Snow? What snow? Seasonal total is dramatically below the norm

By Jason Hawk -

Here’s a number to astound you: 17.

That’s the total inches of snow we’ve seen little by little in the entire 2015-2016 winter season here in Lorain County, where the historical norms over the past three decades show a little more than 36 inches by the end of January.

December found zero snow. This month’s brought just eight inches with no major storms forcing us to start up our snow-blowers.

Now temperatures are expected to hover in the 40s this coming week. Snow showers are possible Feb. 9 and 10.

Because we’re nerds (that’s a good thing), and because we don’t trust the groundhog for the right answer, we went data-diving to try to find what the remainder of winter and spring might hold.

The verdict: Chances are pretty slim that our town will get its 68 inches (almost six feet) worth of snow, which is the seasonal average.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center has issued its long-term forecast through May. Guess what, folks — the unusual warmth isn’t going away, at least not quickly.

Expect above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation, all due to El Nino.

That name describes the cycle of hot Pacific Ocean surface conditions that push warm air across the continental United States, then on to the rest of the globe. And it’s done a doozy this time.

In September, we used a wealth of climate data to try to predict what the fall and winter would look like. All signed pointed toward astonishing warmth, but we never suspected just how intense it would be.

This past fall was the warmest on record.

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, worldwide land and ocean surfaces from September to November were 1.73 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, the hottest since measurements began in 1880.

The Lower 48 states also set a heat record in December, when mean temperatures measured 38.6 degrees. It was Ohio’s warmest-ever-recorded December as well.

Our state actually saw much-above-average precipitation in December, but it was rain, rain, rain.

For the new year, “The Farmer’s Almanac” spun tales of icy cold that would bury Ohio in deep snows. That’s clearly proved wrong.

“The Old Farmer’s Almanac,” a separate an equally unreliable publication, forecasted January temperatures three degrees below average for the Great Lakes region, which has been far from the case.

Now El Nino has likely peaked and the odds that La Nina conditions will manifest by back-to-school time continue to climb.

La Nina is the counter-balance to El Nino, marked by cooler-than-average Pacific Ocean surface temperatures. It often — but not always — follows El Nino and corrects global climate conditions.

In the meantime, we’re heeding the words of Lorain County Metro Parks chief naturalist Grant Thompson, who foresees a huge boom for local animal life due to the warmth.

Deer, once extinct in Ohio but with a statewide population numbering around 750,000 this past year, should get a leg up.

The lack of sub-zero temps and heavy snows has kept grass and bark accessible in our neighborhoods, leading to fatter, healthier breeders this spring.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk