Historical Weather Data

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How bad was the weather? If you ask me, it gets worse every time I tell the story. Fortunately, we don't have to take my word for it— NOAA (That's the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) maintains a searchable database of past climate and weather data. Recently, we worked on a couple of construction litigation cases involving, at least in part, the abnormal amount of snow, rain, and freezing temperatures that hit the Northwest in the winter of 2016-2017. (If you were in Portland that winter, perhaps you remember the city grinding to a halt for a week as the snow melted and refroze into sheets of ice...)

For each case, we plotted this data on a timeline as a visual indication of the weather: How much snow was on the ground, when did major rainfall occur, or how much did temperatures differ from average. This gives us a digestible and factual context for descriptions of work and conditions on the job sites in question.

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In one case, the pace of work was affected by snow lingering on the ground, and the limited daylight hours in December.

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The snowfall was particularly disruptive—and particularly unusual, a comparison aided by this visual representation of snow accumulation over the previous several years.

In a separate, but similar case, work was affected by several weather events in the winter of 2016-17: A few days of cold conditions, a week of snow*, and a week of torrential rain. We created a timeline to help viewers recognize these events in the data and compare actual conditions with historic averages.

*If you're from the East Coast or Midwest, please understand, a few inches of snow is a really big deal here in the NW!


Joel Newman is a Senior Designer at Fat Pencil Studio