Mar 13, 2023 - News

Inside Cleveland's historically mild winter

Average winter temperatures in Cleveland

Northeast Ohio winters are typically characterized by cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. However, Mother Nature hasn't cooperated this season.

What's happening: This winter has been the third-warmest on record, averaging 36.4 degrees from December through February — 12.1 degrees warmer than winter 1970, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.

  • That's according to a new analysis of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration numbers from Climate Central, a nonpartisan research and communications group.

Why it matters: Cleveland is on pace to see less than 25 inches of snowfall from December through March, according to the National Weather Service, and that would rank as one of the lowest totals on record.

  • The combination of warmer temperatures and less snowfall could become the new normal for area winters.

The big picture: Winter is the fastest-warming season for much of the continental U.S.

  • About 80% of the country now has at least seven more winter days with above-normal temperatures, compared with 1970, per Climate Central.
  • Seasonal snowfall is declining in many cities — though heavy snowstorms can still happen when temperatures are cold enough.

The intrigue: Cold snaps are becoming less severe and shorter in duration, the latest research shows.

  • That's partly because the Arctic is warming at three to four times the rate of the rest of the world.
  • In other words, our global refrigerator is warming up, making it harder to get record-breaking cold for days on end when weather patterns transport Arctic air southward.

Zoom out: This winter has been especially mild east of the Mississippi River. Across the West, it's been colder than average.

  • A combination of La Niña, a strong polar vortex and a stubborn area of high pressure in the far western Atlantic Ocean favored a weather pattern that kept the East Coast on the warm side of winter storms, delivering snow across the Great Lakes northward into Ontario and Quebec.

What they're saying: Aaron Wilson, an atmospheric scientist at The Ohio State University tells Axios that Cleveland's current winter follows long-term trends.

  • "The warmer temperatures in Ohio and Cleveland are consistent with the trends we've seen over the last 150 years or even the last 40 years," Wilson says. "We expect that to continue into future winters."

The bottom line: Over the coming years, most of us can expect to feel climate change's effects most acutely during the winter months.

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