Natural Hazards

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 101–113 | Cite as

Characteristics of the top ten snowstorms at First-Order Stations in the U.S.

  • Tamara G. HoustonEmail author
  • Stanley A. Changnon
Original Paper


Snowstorms can produce varying degrees of damage depending on the amount and intensity of the snowfall over a given amount of time. Concurrent weather conditions such as freezing rain and high winds often exacerbate the amount of damage received. In order to assess the frequency of potentially damaging conditions during climatologically significant snowstorms, the top ten snowstorms (TTS) at individual First-Order Stations in the eastern two-thirds of the conterminous U.S. were determined, and the hourly weather conditions during each event were analyzed. The results show that TTS have occurred as early as September and as late as June, with January being the peak month of occurrence. Hourly precipitation totals during TTS were 2.3 mm or less 88% of the time. Seven percent of TTS were classified as a blizzard with over half of the blizzards occurring in the West North Central region. The most common concurrent weather condition during a TTS was fog followed by blowing snow. Regionally, heavy snow events in the Northeast had relatively higher precipitation amounts, colder temperatures, higher winds, and more fog and blowing snow than any other region.


Snow Snowstorms Snowfall Concurrent weather conditions 



First-Order Stations


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


National Climatic Data Center


National Weather Service


Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale


Top ten snowstorms


United States


United States dollars



The authors would like to thank Imke Durre and Mike Squires of NCDC and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. Portions of this research were funded by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as part of the Climate Change Enhanced Data Set Project, under Grant No. NA16GP1585 as well as by a grant from the Office of Biological and Environmental Research, U.S. Department of Energy, under Grant No. DE-AI02-96ER62276.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NOAA’s National Climatic Data CenterAshevilleUSA
  2. 2.MahometUSA

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