Community Ombudsman: Warmer January not that unusualWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
When dreams of a White Christmas stayed green, the resolution was for New Year’s snow. When that didn’t happen, teachers and students convinced themselves that a few snow days had to be in the forecast by mid-month. Doesn’t it always snow in January?
But when a mere 1.7 inches arrived, it wasn’t quite enough to go sledding, build a snowman or even get a school delay.
So why isn’t it snowing?
“You and everyone else want to know,” said Jeff Weber, an atmospheric scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.
“It is abnormal, but it is not unprecedented. We have had warm, dry winters in the past and we will have warm, dry winters in the future.”
Even so, Weber said it has been a strange year for the lower 48 states. First, it is a La Nina year with a colder than normal Pacific Ocean, which has created a high pressure area in the western United States. This has led to a jet stream that is much farther north than usual. This jet stream is locked at the Canadian/U.S. border, which means south of the stream is warmer (U.S.) and north of the stream is colder (Canada), Weber said.
While 2011 was also a La Nina year, the Atlantic Ocean factors into the weather as well. This year, there is a positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), so the storm systems are moving across the country more smoothly.
While none of this is simple for a non-meteorologist to understand, Weber gives a take-away message: “The cold area is starting to make its way down and the jet stream is coming farther south.”
“There will be snow. It looks like northern Ohio might actually see some snow precipitation Jan. 23,” Weber said.
This is good news if you want snow. Bad news if you thought this lack of snow was definitely a sign of global warming.
“Yes, we might be in a planet undergoing climate change, but that doesn’t mean we can link this winter to the climate change,” Weber said. “We don’t know how climate change is going to play out. Oceans are the driving force of our weather. It is hard to contribute a warm winter in Toledo to climate change.”
Still, Toledo normally has 10-15 inches of snow by now, so “you are significantly lower than you should be,” Weber said.