Interestingly, while temperatures have certainly been low enough for snow, we so far have been spared any major winter storms. Snowfall for the month of December was fairly close to average despite the well below average temperatures.
The colder it is, the less likely we are to have any major snow storms. You may have even heard that it can be too cold to snow. While that saying is not exactly true, it is accurate that the cooler the air is, the less moisture the air can hold. Thus, it is just a bit more difficult to get a bigger snow event when deep arctic air is in place.
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It is when the pattern begins to change that bigger winter storms tend to occur. Such a pattern change … or at least, adjustment, may occur between the second and third week of January. It is very typical, especially in a La Niña year such as we are in, to get a bit of a “January thaw”. Temperatures may even rise well above freezing during this time.
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However, it is when the cold air attempts to return when bigger winter storms can develop. Whether that occurs in the coming weeks is still to be seen. But a more active storm track with above normal precipitation being forecast by the Climate Prediction Center over the next week to 10 days.
While we get ready to dive deep into the coldest, snowiest month of the year here in Ohio, it is important to point out some global perspective. Typically, when we talk about how cold it is here in the Ohio Valley, meteorologists typically get sent messages about what we think about climate change. But just some quick fact checks, while the data is still being finalized, 2017 likely will end up as one of the three warmest years on record globally, according to peer-reviewed analysis released by the World Meteorological Organization.
According to the University of Maine, while the eastern half of the United States was locked in a deep freeze in the last week of December, much of the rest of the planet experienced temperatures above seasonably averages. In fact, some of the warmest readings compared to what is normal for this time of year occurred over both the north and south poles.
Despite the brutal cold here in the Miami Valley, most meteorologists and climatologists continue to be alarmed at the warmth at both poles. Arctic and Antarctic sea ice cover remain at near record lows. The current observed rate of sea ice decline and rising temperatures are higher than at any time over the last 1,500 years.
Eric Elwell is WHIO StormCenter 7 Chief Meteorologist. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.