National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


The Winter of 2013 to 2014 – Unprecedented or Not


How does this winter so far compare to a “normal” Alabama winter.  Although  there have been some winter storms and several arctic outbreaks, have these really been that  unusual or unprecedented?


Although snowfall is fairly infrequent in Alabama, it does occur to some degree in most winters.  State weather records indicate that most years have at least one winter weather event in which one inch or more of snow occurs somewhere in Alabama.  From 1969 to 1999, there were three winters in which six such events occurred: the winters of 1970, 1971 and 1984.  The only winter during this period that did not have at least one “one inch” snow event was the winter of 1976.


Records also indicate that January tends to be the snowiest month, with the frequency of snow events dropping off dramatically after the middle of February.  However this does not preclude significant snowfalls occurring after mid February, with snowfalls of several inches occurring occasionally even in March.  The benchmark snowstorm for Alabama occurred during the blizzard of March 1993, when well over a foot of snow blanketed some parts of Central and Northeast Alabama, including 13 inches at the Birmingham Airport. Some other years in which March snowfalls occurred include 1984 when 2 inches fell in Birmingham, and 1987 when 5 inches were measured in Birmingham and nearly an inch in Montgomery.


And although extremely rare, a measureable snowfall even occurred once in Central Alabama in early April.  This occurred the night of April 2-3, 1987, when five inches of snow were officially measured at the Birmingham Aiport. 


If one considers meteorological winter to be the months of December, January, and February, then:
  • 2014 was the tenth time since 1895 that Birmingam got 5 or more inches of total snow in the winter months.
  • The last time Birmingham got this much snow in the winter months was 6.6 inches in the winter of 1981-1982*.
  • The record winter snow fall for Birmingham is 12.9 inches, set in 1935-1936*.
  • The 5.0 inches of snow for Birmingham this winter are more than 5 times the "normal" (0.8 inches).

 (* Note: the “Blizzard of 1993” occurred in the month of March, which is considered meteorological spring)

 Finally, some temperature stats for Central Alabama for the current winter season (December, January, and February):

  • In January, Birmingham had 12 days with a low temperature of 20 degrees or lower, and 7 days with a low temperature of 15 degrees or lower, each of which is the most since 1977 (14 days and 8 days, respectively).
  • In January, Montgomery had 9 days with a low temperature of 20 degrees or lower, the most ever recorded in the month of January.
  • Birmingham's average temperature since December 1 (as of February 18) is 42.0 degrees , which currently places it as the 12th coldest.
  • Montgomery's average temperature since December 1 (as of February 18) is 46.2 degrees, which currently places it as the 19th coldest.
  • Birmingham average temperature in January was 36.1 degrees, which was the 5th coldest January on record.
  • Montgomery's average temperature in January was 39.7 degrees, which was the 3rd coldest January on record.