Snowfall in Tallahassee

Most people don't think of snow when they think of Florida. However, newcomers to the area, especially those that hail from the northern climes, may be surprised to learn that it has snowed in Florida many times. In Tallahassee, measurable snow has not fallen since 1989, so we are overdue. Several winters ago, NWS Tallahassee Climate Focal Point, Tim Barry, responded to an inquiry from a reporter for Florida State Universtiy's FS View & Florida Flambeau, concerning snow climatology in Tallahassee. The Q & A is included below. Additional local research on conditions that favor snowfall in Tallahassee can be found at the following link:

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/images/tae/pdf/research/NWS Significant Snowfall Event in Tallahassee.pdf

Question In ten years intervals, how many times has it snowed?

Answer

Decade All Occurrences
(trace or more)
Measurable
Snowfalls
1891-1900 3 2
1901-1910 0 0
1911-1920 3 0
1921-1930 0 0
1931-1940 0 0
1941-1950 1 0
1951-1960 8 3
1961-1970 4 0
1971-1980 6 1
1981-1990 3 1
1991-2000 3 0
2001-2010 2 0
Totals 33 7

 

Question How frequently does Tallahassee see snowfall?

Answer From the information provided in the 1st question, we see that it snowed 32 times in Tallahassee since 1891. Please note that all but 7 of these occurrences were only Trace amounts. If we were to divide the period of record (117 years) by 32 we would get a frequency of once every 3.66 years. But as you can see from above, the more frequent occurrences of snow in the 50's ,60's and 70's have skewed the results. The return period for measurable snow is just once every 17 years.

 

Question What does it take to see snow in Tallahassee?

Answer The best synoptic set up for seeing snow in Tallahassee is to have a cold airmass in place over the region and have a weak low pressure system develop over or move eastward across the northeast Gulf of Mexico. If the system is too strong, the southerly flow would push a warm front northward and we would end up in the warm sector (not good). Also, just to have cold air in place at the surface is not good enough. The depth (thickness) of this cold air is critical. If it is not thick enough, we could end up getting a cold rain, sleet, or if the surface temperature is 32 degrees F or below, freezing rain.

 

Question Is it a freak occurrence or more probable?

Answer I would not say freak, but for all weather parameters to come together as mentioned in the above question, it is not very probable.

We dont need a gulf low to get snow in Tallahassee, but that is our best scenario. A strong cold front can bring a chance for snow but there has to be some lingering moisture when the cold air arrives. Most of the time, by the time the cold temperatures arrive that would support the frozen precipitation, the moisture is long gone.

 

Question What's the most snow this town has seen and when?

Answer The most snow recorded in a 24-hour period was 2.8" from February 12th - 13th, 1958 .

 

Question What are the chances of snow this winter? why?

Answer The National Weather Service does not forecast seasonal chances for snow.

 

Question If you have witnessed snow in Tallahassee, any interesting stories?

Answer The last measurable snowfall in Tallahassee was 1" on December 22-23, 1989. I was not in Tallahassee at the time but this must have been very exciting for residents to have experienced a white Christmas.

 

Question Any interesting or exciting facts about Tallahassee winters?

Answer Northerners like myself, who move to Tallahassee may be surprised to learn that it does get cold here during the winters. There is a significant difference between the climate of north Florida and the southern portions of the peninsula. On average, we experience 35 days with minimum temperatures at or below freezing with most of these occurring from December through March. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Tallahassee was -2 F on February 13th 1899. More recently, we dipped down to 6 degrees F on January 21st, 1985.

 

Question Have the schools ever closed because of snow?

Answer Yes. The decision to keep schools opened or closed has to be made in most cases before the events even start. Therefore, just the mere threat of snow has prompted the local school authorities to close schools in the past. Fortunately, when we had our last measurable snow of 1", schools were closed for the Christmas break.

 


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