Breaking Records: Applying probability to snowfall in Boston

Last Updated: March 4, 2015 (12:30 PM, EST)

The current probability that Boston, Massachusetts will break the 1995-1996 historical record for most snow in one season is 75%.

Problem Framing. Given that Boston has accumulated 105.7 inches of snow as of March 4, what is the chance that the 2014-2015 snow season will break the 1995-1996 historical record (a whopping 107.6 inches!) for most snowfall in one season?

Methods. To match or break the record, Boston would need to accumulate another 1.9 inches or more between March 5, 2015 and the end of April 2015. In order to assess the likelihood of this occurring, monthly snowfall data for Boston, Massachusetts from the Logan Airport weather station were collected. Data were available from 1920 to 2014 (N = 95). The amount of snow that accumulated between March 5 and April 30 for every year between 1920 and 2014 was then calculated using the following expression:
hw1_extracred_formula_3.4.15Note: This expression assumes that the expected snow fall on any given day of March is uniform across the entirety of the month. Because daily snowfall data are not readily available, this assumption allows us to make the calculations necessary to address the question of interest.

Results. Boston accumulated more than 1.9 inches of snow between March 5 and April 30 in 71 of the 95 years (~75%) on record. Thus, the likelihood that Boston will accumulate another 1.9 inches of snow before the end of the 2014-2015 snow season and break the 1995-1996 historical record is ~75%.

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One thought on “Breaking Records: Applying probability to snowfall in Boston

  1. Pingback: Boston breaks seasonal snowfall record! | Mens et Manus

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