Characterizing winter season severity in the Midwest United States, part II: Interannual variability

Dagmar Budikova, Trent W. Ford, Jefferson D. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index (AWSSI) describes the “harshness” of the cold season. This work utilizes AWSSI to explore the interannual teleconnective influences that shaped winter severity between 1951 and 2020 across the Midwest U.S. Annual AWSSI total variability clusters into four distinct geographic areas, each shaped by different teleconnective influences. The regions are closely delineated by the main river basins and include the Ohio (Region 1), upper Mississippi and Missouri (Region 2), central Mississippi and southern Missouri (Region 3), and the Great Lakes (Region 4). Of outmost influence in shaping severe winters across the Midwest have been synoptic flow modifications associated with significant meandering and southern displacement of the Polar jet over the conterminous United States and/or the Midwest that depress near-surface air temperatures and increase the likelihood of snow fall and/or snow depth. These flows are most closely related to the combined influence of the negative (positive) phases of the NAO (PNA and PDO) in Region 1, PNA− in Region 2, NAO− in Region 3, and the negative (positive) phase of the PNA (TNH) across Region 4. Mild winters have been shaped by more zonal flows with the Polar jet positioned north of the Midwest and bringing milder temperatures, less snowfall, and reduced winter severity to the impacted areas. Such modifications have been related to TNH−, PNA+, and NAO+ across Regions 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Mild winters have been shaped by TNH− and to a limited extent NAO+, across Region 4.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3499-3516
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2022


  • U.S. Midwest
  • interannual variability
  • teleconnections
  • winter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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