Elwell: Don’t count on an easy winter

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 11:23 AM

Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell explains what technically classifies as a blizzard.

Up until today it may have been hard to realize that winter is now less than 60 days away. Our temperatures have been well above average for most of autumn with just a few brief cool spells.

This has led many people to believe that we are in for quite a payback for this nice weather this winter or we may be in for a quiet winter. Well, the outlook is in, and I wouldn’t count on an easy winter.

»WEATHER: Get the latest Storm Center 7 forecast

First, let’s look at what will likely be the main players this winter. It is a term you have likely heard before and likely will hear a lot more of in the coming weeks. Yep, La Niña appears to be developing and there is up to a 65 percent chance it will hold or get stronger as we head into the winter.

Just a refresher, La Niña is a term given when sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Eastern Central Pacific Ocean are lower than normal by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius. Such a contrast in ocean water temperature has corresponding influences on the atmosphere and jet stream patterns across North America. Typically, during La Niña phases, the jet stream pattern across the southern half of the United States becomes very active, supplying lots of moisture across the region. The northern branch of the Jet Stream also can reach farther south and occasionally phase with the southern branch. This phasing can lead to a stormy weather pattern, especially across the Midwest, Great Lakes into New England.

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Because of the development of La Niña, the forecast for the upcoming winter is for above normal precipitation across much of our region including right here in the Miami Valley. So now the question is, can we expect more snow than normal? The answer to this is a bit trickier, because while a more active southern jet stream can bring us more frequent and bigger storm systems, it can also bring warmer air farther north, leading more to a threat of heavy rain or ice.

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Temperature patterns for this coming season will be dependent on several factors including how far north the southern branch of the jet stream can shift. But there are other key factors we will closely be monitoring which are a bit more difficult to predict beyond the short term. One of those is what we call the Arctic Oscillation. This has to do with the circulation patterns around the North Pole, more precisely known as the Northern Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) which more directly influences weather patterns across the eastern United States. During a negative phase of the NAO, westerly winds across Canada weaken, allowing arctic air to build in the region and get even colder. This cold air many times will get forced southward into the United States.

»MORE: What to know about sky events

During La Niña years, there appears to be an impact on how far south intrusions of arctic air building in Canada can move. Because of our latitude here in the Miami Valley, we are still far enough north that we will likely see near normal temperatures, although it appears there will be times with the southern jet stream may send temperatures above normal.

Okay, so enough of the mumble-jumble meteorology stuff… here is the bottom line of what we are expecting.

First, thanks to above normal temperatures over the fall, water temperatures of the Great Lakes are also above normal. That will likely mean intense lake effect snows across the region. While we normally don’t have major snow squalls in the Miami Valley from Lake Effect Snow, the wind flow off of Lake Michigan can typically lead to light snow accumulations in the area and at times, lead to brief white-out squalls which are responsible for many of the winter weather related traffic accidents. It is important to note that with the recent warmth, any snowfall prior to December would likely melt quickly due to warm ground temperatures.

Using analog data to help in forecasting (looking at past years when fall conditions were similar to how they are now), our StormCenter 7 team believes our winter may be similar to that of the 2005-2006 winter. Just to refresh what happened that winter, we saw a quick, somewhat harsh start to winter followed by a mid-winter (January) warm-up. After a relatively quiet period, several big storms during the last month of winter brought a wintry mess across the region.

While this winter is expected to be busier than that of the last couple of winters, it likely will not be as extreme as the “polar vortex” winters we experienced a several years ago. If the current pattern remains similar to that of 2005, we will likely have a mid-winter break from any extreme cold before blasts of cold and snow return to wrap up the season. Stay tuned!

Eric Elwell is WHIO StormCenter 7 Chief Meteorologist. Contact him at eric.elwell@coxinc.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Mark your calendar for these 2018 meteor showers

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 6:06 PM
Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 6:06 PM

Image from a dashcam video provided by Lisle Police Department in Lisle, Ill., shows a meteor as it streaked over Lake Michigan Feb. 6, 2017. The meteor lit up the sky across several states in the Midwest.  Contributed photo
Image from a dashcam video provided by Lisle Police Department in Lisle, Ill., shows a meteor as it streaked over Lake Michigan Feb. 6, 2017. The meteor lit up the sky across several states in the Midwest. Contributed photo

There are plenty of meteor showers to enjoy this year, reports Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini.

Mark your calendars and keep checking in for the latest forecast.

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RELATED: Download our free WHIO weather APP to stay informed 

  • Lyrids: Active April 16-25. Rates are usually 10-15 meteors per hour. A dark sky is expected. This meteor shower is associated with fireballs which are very bright. The shower peaks pre-dawn April 22.
  • Eta Aquariids- This shower peaks May 5 before dawn. There are typically 10-20 meteors per hour.
  • Delta Aquariids- View before July 27-30. The best viewing is before dawn. There are usually 15-20 meteors per hour. This year there will be a full moon.
  • RELATED: Meteors explained: What happens before the flash of light?

    • Perseids- This is a very active shower. August 11,12,13 head outside from the late evening through dawn. The moon this year won’t get in the way.
    • Draconids- This shower peaks October 8. It is better in the evening hours with only a handful of meteors per hour. 
    • Orionids- This shower peaks October 21 before dawn. There are 10-20 meteors per hour. The moon might get in the way.

    RELATED: Follow Live Storm Chasers

    • South Taurids- This shower peaks November 4-5. There are about five meteors per hour. This shower is active overnight and there will be no moonlight. 
    • North Taurids- This shower peaks November 11-12. There are about five meteors per hour. This shower is active overnight. 
    • Leonids- This shower peaks November 17 or 18. Look before dawn on those mornings to see 10-15 meteors per hour.
    • Geminids- This shower peaks December 13-14 with about 50 meteors per hour! It is best in the early morning before dawn. 

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    Mark your calendar for these 2018 meteor showers

    Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 5:14 PM
    Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 5:14 PM

    • Lyrids: Active April 16-25. Rates are usually 10-15 meteors per hour. A dark sky is expected. This meteor shower is associated with fireballs which are very bright. The shower peaks pre-dawn April 22.
    • Eta Aquariids- This shower peaks May 5 before dawn. There are typically 10-20 meteors per hour.
    • Delta Aquariids- View before July 27-30. The best viewing is before dawn. There are usually 15-20 meteors per hour. This year there will be a full moon.

    RELATED: Meteors explained: What happens before the flash of light?

    • Perseids- This is a very active shower. August 11,12,13 head outside from the late evening through dawn. The moon this year won’t get in the way.
    • Draconids- This shower peaks October 8. It is better in the evening hours with only a handful of meteors per hour. 
    • Orionids- This shower peaks October 21 before dawn. There are 10-20 meteors per hour. The moon might get in the way.

    RELATED: Follow Live Storm Chasers

    • South Taurids- This shower peaks November 4-5. There are about five meteors per hour. This shower is active overnight and there will be no moonlight. 
    • North Taurids- This shower peaks November 11-12. There are about five meteors per hour. This shower is active overnight. 
    • Leonids- This shower peaks November 17 or 18. Look before dawn on those mornings to see 10-15 meteors per hour.
    • Geminids- This shower peaks December 13-14 with about 50 meteors per hour! It is best in the early morning before dawn.   

        RELATED: ODOT Road Sensors - Buckeye Traffic

    Warming trend gets underway

    Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 3:34 AM
    Updated: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 12:29 AM

    Temperatures rise, but rain comes along for the ride.

    QUICK-LOOK FORECAST

    • Blustery, still chilly tonight
    • Temps to head above normal this weekend
    • Showers return to the Valley by Sunday

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    DETAILED FORECAST

    >> WHIO Doppler 7 HD Interactive Radar

    Tonight: Skies will be mostly clear. A few clouds will be possible from time to time. Temperatures will fall back into the upper teens by morning.

    Friday: Expect mostly sunny skies and more seasonably temperatures climbing into the middle 30s. It will be a bit breezy at times.

    >> Another meteor? Reports come in of bright flash across Ohio, Indiana night sky 

    Saturday: Some sunshine will start the day but clouds will be on the increase. It will be milder with temperatures rising into the middle 40s. There will be the chance for a few showers or drizzle late at night with temperatures holding nearly steady.

    >> 4 tricks to help avoid illness during big temperature changes

    Sunday: Skies will be mostly cloudy with a chance for drizzle or light rain. Temperatures will top out in the upper 40s.

    Monday: Cloudy skies are expected with showers likely, especially by late afternoon. It will be windy and mild with highs reaching into the lower 50s. Colder air will usher back in Monday night.

    Tuesday: Skies will remain mostly cloudy with a chance for a few snow showers or flurries. It will be colder with blustery conditions and highs in the middle 30s.

    >> WHIO Weather App

    The time of the January thaw begins this week

    Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 12:32 PM
    Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 12:39 PM

    
            Yellow Springs resident Bill Felker has offered his take on the world of nature for years through radio spots and the written word. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
    Yellow Springs resident Bill Felker has offered his take on the world of nature for years through radio spots and the written word. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

    You see how you fit into this cosmic schema and you see how all is family from one side of the horizon to the other. It is clear to you how the cycles of morning to evening and evening to morning, from springtime to next springtime, form birth to death to birth, all follow similar and necessary trajectories.

    — Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature

    The Frolicking Fox Moon, new on January 16, waxes throughout the period, encouraging foxes and other small wild animals to court and frolick, no matter what the weather. It enters its second quarter at 9:26 p.m. on January 23. Rising in the morning and setting in the evening, this Moon passes overhead in the afternoon.

    The Sun: Leaving Deep Winter’s constellation of Capricorn behind, the Sun moves higher in the daytime sky, entering Aquarius on the 20th, ushering in the last subseason of winter (aptly called “Late Winter”). Little by little, the day’s length is approaching a spring-like ten hours!

    The Planets: Jupiter and Mars are still the morning stars this week. Look for them in the southeast in Libra.

    POOR WILL’S CLARK COUNTY ALMANACK: Time to seed bedding plants

    The Stars: The new Moon will be setting in the west these dark evenings, following the Northern Cross (Cygnus) toward the horizon. As you look directly above you, try to find Perseus (looking a little like a horse). In the east, Orion stands tall.

    The Shooting Stars: There are no major meteor showers this week.

    Weather Trends: The January Thaw period begins this week and often lasts through the 25th. The Moon, entering its mild second quarter on the 23rd, increases the chances of a significant thaw.

    The Natural Calendar: Autumn’s fruits are giving way to the weather, measuring the advance of the Northern Hemisphere back toward the sun The feathery heads of virgin’s bower, soft and thick in late November, have blown away in the wind. Hosta pods are almost empty. The final rose of Sharon seeds lie precariously in their open calices. Worn tufts of ironweed are half gone.

    The heads of purple coneflowers and zinnias, tough and unyielding a month ago, crumble between your fingers. Some honeysuckle and euonymus berries still hang to their branches, but their flush and firmness are gone. In the greenhouse, the blossoms have withered on the Christmas cacti.

    Fish, Game, Livestock and Birds: Dependable companions in the cold winter mornings, crows now become more boisterous; their migration typically starts this week. Sparrows and starlings court and build nests from now through the end of spring. Overwintering robins become more active in the daytime; opossums and raccoons and frolicking foxes become more active at night as Deep Winter wanes.

    Ladybugs sometimes emerge in sunny window sills this time of the month, foretelling the January thaw. In addition, they bring good luck; treat them well!

    Hunt and fish when the barometer is low around the January 19 and 25 cold fronts, and make plans to take advantage of low barometric pressure during the January thaw period. The waxing first-quarter Moon will be overhead in the afternoon, making fish and game more likely to be active at that time of day.

    In the Field and Garden: New Moon on the 19th is a perfect lunar time for putting in all of your bedding plant seeds for spring. Try flats of greens and flowers for setting out in March; plant a second batch of everything at February’s new Moon.

    Frost seeding typically begins at this time of the year. Broadcast crops such as red clover in the pastures, and scatter grass seed over bare spots on the lawn. The freezing and thawing of the ground works the seeds into the ground.

    Christmas cacti can be divided and propagated throughout the months ahead. You might turn one cactus into a lucrative business if you’re willing to work at it for a few years!

    Marketing Notes: Mardi Gras takes place on February 13 this year, and it is followed by Chinese New Year (the Year of the Dog) on February 16. Explore needs that celebrants might have for food and paraphernalia.

    The Almanack Horoscope: The influence of the slowly waxing Frolicking Fox Moon weakens throughout the week, and seasonal stress should weaken along with it. Even though the cold and gray skies of winter may be causing irritability and depression, the possibility of a January thaw opens the door to hope and optimism. Now is the time to pay special attention to even the smallest changes in the landscape around you; they measure the approach of warmth and sun.

    Journal

    January 19, 1989: Looking for spring, we went southeast over the mountains. On the way through South Carolina, we saw the first flower in bloom, a roadside sow thistle. Buzzards were circling, and the first trees were definitely in flower 60 miles north of Savanna. A daffodil was budding at the Georgia line.

    Some black medic and white clover, red clover, and dandelions were in full bloom, too, fifty days in time away from Springfield. Thistles had thick stalks, a foot and a half high, June size. Wild onions were as tall as in April here. Throughout the cities, the tree line was pink with flowers. Just past the Florida state line, we saw a flock of robins flying north along the coast.

    More sow thistles were completely open, along with dock, hairy chickweed, and bittercress. Jacksonville was in the center of middle spring: Elderberries and azaleas blooming, some sugar maples half to fully leafed, beds of pansies blooming, calves in the fields. My daughter, Jeni, found a newborn turtle last week in the pond by her apartment.

    OTHER POOR WILL’S ALMANACK COLUMNS

    Start counting pussy willow

    New Year’s first full moon brings a deep winter chill

    Supermoon rings in the New Year

    With winter is here, sunset comes a little later in Clark County

    Poor Will’s Almanack for 2018 is still available. Order yours from Amazon, or, for an autographed copy, order from www.poorwillsalmanack.com. You can also purchase Bill Felker’s new book of essays, “Home is the Prime Meridian,” from those websites.