Snow Feature, 2.23

Whether you believe this is the snowiest winter ever in Lincoln or only the second-snowiest, one fact is undeniable: it has snowed a lot.

Depending on what source you use, this has been either the snowiest or second-snowiest winter in Lincoln's history.

The National Weather Service said in a tweet early Friday morning that the 55.5 inches recorded at the Lincoln Airport since the first flakes flew in mid-October is the most ever. However, its records for Lincoln only go back to 1948.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's local weather and climate website, on the other hand, says Lincoln's biggest seasonal snowfall occurred in the winter of 1914-15, when 59.4 inches were recorded. It gets its data from the High Plains Regional Climate Center.

The two distinct records, both listed by reputable organizations, have led to quite a debate as well as some sleuthing.

Suzanne Fortin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Valley, said Friday morning that the organization has decided to look into why its snowfall records for Lincoln only go back 70 years.

She said that the Weather Service has used the Lincoln Airport as its official data-gathering location since 1948. Possible reasons for not having data before that include a change in the data-gathering site or missing data before that point.

Later in the day Friday, the Weather Service said it was sticking with its official total at least for now.

"The official period of record goes back to 1948. There are data before 1948, but those data exist in monthly format, not daily, which is required for the official record," the tweet said.

"Officially, the previous record in Lincoln was 54.3 (inches) set in 1959-60. The 55.5 inches this year is the new record. Unofficially, there may be higher amounts, and we're going to investigate them."

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UNL's data, which dates to 1887, comes from wherever the official data-gathering point was at the time, a location that has moved around the city.

Ken Dewey, a UNL regional climatologist, said in an email that before 1948, weather data was collected at the "Lincoln university weather bureau," ostensibly some site on the UNL campus.

A Facebook page run by an Omaha-area meteorologist said in a post Friday that it believes the UNL snowfall data for the 1914-15 winter season is inaccurate.

The meteorologist researched data from the National Centers for Environmental Information, which showed only 53.6 inches in Lincoln that winter.

"(B)ased on official records from NCEI, the 2018-2019 winter season snowfall total for Lincoln of 55.5 inches is in first place for records dating back to 1903, with an asterisk that we likely had something close in the winter of 1947-1948," a Friday post on the page read.

Dewey, however, said the location referenced in the Facebook post was a nearby farm and not the official UNL location for weather data gathering at the time.

Dewey did his own sleuthing using the same source and said he's confident the UNL data is accurate.

"Mystery solved," Dewey said. "HPRCC data are correct."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.


Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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