Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Coldest Year Ever For Toledo?

Have you celebrated less than 37 birthdays in your life and lived in northwest Ohio?

If you answered yes to both, then this was the coldest year ever lived through. In fact only two years ('78 and '63) have been colder in the past 100 years in Toledo.

There are still a few more hours to make it official but it is very likely 2014 records an average temperature of just 47.2 degrees. The coldest month was January with an average temperature of just 16 degrees! Although the mild December spoiled any chances to break the record for coldest year ever recorded in Toledo. I have a feeling many will be okay missing the mark on that record.

Looking ahead too, the first few hours of 2015 look to start off very cold as well!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Snow? What Snow?

After a frigid and even snowy start to November, this has been one very quiet December so far as any wintry weather goes. Through 28 days only a 'Trace' of snow has been recorded. It looks likely that this will mark only the third time in Toledo history without measurable snow in December.

And the pattern looks quiet into the first few days of January. Below is a graphic for snowfall accumulations over the next 9 days. The search for winter snow this season will go on...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa's Bumpy Ride into NW Ohio

As the evening in question arrives, details of tonight's stormy weather are coming into crystal clear focus.

According to this graphical depiction from the Cleveland office of the National Weather Service, 50mph wind gusts, 20-30mph sustained winds, temps falling to the freezing point tonight, thunder, 100% cloud cover, heavy rain and light flurries are all on tap for the next 12-16 hours. 

Santa's about to have a bumpy ride.

NWS Cleveland

While we track forward along with the impending storms, winds continue to pose the greatest threat. With only a few hours of light snow flurries (from 9pm-4am), accumulations are not only unlikely, they're going to be nearly impossible to develop. 

Possible Snow flurries 8pm Wednesday Night: EURO, ECMWF Model

With the absence of widespread slick roadways and treacherous blacktop conditions, wind gusts up to 50mph become the focus of this event. 

Twisterdata.com, Surface Temp, Wind, MSLP: NAM Model
 Law ornaments, decorations, outdoor lights and 8 tiny reindeer statues are at risk of damage and entire removal from your yard. Many Christmas decorations don't weigh much, so make sure your most valuable possessions are brought indoors before the winds pick up. 

Today's timeline looks like this:

  • 2pm: Scattered Rain, Light winds
  • 4pm: Widespread Rain, Increasing Winds
  • 6pm: Heavy rain, Gusty Winds
  • 8pm: Scattered Rain, PEAK Winds
  • 10pm: Light Rain/Snow Mix, PEAK Winds
  • 12am: Flurries, Gusty Winds
  • 2am: On/Off Flurries, Gusty Winds
  • 4am: Flurries, Gusty Winds
  • 6am: On/Off Flurries, Gusty Winds
  • 8am: A Few Snow Showers, Blowing/Drifting Snow
  • 10am: Snow Ends, Breezy

For most of Christmas Day, winds will range between 15-25mph, staying strong, and conditions will be dry.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

Tonight marks the beginning of the winter season. For record-keeping purposes, meteorological winter already began December 1st, but astrologically, we are now officially approaching the 'depth of winter'.

The sun's angle to the earth determines seasonal patterns
 With the sun's angle to the earth sinking to its farthest point to the south, we can expect December 21 to have the least amount of daylight. 

Sun warms the southern hemisphere during our winter season
 The sun will still shine through the winter, but with the rays directly overhead in the southern hemisphere, we experience winter while they experience summer. 

Winter officially begins at 6:03pm, December 21. Some years, it may occur earlier or later in the day, even falling on the 20th or 22nd of the month if the sun's angle hits its lowest point before or after midnight. This year, we will experience 9 hours and 9 minutes of daylight on December 21st, making it the 'shortest day' of the year. 

Imminent Christmas Weather

Confidence is growing as we approach the holidays this week. With only slight changes from day-to-day now as the imminent weather moves in, you can start to plan around the worst of it.

Monday will be mild, mainly dry, mostly cloudy and otherwise unremarkable. 

We can start to map out the timeline of this event beginning Monday evening:

After midnight, rain showers arrive. Scattered at first, leading into Tuesday morning. 

Monday night-Tuesday morning (12/22-12/23)
Tuesday will be a mild day with highs near 50°. Showers will track through the area all day long, moderate to heavy at times.

Up to 1/2" of rainfall is possible both Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wednesday morning (12/24)
Showers continue to fuel into the area all day Wednesday. Gulf coast moisture will be trapped over Ohio in a line stretching from Mississippi to Upstate New York.

Travel during the holidays will feel the impacts the most.
According to USA Today, a record number of Americans will be on the road this holiday season. AAA expects 98.6 million people to travel 50 miles or more this Christmas.

Into Wednesday evening, incredibly strong winds will be added to the mix.
Up until that point, however, we're only looking at rain showers. Due to warm air advection, snow is not a possibility until after midnight Wednesday into Thursday-- as Santa is making his deliveries. 

Warmth Monday-Wednesday keeps snow showers at bay until Christmas Day
Winds remain strong into the day Thursday. Some damage is possible-- better bring in those loose decorations now! Expect strongest gusts to be near 40mph at times. 

Rain showers will eventually filter in some snow flakes overnight Wednesday in Thursday with a wintry mix overnight creating slick roadways Thursday morning.

Thursday, snow showers will fall into a wet & newly frozen environment. Slick roadways are not only possible, but likely.

Early morning snow showers possible-- minimal accumualtions
With gusty winds and falling flakes, blowing and drifting snow is likely. Snowfall amounts will be minimal.

In summation:
  1. Monday:                 Dry, cloudy, mild
  2. Monday night:       Mild, Light rain showers arrive
  3. Tuesday:                 Moderate to heavy rain, Warm
  4. Tuesday Night:      Rain showers, Mild
  5. Wednesday:           Moderate to heavy rain, Warm, Gusty Winds
  6. Wednesday night: WINDY, Wintry Mix
  7. Thursday:                WINDY, some snow, Cold

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Pre-Christmas Storm Update

We have been tracking a storm that will impact the area in the days leading up to Christmas for the better part of a week now. As the storm approaches the west coast of the United States we are getting a much clearer picture of how the event will unfold on Tuesday, Wednesday and even Christmas itself. For the local area this will be mostly a mild rain event with very windy conditions.

TUESDAY: Winds will be steady but relatively weak throughout the day from the southwest. Rain showers are expected from near Chicago all the way east to the Atlantic Seaboard.

WEDNESDAY: Heavy rain showers are likely. Highs will climb into the low 50's. Winds will pick up through the day with wind gusts over 40 mph very likely by evening.

CHRISTMAS DAY: Air will turn colder near 30 with a few snow showers and windy conditions continuing. Gusts over 35 mph will continue to be possible. 

BY NEXT WEEKEND: Colder air will return on a more permanent basis. January has all the indications of being one very cold month....

Thursday, December 18, 2014

UPDATE: Next Week Storm Potential

The chance of a storm bringing disruptive weather into Christmas next week remains a likely possibility across the Great Lakes region and up the East Coast.  The likely impacts include:

  • Rain
  • Gusty Winds
  • Snow 

Remember a "Storm" doesn't mean exclusively snow...in fact rain and wind may be some of the larger impacts of this storm. 

Rain will become likely Tuesday and into Wednesday with gusty winds increasing into Christmas Eve.  Rain may change to some snow into Christmas morning bringing with it the chance of a White Christmas.  Differences in model solutions still exist, which is expected.  Some indications have surfaced that the greater energy from this storm may transition to the East Coast.  If this happens, we'd still feel the impacts of this storm with rains prior to Christmas, gusty winds and limited snow showers into Christmas morning.

Great Lakes Storm?

East Coast Storm?

Stay tuned for updates!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Delivering A Christmas Storm?

Very quiet weather is expected the rest of the week and into the weekend which puts all eyes on a much more active week of weather into Christmas next week.  For nearly a week now, the overall global weather pattern has been hinting that an intrusion of colder air would be likely into late December.  This combined with an active parade of Pacific Coast storms, conditions may ripen for a powerful storm that may disrupt holiday travel and Christmas plans.  

Animation of Christmas Eve Day into Christmas Day

Long range models...albeit still 7 days out have locked into some relative degree of consistency for a storm over the Great Lakes on Christmas Eve

ECMWF -- 192 Hour Forecast (MSLP Low of ~ 972 mb)
ECMWF -- 192 Hour Forecast 500mb Vorticity

GFS -- 192 Hour Forecast (MSLP Low of ~ 980 mb)

GFS -- 192 Hour Forecast 500mb Vorticity

  • So what does this type of information tell us now? 
    •  There will likely be a storm impacting the area the middle of next week. However this storm is over 1 week away and details will change. Simply be alert and prepared, this is just an early heads-up.  Many details and specifics will be determined over the coming days. 
  • What can I expect?
    • Rain to snow and gusty winds all will be possible.
  • Will holiday travel be impacted?
    • Yes, impacts to air travel and travel on the roads possible.
  • When will this storm hit our area?
    • Still early to tell, and timing will be adjusted, but Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day may face adverse weather conditions.
  • How much snow will we get?
    • Way too early to tell!  Don't ask and don't believe anyone if they tell you.  In fact, not even sure if this will be rain or snow or a mix of both.  As with any winter storm, only trust reasonable snow forecasts 48 hour out!
  • Will this bring a White Christmas?
    • It's certainly possible Santa may deliver more than presents Christmas Eve. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Winter Really Began "One Year Ago Today"

One year ago today many awoke to a solid 6 to 8" of fresh snow on the ground after the first of what would be a relentless barrage of winter weather to come.  Despite the heavy snow in mid December, last year we did NOT have a true white Christmas.  By the following weekend highs had soared into the 50s and melted away all the snow and hopes of a white Christmas.  By December 15th of last year an astounding 53% of the United States had snow cover on the ground.

Snow Cover -- December 15th, 2013

This year is a very different scene with no snow cover in the lower Great Lakes.  Only 26.8% of the United States has snow cover on the ground, mainly in the Northeast and mountain West.  
Snow Cover -- December 15th, 2014
Our next chance of snow will come on Saturday, however the actual energy that will drive the evolution of this snow chance is still far off the Pacific West Coast.  As of now, it has the potential to bring a light snow accumulation.  Beyond that, an active Pacific Northwest flow will bring a series of storms into the United States next week likely resulting in an active week leading up to Christmas.

Upper Air -- 500 mb -- forecast map on this Friday morning. 
The map above shows the energy flowing through the atmosphere headed into this upcoming weekend.  The first piece is working to develop our snow chances on Saturday over the Texas panhandle.  Another wave of energy hitting the Pacific Northwest may have a shot at developing a storm over the eastern United States Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day.  Stay tuned for details!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chance for a White Christmas

Look outside. It's less than 2 weeks until Christmas and the ground is still bare. The forecast is calling for a warm-up this weekend. Chances don't look so good for a white Christmas. Or do they?

First, our chance in any given year for a white Christmas is around 40-50%. (For our purposes a white Christmas will mean any snow on the ground for the December 25th)

While snowfall this season has been lackluster, the pattern is going to pick-up again starting next week. We know that based on what's happening in the Pacific right now. Several storms are on-going (1,2) and the jet stream is very energetic (red arrows).

So what is our chance of a white Christmas? At this point, 2 weeks out I would say we have a better shot than normal for snow on Christmas!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Maumee River Flood Stage Changes

Nearly every spring and winter the Maumee river deals with flooding following heavy rainfall events. This upcoming year changes have been made by the National Weather Service in Cleveland to increase minor and moderate flood stage qualifications at Grand Rapids and Waterville. Here is the exact statement from the NWS:

1118 AM EST WED NOV 26 2014





RESPECTIVELY TO 17.5...18.5...AND 19.5 FEET

11.0...15.0...AND 16.0 FEET RESPECTIVELY.





Why do we strive to be 'near normal'?

It always feels like some sort of resolution when temperatures return to 'normal' for whatever time of year it happens to be. Like hitting the last note of a song after a harsh dissonance, or lack of harmony. 

Highs in the 70s? That's a normal May day. 
Lows in the 20s? That's a normal December day. 

But how often do we really achieve a 'normal' high temperature?

Using the month of November as an example, here are the normal highs, according to the National Weather Service's records and the actual highs recorded for the month:

                                    AVERAGE HIGHS:                                ACTUAL HIGHS:
1-Nov 57 1-Nov 40
2-Nov 56 2-Nov 47
3-Nov 56 3-Nov 60
4-Nov 55 4-Nov 55
5-Nov 55 5-Nov 58
6-Nov 55 6-Nov 48
7-Nov 54 7-Nov 46
8-Nov 54 8-Nov 45
9-Nov 53 9-Nov 45
10-Nov 53 10-Nov 60
11-Nov 52 11-Nov 64
12-Nov 52 12-Nov 37
13-Nov 51 13-Nov 35
14-Nov 51 14-Nov 33
15-Nov 50 15-Nov 32
16-Nov 50 16-Nov 33
17-Nov 49 17-Nov 30
18-Nov 49 18-Nov 18
19-Nov 48 19-Nov 33
20-Nov 48 20-Nov 27
21-Nov 47 21-Nov 26
22-Nov 46 22-Nov 51
23-Nov 46 23-Nov 58
24-Nov 45 24-Nov 58
25-Nov 45 25-Nov 35
26-Nov 44 26-Nov 33
27-Nov 44 27-Nov 33
28-Nov 43 28-Nov 30
29-Nov 43 29-Nov 51
30-Nov 42 30-Nov 62
On only ONE single day out of 30, we actually matched the normal high temperature for this time of year.


That's a 3.33% occurrence.

A few times, we came close [Nov 3: 56/60°, Nov 5: 55/58°], but being consistently spot on with 'normal' temperatures is uncommon.

Does it matter? Not really. Monthly average temperatures can dictate the overall season, but if you have 15 days in the 30s and 15 days in the 50s, the average will still round out to be in the 40s.

Despite that, averages-- normals, typical temperatures-- are still important.
Averages factor in roughly 140 years of data, so while we may see larger temperature swings from day to day, over a long period of time, eventually an average will balance out.

For all recorded locations and cities, for every month, the average tells us what a typical day might be. That's the purpose it should serve, and actually matching those figures isn't something we need to strive for.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Winter Begins -- A Look Toward A White Christmas?

Meteorological winter officially begins today, but after a bone chilling November the harsh reality of yet another winter is back and now fresh in our minds.  The average temperature in Toledo through November was 35.1° a solid -6.3° BELOW AVERAGE!

Well, does this mean a white Christmas ahead and another cold month?  Not so fast.  Too early to tell about a specific date (December 25th) as one storm could be the difference maker, but overall a major pattern shift is underway.

My December Prediction:  Much WARMER than Average -- Near Normal Precipitation

This is supported by a noticeable shift to a more "zonal" west to east flow in the upper levels of the atmosphere around 30,000 ft.  This flow from the Pacific coast, NOT interior Canada favors a much warmer scenario. 

Jet Stream -- This weekend (December 7th)
Longer range CFSv2 Climate models showed a major shift across North America toward a warmer December.  Pictured below is the temperature anomaly for consecutive daily model runs for the month of December.  A major trend toward a very warm December is clear. 

CFSv2 Climate Model for December
The answer to the white Christmas is still elusive, but it is clear that overall, December may very well be a warmer than normal month. 

~Meteorologist Chris Vickers

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24th, 2014 Strong Winds Update

Strong winds are likely to continue this afternoon. Here is an early afternoon weather update from Meteorologist Ryan Wichman:


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Strong Wind Potential Monday

A deepening low pressure system driving through the Great Lakes Sunday night and through Monday will create very windy conditions Monday in Northwest Ohio. Below is a run of our hour-by-hour forecast for the wind gusts Monday. 50+mph looks very possible.


November 23rd, 2014 Sunday Night Weather Hangout

At 8:30 pm Sunday Night, Meteorologist Ryan Wichman will host his weekly 'Weather Hangout' on Google+. You can watch the live stream below or watch and interactive LIVE during the hangout here: http://bit.ly/1xuFPuQ

The show takes questions from Ryan's Facebook and Twitter pages to answer and gives a summary of the forecast for the week ahead.If you are on Google +, be sure to add Ryan's page HERE.

A live stream of the show will be offered here, with a video replay shortly to follow after the conclusion.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

November Off To A Cold Start

Through the first 3 weeks of the month, Toledo has experienced the second coldest November on record. Second only to 1976. Those of you that were around here in the late '70s remember how cold it was.

Here is a list of the top 5, coldest and warmest first 3 weeks of November on record:

1976 33.8
2014 34.2
1951 34.3
1997 35.6
1959 35.8

1909 49.7
1938 50.3
1975 50.5
1902 52.3
1931 52.4

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Science Behind Road Salt

The winter season comes with many things, including snow, ice, cold, and wind.
A byproduct of the season is the salt that is used to keep us safe on the roads and sidewalks.
But why is salt used?

Loading salt into dump trucks to prepare for the winter season
It's simple science. 
Salt lowers the freezing point of water. 

Ice forms when the­ temperature of pure water reaches 32° F. At that temperature, equal melting and freezing are occurring and the water molecules are in a state of dynamic equilibrium. 

When you add salt, the temperature of equal meting and freezing drops. More simply: The freezing point is lowered. This is called 'freezing point depression'.

There are many applications of this process, most notably, the use of salt on roadways to melt layers of ice and snow during the winter months.

Plows, salt trucks, and other traffic traveling over salted surfaces help to break up icy surfaces

On a roadway, if you sprinkle salt on the ice, the salt penetrates the surface layer, turning it to liquid water. With a salt/water brine solution sitting on top of the remaining layer of ice, a continued breakdown of the frozen material ensues. 

Winter Road Treatment & Snow Removal

Eventually, the salt and resulting brine mixture will break down the entire layer of ice or snow and create more traction on road surfaces. The process is further enhanced by traffic traveling over the salted surfaces, breaking up larger chunks of ice.

Check it out!
Take a look at this time lapse video: 
If you ever watch salt melting ice in real-time, you can see the dissolving process happen right before your eyes. With this example (made with the help of the Imagination Station Toledo), we've sped up that transition. The ice immediately around the grain of salt melts, and the melting eventually spreads out from that point.

According to an article by HowStuffWorks, a 10% salt solution freezes water at 20° F, and a 20% solution freezes at 2° F. Because of this, purity and concentration of the mixture matters. 

For example, NaCl, or rock salt, comes in the form of a larger grain, but consists of the same chemical compound as table salt. The chemical name NaCl represents the two ions of a salt grain: sodium and chlorine.

Rock Salt, also known as NaCl has equal parts Sodium and Chlorine
When used to activate a freezing point depression, NaCl breaks down into two components-- Na & Cl. Those ions are responsible for lowering the freezing point of surface ice and water to roughly 15° F, depending on purity and concentration. It is relatively inexpensive and can be dissolved into a solute to make a brine mixture.

Plows and salt trucks often prime the roads with a brine solution
A brine mixture is often used by salt trucks to prime roads before a measurable snowfall or the development of black ice. 

Brine is a solution of salt dissolved in water. 

The brine serves the purpose of preventing a hard freeze at the surface, by lowering the freezing point from 32° to 20° F, depending on purity and concentration. 

Manager of Toledo Streets, Bridges and Harbor, Jeremy Mikolajczyk, says the City of Toledo is planning on trying a method that includes more brining this year with new procedures in place. The lower cost of the brining process is appealing, and once the salt/water solution is mixed, applying it to the streets is easier, too. Because of the moisture in the solution, the brine tends to stick to road surfaces better than dry salt, as well. 

Labor, materials and maintenance cost ODOT $119 million during the 2013-2014 winter.
It was the most expensive winter season ever. 
Unfortunately, brine is less effective on its own, especially if environmental air temperatures are expected to drop below 20° F. For the coldest part of the winter, the method of brining is not enough. 

Some of the coldest 2013-2014 winter season temperatures range between 1° F to -15°. 

2013-2014 Winter Season:
Date: (High/Low)

January 3rd (11°/-12°)
January 7th (1°/-14°)
January 22nd (10°/-10°)
January 28th (3°/-10°)

Temperatures through the 2013-2014 winter season were too cold for salting the roads

With environmental temperatures near 30° F, a surface brine solute will be effective in melting any developing ice.

However, if brine, alone, will only drop the freezing point of water to 20° F, once the air temperature matches or goes below that point, ice will form and adhere to surfaces. The additional use of NaCl (rock salt) will lower the freezing point of water down to approximately 15° F.

Once air temperatures drop to 15° F, however, local municipalities run into that same problem again. At 15° F, the NaCl salt ions become ineffective, and the melting process stops. Below 15°, you can expect fully frozen surfaces, since the salt cannot lower the freezing point beyond that temperature.

But what if we have another year like the winter of 2013-2014?

The Toledo Express Airport recorded 23 days with temperatures below zero, which rendered salt and brine on the roads ineffective.
With air temperatures far below the freezing point, a typical NaCl salt brine or road coat will be ineffective.

So what is the alternative?

Commonly referred to as 'ice melt', an enhanced chemical salt mix can actually be used for a similar price, with better results. The exact chemical compound differs from brand to brand, but ice melt can include a combination of NaCl, MgCl2 (Magnesium Chloride), and CaCl2 (Calcium Chloride).

Cincinnati's salt pile as of Mid-October 2013. 
Officials say it was only 30 percent full. (FOX19)

Due to the variation of the mix, a true freezing depression can range from -2° F to -19° F... a far cry from NaCl alone! While competitively priced, ice melt still has its limitations. 

Over a typical winter season in Ohio, ODOT spreads 630,000 tons of salt-- in 2013-2014, the state used nearly 1 million tons-- over the roadways. At those quantities, price matters. 
A third, more expensive, but even more effective method is pure Calcium Chloride. With Calcium Chloride, or CaCl2, similar to Magnesium Chloride, MgCl2, the compound breaks down into three ions, as opposed to only two ions in NaCl.

Calcium Chloride is less commonly used to melt ice, but it is the most effective. It releases heat as it dissolves, aiding the melting process. This method can be up to 6 times more expensive, but it is also exponentially more effective, melting snow and ice down to -20° F.

Table salt, Rock salt and Ice melt are far inferior to the melting properties of Calcium Chloride.

Regardless of the melting method crews use this winter season, ODOT assures us that they are ready. With a record breaking winter last year, bringing in 23 days with below zero temperatures and over 80" of snow, it would be unlikely that more salt, crews or resources would ever be needed than in the winter of 2013-2014 in Toledo. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Big Cold and Big Snow!

This won't be a November we soon forget locally or across the nation.

It is very likely the month goes down as a top 10 coldest November in Toledo history. But Tuesday with a high of only 18 and a low of 9, makes it tied for the 5th coldest November day in Toledo history. Those records go back through over 4200 November days. In fact, Tuesday's high was colder than all but ONE day compared to the mild winter of 2012-2013.

And how about that snow near Buffalo? Incredible lake effect snow has been falling to the tune of 3-5" PER HOUR. Compare that to the measly 2.1" total we have in Toledo so far this season (as of Wed AM). Leading to incredible snowfall totals in upstate New York, per the NWS Buffalo office:

   GARDENVILLE           60.0   800 PM 11/18  TRAINED SPOTTER
   WEST SENECA           57.0   800 PM 11/18  TRAINED SPOTTER
   ELMA                  51.0   800 PM 11/18  TRAINED SPOTTER
   ORCHARD PARK          48.0   800 PM 11/18  TRAINED SPOTTER

   CORFU                 40.0   800 PM 11/18  TRAINED SPOTTER
   DARIEN                36.0   830 PM 11/18  EMERGENCY MNGR

Compare that 60" snow report to Toledo record shattered snow total from ALL of last winter:

Keep in mind more heavy snow, that will be measured in feet is expected in and around Buffalo the rest of this week.

Credit: Philippe Papin, @pppapin

And the visuals from this storm have been stunning, both from the air and on the ground.

Source: Twitter -- @JamesAFry
According to Pro Foootball Talk: 220,000 tons (440 million pounds) of snow have been removed from the property on which Ralph Wilson Stadium (Buffalo Bills) is located.  With a driving ban in place, players won’t be able to get to work today.

Credit:  Kassie Tamulski

Thankfully the heavy snow has retreated for now from Buffalo, but it will be back.

And on the Great Lakes, water temperatures are running well below normal. Lake Erie is about 4 degrees below normal with ice already forming on the Maumee River.