DAYTON —If it seems like the snow has gone missing this winter, you’re right … again.
Dayton has gotten just 7.2 inches of snow this winter according to the National Weather Service, tying the lowest total at this point on the calendar in the last 15 years.
And what other year was so snow-free by Valentine’s Day? You don’t have to search your memory banks — it was just last year.
The only significant single snowfall at the Dayton International Airport was a 3.3-inch storm on Dec. 13, according to NWS stats. And last winter, Dayton didn’t log a single 2-inch snowfall.
Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Eric Elwell cited two factors for the lack of snow — a weak polar vortex and a La Nina pattern creating a strong southern jet stream. Those have contributed to warmer temperatures locally (five degrees above normal in February after a mild January).
“This winter, we have seen a weaker polar vortex which has allowed the coldest, arctic air to get displaced from the poles,” Elwell said. “But the colder air has been deflected away for much of the winter away from the Ohio Valley.”
Over the past 15 years, Dayton’s average snowfall from October to Valentine’s Day has been 19.1 inches — almost three times our current total. The highest mark was 42.7 inches in 2013-14, when there were 15 separate days with at least an inch of snowfall by Feb. 14.
This winter and last winter have the lowest snow totals since 2001-02, when only 5.6 inches of snow fell by Valentine’s Day. Those totals are measured at the Dayton International Airport, and there is some variation across the region, like last week, when Sidney got close to 7 inches of snow, while the airport saw just over an inch.
But it’s unprecedented in the past 20 years to have back-to-back years like these.
For some, the lack of snow is wonderful — bus drivers, trash collectors and mail carriers who have to deal with the elements every day likely don’t miss slogging through the slush. And cities that pay thousands of dollars each year for deicing materials can salt some of that money away.
But people who usually make money plowing and shoveling snow in the winter are facing a second straight lean season. And those who love skiing and snowboarding are making do with thinner, man-made snow at local hills.
The Miami Valley has a history of late-winter snow. In 2015, Dayton got 8 inches of snow in late February and 5 more in early March. In 2013, we saw 14 inches of snow throughout March.
But Elwell said the remnants of La Nina will likely keep the Miami Valley unseasonably warm and wet through the rest of February, with temperatures expected to soar nearly 25 degrees above average by the end of this weekend. He said it’s unclear how the end of the La Nina will change things in March.
In the meantime, local schools have been able to stick to their schedules this winter — Kettering City Schools are among several districts that haven’t closed once. But that may not be happy news for students trading in sledding and snowball fights for brown grass and more algebra.
SNOWFALL TO DATE
How this winter’s snowfall compares to recent years through Feb. 13
2016-17 — 7.2 inches
2015-16 — 7.2 inches
2014-15 — 13.7 inches
2013-14 — 42.7 inches
2012-13 — 19.1 inches
2011-12 — 8.1 inches
2010-11 — 23.0 inches
2009-10 — 31.1 inches
2008-09 — 18.0 inches
2007-08 — 15.0 inches
2006-07 — 15.3 inches
2005-06 — 22.1 inches
2004-05 — 27.2 inches
2003-04 — 11.9 inches
2002-03 — 25.4 inches
2001-02 — 5.6 inches
2000-01 — 11.5 inches
1999-00 — 21.2 inches