SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Western Mass News turns our attention to the climate, to see if our winters truly are different from the past.
One of the things Western Mass News hears most is how bad the weather was 'back in the day' and how kids have it easy nowadays.
Is there truth to that? Was the weather worse years ago?
Data for Westover Air Reserve Base dates back to the 1940s.
We graphed the seasonal snowfall numbers to see if there is any sort of trend we can find.
For extremes, Springfield only got 16.1" of snow in 1979-1980. Compare that to the record amount of 107.7" for winter 1995-1996.
There has been a very slight decline in snowfall in more recent years. The red line shows the 10-year average ebbing and flowing, but generally speaking, it's stayed the same over the last 75 years.
So the snowfall doesn't show any big changes from then to now, but what about temperatures?
We analyzed temperature data for November through February and sorted record high temperatures and record low temperatures by decade.
If there was a tie, like the same record temperature in two different years, both years got tallied. The results are pretty interesting.
When it comes to our coldest decade, the 1960s' takes the cake with 37 record low temperatures.
On the flip side, the 1990s' have 30 record high temperatures and combining the record highs and records lows show our current decade that the 2010s' taking the crown for the most extreme decade.
This is just one data point for Springfield and it may not be indicative of southern New England, so let's take a trip out east to the blue hill observatory.
At other reporting sites, instruments have changed or locations have moved, but that's not the case for Blue Hill. Program Director Don McCasland at Blue Hill Observatory said they have many books with exact measurements from every single day for the last 135 years.
And in the suburbs of Boston, it gives a great glimpse into the climate for eastern Mass.
"One of the things that happened in the 1960s, which is one of the decades that people remember a lot of snow. The snow didn't melt as frequently. The snow stayed on the ground more so one storm would accumulate on top of the other. we've seen both extremes much more mild winters, which matches what people were saying that winters used to be bad when I was a kid. That is likely true. But then we can show them a winter of 2015 and we can say, look at how much snow we got," McCasland said.
This fits into the current climate change research that our recent extremes are getting more extreme. Cold shots are colder and mild spells are warmer.
So why do our memories make us think it was so much worse growing up? Let's do creative 'memory' visuals like wavy/dream-like video.
Western Mass News spoke with Matt Brubaker is an associate professor and director of the undergrad psychology program at Springfield College.
"They think our memories act as a video camera where they are kinda recording our daily lives and when we recall memories that we are simply replaying that video," Brubaker explained.
And that just isn't the case. Brubaker points to a theory called the Reminiscence Bump, where enhanced recollection of memories occurs for events during our formative years.
"As we get older, we tend to hold onto memories from our childhood and our adolescence. Much more than when we hit our 20s, 30s and so on. There is a lot of milestone being hit at that time. By the time we get to the 20s, 30s, 40s...who cares. We want to forget how old we are," Brubaker explained.
So before you stop and say winters were so bad back in the day...
"Maybe that was the case, but how do you know for sure unless you check that out. Because if you're just relying on your intuitions and own memories, research is pretty clear that we need more than that," Brubaker noted.