PERSISTENCE: What the past can tell us about next week's approaching winter storm

CLEVELAND - Another winter storm will impact Ohio next Wednesday. Mark Johnson tells us what kind of weather we will likely see here in Northern Ohio.

Wow! The European Model really buries us with heavy snow next Tuesday and Wednesday. Take a look below...

You've seen me post a few of these maps this week on Social Media. That's mainly because several computer guidance products, "models" as we call them, were hinting at the same thing: heavy snow for parts of Northern Ohio. Yes, the EUROPEAN Model, the GFS Model and the Canadian Model were all agreeing on enough snow to shovel by mid-week.

But NOT SO FAST! These images are not forecasts, especially when they are several days out from the event. They instead help us prepare for "possibilities." Each time I posted an image this week of potential snow for Northern Ohio, I warned you all that this would likely change. To me, its interesting to include all of you in on the process of how we narrow down our forecasts. And, indeed, over the last few days, these models have shifted the snow a little north and south and then back again.

So, is it possible that heavy snow could fall across Northern Ohio by the middle of next week? Of course, its possible. One thing that you learn quickly in the weather business is that Mother Nature is in charge.

Is it LIKELY we will see heavy snow here in Northern Ohio next week? My hunch is "NO." And here's why:

Persistence. Persistence is the idea that sometimes nature settles in on a particular weather pattern for days and weeks at a time. If we look back at our winter so far, we can identify a persistent pattern. That is: several days of bitter cold, followed by brief periods where the temperature warms into the 40s or higher. We saw it in December and in January as well. We would suffer thru a blast of very cold air, some of it below zero. Followed by a thaw. These thaws often brought us rain events, or at least a wintry mix of rain and snow.

If we can identify that a persistent pattern is in play, it is wise to give it some weight when forecasting. For example, this weekend, after a brutal early part of the week, with sub-zero temperatures, we'll, once again, see a surge a warm air move in from the south. This will be followed by several hours of rain Saturday afternoon and overnight. Again, notice this years persistent winter pattern: Big cold, followed by temperatures warm enough for rain...Lather, rinse, repeat.

That's why I think next Wednesday's winter storm will yield similar results. Precipitation will likely start out as snow for a few hours Tuesday afternoon. You might even see a few inches accumulate thru the evening rush hour. But, if the first half of winter tells us anything, warm air should surge northward to the Lake Erie Shoreline again during the overnight and thru much of Wednesday. This would mean several hours of rain for much of Northern Ohio on Wednesday. This, of course, cuts down drastically on snowfall amounts. The exception could easily be the Toledo area through Northwest Ohio, where temperatures will stay cold enough for a decent snow event. Enough snow could impact the Lake Erie Islands to Findlay to cause issues with travel as well. But those are finer forecasting details best left to later discussions.

Make no mistake: this will be a big snow-making winter storm. Mainly for Chicago and Lower Michigan. Just not likely for our area.

Now, the caveats... Remember: We still have 4 days before the storm arrives. Forecasting is all about trying to nail down order in a chaotic atmosphere. A lot can happen between now and then. Mother Nature may decide to show me and you and all of Northern Ohio who is actually in charge... She may break out of her "persistent" pattern and bring on the snow. As of good friend of mine always says..."I hear people call themselves authority's, experts etc. If there is one thing I have found out, when it comes to an infinite system, a finite being can not be an authority, since the difference between finite and infinite can not be calculated."

I always say "The BIG storms sneak up on you." They are last-minute decisions by Mother Nature to shift the storm track. The final scenarios are often not seen on the guidance models until the last minute. That's the fun of being a meteorologist.  However, there will be no "sneaking up" on us this time. I want Mother Nature to know I'll be watching...every minute between now and Wednesday. Stay tuned and get the umbrellas ready!

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