is the wind. Winters that are cold and windy with low wind chills are no doubt more harsh than other winters.
A few years ago I took all these factors and put them into an equation to more accurately rank the severity of a Syracuse winter. A Severe Winter Index, if you will. I’ve worked on this Index now for about 10 years and although the ranking is not official it is a way for us here in the Storm Team office to compare one winter to another. Here is the actual formula:
45% x Seasonal snowfall +
Below Zero Days +
Daily 3” plus snowfalls +
59% x Days with at least 1” of snow on the ground –
Mean November – March wind chill = Severe Winter Index
Last winter the Index added up to 109 for us but what actually does that number mean?
The beauty of the Severe Winter Index is if your winter comes out close to 100 it’s likely the winter was pretty average by central New York standards and that is close to where we ended up on the scale last winter. The higher the number gets above 100, the more severe the winter overall while the less severe the winter the farther below 100 you get.
You will find the ranks of the ALL the winters for Syracuse since 1949 (when records started being kept at Hancock Field). Download the file to see the complete list of rankings.