In 1998, a couple of meteorologists at the NWS in Birmingham wrote an article about March snowstorms in Alabama. As you know, we can get snow in March but is there any correlation to increased late season amounts of snow during an El Niño year?
Here is a link to the article: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/bmx/?n=winter_marchsnowstorms
The article written about March snowstorms back in 1998 was during the last very strong El Niño year. Back then they wondered how it affects the likelihood of a late season snowfall event in our state? To answer this question, they looked at what's happened during previous El Niño episodes. Between 1900 and 1997 a total of 27 El Niños have occurred. They consider Birmingham first, since it has the longest period of record. In the Magic City, March/April snowfalls have occurred in 6 of the 27 El Niño years. This frequency (22.2%) exceeds the long- term frequency of 13%, thereby suggesting a slightly increased risk of late season snowfall during El Niño episodes. However, they said to keep in mind that this finding is based on a small, statistically- insignificant sample size, and therefore should be considered inconclusive.
Frequencies of occurrence of late season snows during El Niño:
- Huntsville: 0 snows out of the past 11 El Niños (since 1958); Frequency: 0%
- Birmingham: 6 snows out of the past 27 El Niños (since 1900); Frequency: 22.2%
- Montgomery: 1 snow out of the past 19 El Niños (since 1930); Frequency: 5.2%
After 1998, it wasn't until 2009 that central Alabama saw a significant amounts of snow on March 1. But was it an El Niño year?
Link to that event: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/bmx/?n=winter_03012009
Yes, El Niño was developing early that year and may or may not have played a roll in the late season snowfall.
And now it's 2016, a strong El Niño is present and many of you might be wondering if we will see any snow this winter. There is still a chance sure, but the way the long range data is looking, it won't be a snow that occurs in February.
Notice the date below:
It's still possible we see snow this March but we would need a Gulf low to develop and cold enough air in place for that to happen. ***
Jill Gilardi WBRC First Alert Certified Meteorologist