Fact Sheet - Bowling Green's First Winter Storm
David Sander Research Assistant and and Glen Conner
State Climatologist Emeritus for Kentucky
 
In the last seventy years, Bowling Green has seen the first snowflakes of the season fall very early in the winter but sometimes it doesn't come at all.

The snowfall records for Bowling Green from 1932 to 1995 were examined by David Sander, a Research Assistant at the Kentucky Climate Center, to identify the characteristics of the first winter season snowfall. The earliest measurable snowfall in Bowling Green was on 31 October 1993. The amount was only 0.9 inch and the total for that entire winter was 12.9 inches. The latest first snowfall for a winter season came on March 8th of 1957. The snow measured a mere 0.1 inch and was the only snowfall Bowing Green received for the winter of '56-'57. The winter of 1949-1950 was the most unusual year because no measurable snow fell in Bowling Green.

So when exactly is the first snow of the season most likely to occur? The average date of the first winter snow is 23 December. In fact, more "first of the season" snowfalls occur in December than any other month. One-fourth of the earliest measurable snowfalls occurred before 4 December, while one fourth occurred after 10 January. This means that nearly half of the first measurable snows fell in just over a month's time between early December and early January.

The amount of the first snowfall of the winter season is a matter of interest. Seventy five percent of the December snowfalls measured less than 2 inches. Considering the entire record, the amount of the first snowfalls varied from 0.1 to 8 inches. Overall, forty percent of the first snows were less than one inch. Only sixteen percent measured over 3 inches.

The date of the first winter snowfall is not a good predictor of the total snowfall during the following winter. In 1972, the first snow fell in late November but Bowling Green measured only 2.7 inches for the season. A late start on a winter is no indication of a light winter. During the winter of 1947-48 the first snow was not recorded until the middle of January. Even so, the seasonal total was 26 inches, nearly two and a half times the average for Bowling Green. There is an exception to the prediction accuracy. When the first snowfalls occurred in February or March, the seasonal totals were always less than six inches. The reason, of course, is that most of the winter had already passed before the first snow fell.

With no snow at all in 1950-51 and 48 inches in 1959-60, seasonal snowfall totals in Bowling Green have varied significantly as well. The first snowfall of that winter was in late November.

Glen Conner, the State Climatologist for Kentucky said, "Like the rest of Kentucky's weather, there is no book of rules that the winter season follows." Nevertheless, past records can show us the range of variability in our most anticipated weather event of the year.