Snowfall Changes Over Time in Illinois

The snowiest winter on record was 1978-79 with a statewide total of 44.5 inches. The winter of 2011-12 had the least amount of snow with a statewide total of 9.2 inches.
While a few stations recorded snowfall in the 1800s, our statewide snowfall records in Illinois began in 1902. There is no long-term trend in the snowfall totals; however, some decades were snowier than others, such as the 1910s, 1960s, and 1970s. In fact, the 1970s were the snowiest decade on record with an average snowfall of 27.2 inches.
Since the 1970s, snowfall amounts dropped steeply with less year to year variability for much of the 1980s and into the early 2000s. However, snowfall amounts in the last six winters have been more variable with the winter of 2013-14 being about as snowy as the late 1970s while the winters of 2011-12 and 2016-17 had the lowest and third lowest snowfall totals, respectively, for the state.

Snowfall is accumulated from July 1 of the first year to June 30 of the second year. The second year is used in the plot and table (for example, 2006 refers to the 2005-2006 season). Illinois State Water Survey, 2018.

Here are the 5 winters with the highest snowfall totals on record for Illinois:

  1. 1978-79 with 44.5 inches
  2. 1977-78 with 44.4 inches
  3. 1911-12 with 39.5 inches
  4. 2013-14 with 39.4 inches
  5. 1959-60 with 38.6 inches

Here are the 5 winters with the lowest snowfall totals on record for Illinois:

  1. 2011-12 with 9.2 inches
  2. 1920-21 with 9.4 inches
  3. 2016-17 with 9.6 inches
  4. 1994-95 with 9.8 inches
  5. 1965-66 with 9.9 inches

Of these 10 winters, I have been around for eight of them. Hey, I’m not that old (yet).

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