Unusually warm January impacts Dayton-area business, governments

It never got colder than 13 degrees in Dayton last month, marking the first time in 14 years that a January here had no days with single-digit or below-zero temperatures.

Last January had seven days below 10 degrees (including three sub-zero days), and January 2018 had 11 (with six sub-zero). This year, Jan. 19-22 were the only four January days where Dayton’s temperatures even went below 20, according to National Weather Service data.

Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs said the biggest drivers of winter weather are El Niño and La Niña patterns, and those aren’t present this year. Another factor is whether the Arctic Oscillation is positive or negative.

“In its positive phase, the winds are stronger and it keeps the colder air up there. Once it goes to negative, then we start to see those lobes of cold air pushing southward,” Vrydaghs said. “All winter long, we’ve been in positive phase, so we have not seen those big dips in the jet stream allowing the colder Arctic and Canadian air to surge southward.”

The balmy January hasn’t been good for small businesses with snow clearing services, though cities and Ohio have so far saved some time and money by having fewer snow storms that required salting and plowing the roads.

“In fact, I do not remember another season in my career like this one. The city of Centerville uses 2,000 tons of salt on average each winter. So far, we have only used 434 tons this year,” Centerville Public Works Supervisor Marty Tackett said.

Mandy Dillon, spoksewoman with Ohio Department of Transportation, said at this point, department manhours working on snow and ice removal is down 60% from last year, miles driven are down 51 percent, and the tons of salt used is down 44% from last year.

“We’ve spent $33.7 million less than last year at this time. Winter is not over yet, but so far so good,” Dillon said.

She said the warming weather is also letting their crews get a head start on pothole patching, guard rail replacements, and other outdoor work.

For the past 20 years, Dayton has averaged about seven days each January dipping below 10 degrees. Dayton’s only recent year with a warmer January was 2006, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called the warmest January in U.S. history.

For this entire fall and winter, Dayton’s coldest days have been a low of 5 degrees on Nov. 13 and a low of 8 degrees on Dec. 19. Schools have had more fog delays this January than delays for snow or extreme cold.

Linda Hughes, air service manager at Dayton International Airport, said flight times also depend on things like what the weather is in the place the planes are coming from, but the milder weather has meant the airport staff has not had to spend as much resources on snow removal.

“No matter what season it is … the airport is always looking at the weather,” Hughes said.

It doesn’t need to be extremely cold to snow, but Dayton’s January has lacked snow as well. The entire month of January had 0.6 inches of snow through Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service, compared to 14.4 inches last January.

Steve Marino, head golf professional at Yankee Trace, said Friday that they had 20 tee times scheduled for Monday, which is not normally a popular golf day but as of Friday was forecasted to have temperatures in the 50s.

“Think about that. We’re at the end of the January. Usually there’s snow on the ground,” Marino said.

The only significant snowfalls this winter have been 2.7 inches on Nov. 11-12, and 3.8 inches of snow on Dec. 15-16.

While there was some snowfall in the Miami Valley on Friday, the overall pattern is likely to stay warmer for the next couple of weeks. A greater chance of cold weather comes in late February.

In the meantime, high temperatures are forecast in the 50s early this week.

“In the first few weeks of February, it doesn’t look like we’re going to have much of a winter blast,” Vrydaghs said.

Paul Schear, owner of Heatwave Pools in Centerville, told NewsCenter 7 that before this year the company had never broken ground on an outdoor pool in January.

Normally this time of year, the region is dealing with snow and ice, which can put such construction projects to a halt. Schear credits the mild winter to allow them to start three months ahead of schedule.

“We dug one last week, we dug one two days ago, and we are doing another one next week,” Schear said.