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:

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.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Coldest November Day in History?

Tuesday will be cold. Very cold. But will it be the coldest day in November history for Toledo? Nope. That distinction belongs to November 24th, 1950. The high that day was only 14 with a low of only 3! Below is a list for the coldest November days on record for Toledo. (Record in Toledo go back to the 1870s) With the current forecast, Tuesday will end up as #5 or #6 on the list.

                  YEAR    MONTH    DAY       HIGH      LOW

1) 1950 11 24 14 3
2) 1929 11 30 15 2
3) 1929 11 29 16 5
4) 1930 11 27 16 7
5) 1976 11 29 18 9
6) 1933 11 15 19 12

                TUESDAY FORECAST:            19           *10 
                           *10 was the low recorded this morning at Toledo Express Airport. 

And no, we aren't the only ones dealing with the cold. Tuesday morning the average temperature across the United States was only 19 degrees! 

Monday, November 17, 2014

November Arctic Outbreak

It's no secret this has been a very chilly November, but our coldest day yet is set to arrive on Tuesday. Highs will struggle to reach 20 degrees with wind chills in the morning below zero! The record Tuesday for the coldest high temperature is 23, a feat we should easily beat on the cold side. And while there is some hope for a brief warm-up Sunday and into Monday next week this is one very cold forecast for November!

So why the cold snap now? The reason can be broken down into one simple weather term: Cross Polar Flow. It's name is exactly what it sounds like. Air from SIBERIA is racing across the arctic and taking direct aim at the midwest. Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan included. Watch this video to see how it works: 

And when we plot the past 180 hours at different levels of the atmosphere, it is clear to see that our air originates from a very chilly part of Russia. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16th, 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:

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 15, 2014

Monday, November 17th Snow Forecast

It appears likely we will see our first accumulating snowfall of the year for many local communities. Right now it looks like most snow will fall before daybreak on Monday morning, leaving a light shovel for many drives and walks.

Even colder weather than we have experience the past week is expected to follow this snowfall.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Prolonged Mid-November Chill

No doubt about, the cold season has arrived once again in Northwest Ohio and Southeastern Michigan. Following a chilly summer and downright brutual winter it doesn't quite seem fair for the cold to be back so soon.

Highs over the next 7 days (and longer) are expected to top out in only the 30's for highs. If you think 30's for highs aren't extreme for November you're right. What is different this time will be the length of the cool down and how wide reaching it will be.

Lows over the next week will drop as low as freezing as far south as northern Mexico and the Gulf Coast.

Locally, our latest 7-day forecast for Toledo shows that the cold is not just going to be with us for a couple of days but for at least the next week, likely 10 days or longer.

So, how rare is that for mid-November? Try once a century. Only once, in 1937, has Toledo recorded highs at or below 37 degrees for a week straight.

   YEAR     NOV        DAY       HIGH      LOW  
1937 11 17 35 28
1937 11 18 32 26
1937 11 19 31 26
1937 11 20 26 21
1937 11 21 28 18
1937 11 22 32 25
1937 11 23 35 19

Never has that streak lasted more than the 7 days. The next week and a half has a serious chance to be the first. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Great Lakes Ice To Start Early

The National Weather Service issued their seasonal outlook for ice on the Great Lakes today. The forecast takes an in-depth look at how long shipping channels will likely be able to stay open this season and the current conditions compared to past seasons. Read the full report for youself here: Great Lakes Ice Forecast

Current Water Temperatures for Lake Erie range from the 40's in the shallow western basin, to the mid 50's in deeper parts of the lake.

Below is a chart for Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. Notice its average temp is running very chilly compared to many of the past few years.

According to the report, which is issued out of the NWS Cleveland office, all Great Lakes bouys report water temperatures running below normal: 


WEST              43   46   41   47   44   45   46   45   41     47
CENTRAL           42   44   44   46   46   43   44   42   41     47
EAST              42   MM   41   44   47   44   45   43   42     48

  NORTH           47   53   45   MM   50   47   49   50   47     54
  SOUTH           46   54   48   55   48   48   53   51   48     56

  NORTH           48   49   48   46   49   46   48   49   44     53
  SOUTH           49   56   48   54   53   51   52   51   49     55

  WEST            51   54   45   54   49   53   52   MM   47     56
  CENTRAL         53   57   46   55   53   53   54   55   43     58
  EAST            52   54   48   55   52   53   54   43   49     57

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 9th, 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:

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 8, 2014

Will 2014 Be a Record Cold Year?

You might shutter at the thought of last winter. But, the cold start to the year combined with a cooler than normal summer and the big chill coming our way later this week may be just enough to propel 2014 into the record books.

If Toledo simply holds right at an average temperature during the month of November and December, the year long average would fall to 47.3. Good enough to tie with 1976 with the 7th coldest year in Toledo history (dating back to the early 1870's). Below is a list of top-10 coldest calendar years on record:

Via NWS Cleveland

So what will it take to make 2014 the coldest year ever record in Toledo? Let's compare the record year of 1875 to where Toledo has been so far this year:

While Toledo is running warmer than the record year of 1875 a very cold airmass is expected the next few weeks, potentially lasting into December.

Pic via twitter: @BigJoeBastardi

Time will tell if 2014 ends up #1 but no matter what, it appears a near lock it will be a top 10 cold year in Toledo history.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014-2015 Winter Outlook

'This will be a terrible winter'.

'It will be worse than last year'.

You've probably heard your own variation of those phrases to sum up forecasts for the upcoming winter. Right?

There is no denying it. Last winter will go down as one of the worst on record for Toledo. It SMASHED all-time snow records and flirted with the unimaginable cold of the last 1970's. So is a repeat really possible? Let's dive into facts, not hype. Winter forecasting is still a VERY difficult science. Just watch this story and information from Meteorologist Robert Shiels:

Although forecasting a season in advance is a difficult task, there are some pre-cursors we can look at to make the best forecast available. Such as global sea temperatures, the position of the jet stream and current snow cover. Here is our forecast:

TEMPERATURE: Below average.

This doesn't mean polar bears will be seen walking down the streets. There will be some fluxuation in temperatures throughout the season.

The key many times to just how bone chilling a winter can get is how quickly snow cover across the northern US becomes established. This will be something to watch closely the next 2 months. Right now there is a significant amount of snow over northern north america and Siberia. While that can be used a signal for a very cold winter ahead, it isn't a perfect method. Take Nov 2011 for example. Lots of snow (in fact, more than at the same time this year) but the winter ended extremely warm.

2014 Snow Cover

2012 Snow Cover

SNOW: Near to above average.

I think the sweet spot this year is in the 40-55" range. That would be above the seasonal average of 37" but a far cry from the 86" last season. Keep in mind the winter of 2013-2014 broke the all-time snow record by over a foot. A repeat of that seems very unlikely, even if a snowy winter was apparent. 

Follow Meteorologist Ryan Wichman all season for the latest storm updates:


Trying to predict months in advance is far from an exact science at this point. We all get that. So as we get closer and even into winter here are some of the top wild-cards to watch that may sway our weather one direction or another.

-How quickly the lakes freeze: Last year this happened rather quick and limited the amount of lake effect clouds and snow showers the area saw. An unfrozen Lake Erie can also keep lakeshore communities warmer than inland locations. In two images below we take the two largest Great Lakes and show how quickly water temperatures are already dropping. Already the temperature is lower than that of this time a year ago in Superior and Michigan. 

-Drought in the western United States: Until a large pattern shift appears likely, the drought and warm conditions in California and western United States will continue. With this in mind, with high pressure esablished in the western US it is likely an active and chilly pattern will continue for the east.

-Pacific Tropical Storms: Very strong storms near Japan and western Pacific can have a large influence on our weather. The effects are not immediate but develop over the span of days and weeks. A single large storm can and has had the ability to influence global scale patterns.

While winter forecasting in the past can be viewed as little more than throwing a dart at the board there is meaningful science that can help tip the scales one way or another. Here are more link that dive even deeper into the science of winter forecasting. Enjoy.

NWS Detroit Winter Outlook
WSI Winter Blog
Climate Prediction Center Winter Outlook