Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Map Shows Last Time All 50 States Had Snow

Boston probably has enough snow for the rest of the country. But the last time all 50 states shared in Massachusetts' snow-covered fortune (or misfortune depending on how you feel about it) was 5 years ago this week. 



The year was 2010. The month was February. Ke$ha was burning up the charts with "TiK ToK" (sorry, the attrocious capitalization hurts our eyes, too). The Winter Olympics kicked off mid-month in Vancouver. And the odds for a whiteout in the U.S. were growing. 

As per usual, every state in the West already had at least some snow on the ground thanks to their high mountain peaks. Ditto for the Appalachian states. Chilly weather — sometimes called winter — also ensured that states in the Midwest were sufficiently snow covered.

With snow covering all the usual suspects, two major storms developed in February, burying the Eastern Seaboard in snow. Snowmageddon and Snoverkill formed a formidable 1-2 punch and by February 11, only one state in the Lower 48 was snowless: Florida. On Feb. 12, chilly weather combined with a storm system coming across the Gulf of Mexico to drop an inch of snow in Jay, Fla., population: 579.

OK, 48 states down. Alaska was, of course, a given to have snow, but what about Hawaii?

As it turns out, Hawaiian snow isn't so rare. A layer of fresh powder falls on the high volcanic summits of Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and Haleakala nearly every year. In some years, you can even ski them. You're probably better off headng to Colorado or Utah for consistent powder, but Hawaiian skiing does come with the perk of a post-ski beach day. 

February of 2010 was looking pretty grim for those Hawaiin summits as there were dry slopes on all three mountains, thanks in part to a moderate El NiƱo, which tends to favor drought conditions across the island chain. But astronomers working at Mauna Kea's observatory undertook a quest to look for snow at the behest of Patrick Marsh, a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma at the time who now works for the Storm Prediction Center. They found a couple patches of snow about the size of a tabletop according to climate.gov. Not exactly shreddable but credible enough to make it a 50-for-50 snow-covered sweep.

Fast forward 5 years and this week has come close to recreating the magic of 2010, with 49 states having at least one patch of snow on the ground as of Friday according to USA Today. The one hold out? That would be Florida.


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