Snowy December Threatens 72-Year-Old Record

DULUTH, Minn. — The Northland has seen a lot of snow this month, including here in Duluth where we need just 1.3 inches of snow in three days to break December’s record. Our mid-December storm that dropped nearly two feet of snow on several of our communities is what put us within striking distance of the record set in 1950 at 44.3 inches. Because of the geography of the area, different parts of Duluth receive different amounts of snowfall, so it is important when comparing to past years, a standard location is used.

“The official measurement is coming from the official climate site, and so it is a site that has been designated as having the approved openness, approved measurement techniques, we’re held to a specific standard as well. And we have climate sites that are these long term data, so we have records that go all the way back to 1895. So it’s kind of just sticking to a standard,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Ketzel Levens.

Even for the professionals, using technology to measure snowfall would get too complicated because of how varied snow can be. The best way to measure snowfall is to allow the snow to land on a flat surface such as a small board and use a ruler in several locations to get an average.

“Snow observations are one of the few things that are done completely by hand still, because that is actually the most accurate way to measure snowfall,” said Levens.

The weather service tells us that snowfall has actually been increasing in recent decades, so it is possible we get close to records on a more frequent basis in the years to come. We are also told that the snowfall we have received so far does not change the outlook for the remaining winter months which is colder than normal with slightly above normal snowfall.

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