ASU professor debunks claim of record snowfall
On March 5, a large snowstorm struck Capracotta, Italy, a village about three hours east of Rome. Italian weather web site MeteoWeb reported that 100.8 inches of snowfall had fallen in just 18 hours – an amount that exceeded previous recorded snowfall totals for a 24-hour period.
The report of a new world record appeared in media such as the British news site The Telegraph. The Washington Post, however, got in touch with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Zurich, Switzerland. They in turn contacted Arizona State University’s Randall Cerveny.
Cerveny is a President’s Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at ASU and serves as the WMO’s chief rapporteur of weather and climate extremes. With the support of ASU, he maintains an archive of WMO-verified weather and climate records, as well as coordinating the work of verifying newly-claimed records.
Cerveny said snowfall measurements are very difficult to verify, and that for this reason, the WMO does not currently track snowfall data. In Capracotta, strong winds created huge snowdrifts that didn’t reflect the true depth of snow that fell.
“Even making snowfall measurements too often can affect the total snowfall value, as snow compression is a critical factor in snowfall measurement,” Cerveny explained.
The School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.