It’s official: ‘Misery Index’ confirms this has been one of the worst winters ever

A stranded traveller crosses a parking lot in Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island.

As if we really needed to have it all tallied up to tell us exactly how bad this winter has been so far. But just to make it official, according to the U.S. National Weather Service's new Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index, this has ranked as the worst winter on record for some cities.

The Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index, or AWSSI, gathers all the temperatures, snowfall and snow depth amounts for any given location, and assigns a point value to each daily record — the lower the temperature (mix and min for the day) or higher the snowfall amount and depth, the more points that day adds to the score.

According to, so far this season, Detroit has racked up a score of 970 on the AWSSI, making it the most miserable winter for the city on record, beating out the winter of 1978-79. Also, Detroit's score is the all-time highest value accumulated by a city since 1950-51, according to what Mashable was told by Barbara Mayes Bousted, a meteorologist with the NWS that presented this new index system at the American Meteorological Society conference back in January.

Other cities in the U.S. experiencing one of their top five worst winters this year are Philadelphia, Chicago, Indianapolis and New York. In Altanta, where the season has already delivered one crippling ice storm that shut the city down last month and another one just two weeks later, this winter still only ranks as their 18th worst on record.

[ Related: Thursday's southern Ontario snow squall caused millions in damages, one death ]

Here in Canada, the AWSSI doesn't apply to us (we'd have to be part of the United States for that), but we've been experiencing some records this winter as well.

In Ontario, this is the coldest winter in 20 years for the city of Toronto, and in Windsor it has not only been the coldest in 35 years, but the city has also seen more snowfall than any other year on record.

In the Prairies, it's the coldest winter since 1978-79 for Winnipeg, and the third-coldest winter there in over 100 years. For Saskatoon, which is known for some exceptionally cold weather, so far this the coldest winter since 1995-96.

The U.S. side of the Niagara Falls is pictured in Ontario, January 8, 2014. The frigid air and "polar vortex" that affected about 240 million people in the United States and southern Canada will ... more 
The U.S. side of the Niagara Falls is pictured in Ontario, January 8, 2014. The frigid air and "polar vortex" that affected about 240 million people in the United States and southern Canada will depart during the second half of this week, and a far-reaching January thaw will begin, according to REUTERS/Aaron Harris (CANADA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL) less 
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Wed, 8 Jan, 2014 5:48 PM EST

Out east, it's been 20 years since St. John’s, Nfld., experienced this kind of persistent cold, and they've had a record number of stormy days this season as well. Halifax hasn't seen a winter this bad since 2000-2001.

Even in the West, where typical winter weather is what the rest of us would expect for mid-to-late spring, Vancouver has seen both its coldest temperatures and the greatest amount of snowfall in the past month than they've seen in any February over the past 25 years.

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So, how are things going to be for the rest of the winter? Can we look forward to climbing out of this deep freeze and leaving winter behind soon? Unfortunately, the answer for most of us is going to be probably not.

Just looking ahead at the next few days, as we pass into meteorological spring, some areas of the country are going to see the coldest temperatures they've experienced all winter (or they're going to come very close). Saturday morning in Saskatchewan is going to be extremely cold, as Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw plunge down to around -38 C, with wind chills expected to drop to around -50 or below. To the east and west of there, it's only going to be slightly better, as residents of both Alberta and Manitoba will be enduring temperatures below -30 C.

The weather could certainly surprise us (it's happened before). However, according to Environment Canada's latest three-month seasonal forecast it's not looking good for any kind of early spring, no matter what your local groundhog may have told you. The sad truth is that the winter so far has set us up for a fairly slow climb out of the winter chills. With all the accumulated snow and ice — and it extending much farther south than usual — plenty of the energy from the sun's light will be going into thawing out those regions first, leaving less to go into actually heating up the air to give us more spring-like weather.

As it stands, taking it slowly is probably for the best anyway. With all that snow and ice on the ground turning back to liquid, a slow thaw is preferable to the potential flooding that could result from everything melting all at once.

(Photo courtesy: Canadian Press)

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