Despite the brutal April, winter season still classified as 'average'

Image 1 of 3

The Midwest Regional Climate Center produces a scale called the Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index, or AWSSI for short. It is a number based system that can easily depict a brutal winter from a mild one and can directly compare that number from Minneapolis to any other across the country because they all have the same value. It takes into account high and low temperatures, snowfall, snow cover depth, and how long that snow hangs around. The only limitation to this index is that it doesn’t account for the wind chill, which can often times be quite brutal.

This year’s index score for the Twin Cities is 1246 which puts us in about the 42nd percentile for overall miserable winters. While that is technically a slightly more brutal than average winter, it’s still considered to be pretty normal. The average number for the season for the metro is about 1175, so we’re not far off. If it wasn’t for our brutally cold and snowy April, we likely would have finished the season just shy of the mild category, with an overall index around 1000.

To give you some perspective on the scale of these numbers, the average winter season for International falls is 2250, but are already closing in on 2400, making it a “severe” winter for International Falls. That means the average winter for northern Minnesota is roughly double that of the Twin Cities, it terms of this numbered index. Contrast those numbers though with cities like Atlanta and Dallas, which have average numbers of 58 and 45 for the whole season, you can see that this scale really can give you an idea of just how much different our winters can be.

An even better example of this may be Erie, Pennsylvania though. Erie had it’s snowiest winter on record, getting over 200 inches of snow, pushing Erie into the highest category, “extreme”. But Erie’s overall score was 922. The Twin Cities had 1246. So even with 200 inches of snow, Erie cannot surpass the Twin Cities for brutal winters when comparing them directly to each other and not taking into account human perspective. How is this possible? Well, Erie gets plenty of snow, but is rarely all that cold because they are right along one of the Great Lakes, which keeps temperatures mild for winter standards. In fact, they see many days during the winter that are above freezing, and rarely drop into the single digits, let alone below zero. This makes the Twin Cities winters more harsh because we are often times so much colder.