SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The winter of 2022/2023 was terrible; that is beyond dispute for most reasonable people. But just how ‘bad’ was it actually?
KELOLAND’s Brian Karstens breaks it down.
“When we hear the question, “how bad will the winter be”, we first have to define the word bad,” explains Karstens. “Maybe we’ll say harsh, intense, or severe.”
At issue is the idea that no two winters are quite the same. Some have more snow, some are colder, some are windy — which is worse though? How do we compare?
“The accumulated winter season severity index is one way to measure how any particular winter compares to others,” said Karstens. “This index awards points according to the intensity of the cold, the number of days it snows and how much it snows on each day of the winter season. It also considers the snow depth and how long that snow lingers on the ground.”
Karstens says that considering all these factors, winters can then be placed into categories of mild, moderate, average, severe, and extreme.
Last winter, Sioux Falls was firmly in the ‘extreme’ category.
One factor that can play a major role, according to Karstens, are winter storms in last half of December and the first half of January. “It is very difficult to melt huge quantities of snow at that time of year due to the low sun angle and the climatic lowest expected temperatures of the year. It gives the snow a chance to linger longer and deeper and tends to strengthen all those factors that contribute to a long winter,” he said.
Something this index lacks, however, is a consideration of wind and wind chill, “which arguably makes a big difference in how it feels outside and how much the snow blows into piles and drifts,” said Karstens.