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Snow in the U.S. Hits an 'All-Time Low'

There’s scarcely any powder in the Lower 48 outside of the high mountains.


If you want an indication of how abnormally warm it is in the U.S., look down. Chances are you don’t see any white stuff, because the country is suffering from a major deficit in snow.

In fact, snow cover is the lowest it’s been in modern records for a mid-November, according to NOAA. The agency, which produced the above graphic, writes:

The map on the left shows average snow cover from 1981 to 2010 for the second week of November. (Data: NCEI) The image on the right shows the current amount of snow cover as of November 14, 2016. (Data: National Ice Center) [Ed: On the historical-average map, dark blue is 100 percent snow cover, white is 0.1 percent, and light blue somewhere in between.]

How unusual is this? National snow analyses have been compiled by NOAA's National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center since 2003 and, during that time, never have the first two weeks of November shown such small amounts of snow.

So what’s a snow lover to do? As these maps indicate, if you can’t wait to see what the rest of the winter has in store and need to see some of that white stuff now, you’ll have to visit the high peaks of the Cascade Mountains, the Rockies, and the Sierra.

Here’s another snow-cover map for November 15 that’s nearly devoid of snow:


The situation might change this week as a “significantwinter storm is predicted to hit the Rockies, Great Lakes, and Midwest. But still, if some politician uses the opportunity to make a snowball, or igloo, or something else to mock global warming, don’t forget 2016 will almost certainly go down as the hottest year in known history.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.