CLEVELAND - February has certainly been an active month for weather. We've had several battles with bitter cold Arctic air. In between, we catch a break and warm up into the 40s. So far, for the month of February, temperatures have averaged 3.5 degrees BELOW normal. Snowfall is currently measuring 19 inches (+ 7.6") with still another week left in the month.
So, why so volatile this month? Well, surface storm systems are guided along by the jet stream, or wind aloft at 18-thousand feet. It just so happens, the jet stream has been riding over the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes all month long! In other words, if you're on the train tracks, you better expect a few trains to pass by!
But, we've managed to avoid the BIG winter storm so far. that's because the surface low pressures have been jogging either either just to our west, over Michigan, or just to our east, closer to the Atlantic Coast. When the low pressure passes just to our west, we get a brief shot of mild air out ahead of the storm. That's why we've seen a few rounds of rain. Storms to our east, tend to focus the heaviest snows across New York state and Pennsylvania. We'll catch some lighter snow and lake effect from those storms.
For Northern Ohio to be the bulls eye for heavy snow, we need the low pressure to travel close to the Ohio River up to near Pittsburgh. That's puts us on the cold side of the storm and close enough to the low pressure center to get slammed by all of the snow. We usually call those Panhandle Hooks or Rocky Mountain Lows based on their point of origin.
For those who like the craziness of winter weather, there is some good news. The weather patterns do not appear likely to change anytime soon. That means March will likely continue sending active weather our way. In fact March will likely begin with another close storm system riding northeast into Michigan or Western Ohio. That would mean a wintry mix of rain, sleet, snow and freezing rain beginning early Tuesday morning. Ahead of this system, we could easily see another brief shot of mild air with temperatures in the 40s.
Computer forecasts are also hinting at a blast of arctic air moving back in for the first week of March. This cold air may drop all the way south through the Carolinas. Of course, more snow will likely accompany that cold air.
The bottom line is: there is lots more winter left. More cold. More snow. Maybe even more freezing rain. I guess Mother Nature has a way of making up for last year's warmth and lack of snow. Gee, thanks. Now, where did I put that snow shovel?