You might have forgotten already, but the Winter of 2016-2017 was a warm and record-breaking low and no-snow season. Chicago’s latest official snow cover in 2016-2017 was on Christmas Day in 2016 when 2 inches covered the ground. Then for the rest of the Winter season, only 0.6 inch of snow fell in January 2017. Then only a trace of snow fell in February.
In the city’s 133 winters of record since the 1884-85 season, there has never been a January and February without a snow cover, and January 2017’s 0.6 inch doesn’t count if snow cover is officially defined as 1.0 or more inch of snow.
First let’s look at Winter snow start dates for Chicago …
The normal first date of snow measured as a trace or more is October 30.
The normal first date of snow measured 0.1 inch or more is November 17.
The normal first date of snow measured 1.0 inch or more is December 7.
The earliest first snows measured as trace or more have occurred on September 25 in 1942 and 1948.
The earliest first snow measured 0.1 or more occurred on October 12 in 2006.
The earlier first snow measured 1.0 inch or more occurred on October 19, 2018.
You might wonder whether late snow starts correlate with low snow seasons. So far in the 133-year history of records, there is no correlation with late starts and record low snow seasons. These late start dates don’t match with Chicago’s least snowiest seasons, which have occurred in 2017, 1998, 1987, 1931, and 1922 by a variety of analyses of weather records going back to the 1884-85 season.
In 2017 the January and February total for snow measured only 0.6 inch, and all of the 0.6 inch of snow fell in January. The previous low snow totals for January and February combined were 2.5 inches in 1931 and 2.9 inches in 1922.
February 2017 was only the third February in Chicago meteorological history with just a trace of snow, along with February 1998 and February 1987.
Going back to 1884, only six winter months in history (defined December, January, February) have recorded just a trace of snow: December 2014, December 1912, December 1889, February 2017, February 1998, and February 1986
So far Chicago has never had a trace total for January. The least snow ever recorded in a January in Chicago was 0.2 inches in 1928.
Connected to the record low snow February records are record high temperatures. February 16, 1998 holds the record high minimum of 39°F. February 2017 holds four record high temperatures: February 17 (67°F), February 18 (70°F), February 19 (69°F), and February 20 (70°F). February 2017 also produced two Record High Minimums on February 21 (49°F) and February 28 (47°F).
Through February 28 in 2017, Chicago experienced a record 73 days without at least one inch of snow falling on a calendar day during meteorological winter. Establishing the 2016-2017 snow drought, the latest occurrence of significant snowfall was 1.7 inches on December 17, 2016. In a Winter season, the previous snow drought record was 66 days set in the winter of 1921-22, lasting from December 25, 1921 to February 28, 1922.
In 2017, Chicago at the city’s official weather station at O’Hare, there was also a record set for lack of snow cover — defined as one inch of more of snow on the ground, according to WGN.
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For anyone up prior to sunrise in north central IL, if looking outside you may see the precipitation as…snow! Non-accumulating though! With cooling temps in NC IL, some of the rain will probably mix with or change to snow based on upstream observations in IA as of 1 a.m. #ilwx pic.twitter.com/ZM1vRv0g4K
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) October 15, 2018
Two more of the photos shared with us of the first snow of the season. In the 1st photo from Odell IL taken by Doug Campbell, you can see that the snow came down hard enough there to briefly accumulate in the grass. Thanks to everyone who tweeted us reports & photos! #ilwx pic.twitter.com/Qafgairh4E
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) October 12, 2018
Expect periods of rain, snow and graupel and reduced visibility. This activity will move south to cover most of the area through mid-afternoon. pic.twitter.com/EH5HVQex5G
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) October 20, 2018
Snow squalls with high winds briefly up to 50-60 mph & brief poor visibility are quickly shifting south into central IL & S of Kankakee River in IN. A quick round of wind driven showers near Lake MI in NW IN. Elsewhere, strong winds will gradually diminish thru 6pm. #ilwx #inwx pic.twitter.com/oYKG6LppC0
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) October 20, 2018