Regional Snowfall Index (RSI)
Regional Snowfall Index
RSI map example for snowstorm events.
NOAA's National Climatic Data Center is now producing the Regional Snowfall Index (RSI) for significant snowstorms that impact the eastern two thirds of the U.S. The RSI ranks snowstorm impacts on a scale from 1 to 5, similar to the Fujita scale for tornadoes or the Saffir-Simpson scale for hurricanes. NCDC has analyzed and assigned RSI values to over 500 storms going as far back as 1900. New storms are added operationally. As such, RSI puts the regional impacts of snowstorms into a century-scale historical perspective. The RSI differs from other indices because it includes population. RSI is based on the spatial extent of the storm, the amount of snowfall, and the juxtaposition of these elements with population. The area and population are cumulative values above regional specific thresholds. For example, the thresholds for the Southeast are 2", 5", 10", and 15" of snowfall while the thresholds for the Northeast are 4", 10", 20", and 30" of snowfall. Population information ties the index to societal impacts. Currently, the index uses population based on the 2000 Census. The RSI is an evolution of the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS) which NCDC began producing operationally in 2005. While NESIS was developed for storms that had a major impact in the Northeast, it includes the impact of snow on other regions as well. It can be thought of as a quasi-national index that is calibrated to Northeast snowstorms. By contrast, the RSI is a regional index; a separate index is produced for each of the six NCDC climate regions in the eastern two-thirds of the nation. The indices are calculated in a similar fashion to NESIS, but our experience has led us to propose a change in the methodology. The new indices require region-specific parameters and thresholds for the calculations. For details on how RSI is calculated, see Squires et al. 2011.
Last Modified: 2016-08-19
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