It’s Been Three Years Since Charlotte’s Last One-Inch Snowfall. Expect That Streak To Continue.


Days Since Last Snow

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s no secret that it’s been abnormally dry around the Carolinas recently. Severe drought has returned to the Charlotte Metro for the first time since 2015. The Queen City is currently sitting at a half-foot below normal in terms of yearly rainfall-to-date. While the recent rain this Wednesday morning has helped out with the drought a bit, there’s an even more impressive dry streak still on the table.

Snowfall Comparison

Actual snowfall (green) vs. average expected snowfall (brown) over the past three years, via climate.gov.

Snowfall in the Charlotte area has been a luxury over the past decade — putting it mildly. In fact, it’s been three years since Charlotte’s last one-inch snowfall. That’s 1,095 days, or quite literally, once in a blue moon (which also happens roughly every three years). In those three years since the 2.7″ we received on December 8-9, 2018, we’ve only added a measly nine-tenths of one inch to our totals. An average three-year span in the Queen City spits out around 10.5″ of the white stuff, meaning we haven’t even received 10% of what we’re normally due.

Warmest Years

So, just how impressive is this snow dearth? While there have certainly been longer streaks without one inch of snowfall in one day, our current run is good enough for the fifth-longest in Charlotte’s recorded history. If our active streak survives the winter, it almost assuredly will become the second-longest on record. A 2,231-day run stretching over six years from January 7, 1946, to February 25, 1952, remains the titleholder — for now.

Snow Prospects Aren’t Looking Good

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To make matters worse, weather conditions for the remainder of December do not look conducive for Piedmont snow. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC),  above-average temperatures are expected for the Carolinas — and much of the country — for the week ahead. While this forecast doesn’t mean every day over the next week will be warm, it certainly puts a damper on our snow prospects for the time being.

A Sign of an Alarming Trend?

Snowfall Figure1 2016 0

Snowfall trend from 1930-2007 via epa.gov.

If you’ve felt like it’s been snowing less often over the years, you’d be correct. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that areas in the western half of the Carolinas have seen their snowfall rates decrease at a rate of over 1% per year since 1930. While that may not seem like a lot, that puts the Carolinas on top of the leaderboard with the Pacific Northwest for the greatest decreases in the nation. With our climate continuing to warm, our ability to break out of these snow droughts becomes weaker by the year. Since 1990, Charlotte averages 3.5″ of snow per year. Back in the 1940s, Charlotte totaled upwards of 6″ of snow per year.

Of course, it only takes one snowstorm to put a season above normal. While winter-weather-lovers shouldn’t hold their collective breaths, we’ll stay vigilant as the winter months draw near.





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