The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 19, 2013

This winter was (not) one for record books

Star Beacon

— A winter that arrived with a whimper is departing with a slushy, cold bang, according to the National Weather Service.

Spring 2013 officially debuts on Wednesday, but you wouldn’t know it from the forecast — high temperatures just below freezing and a chance of snow for the day. In fact, snow and cold air dominates the forecast the rest of the week, according to the NWS.

The prediction is depressing, but the weather pattern isn’t unusual for this time of year in northeast Ohio, said Sarah Jamison, a meteorologist at the Cleveland NWS office. Folks who disagree may be comparing this season to the winter of 2011-2012, which was historically mild. This winter is much more typical in terms of temperature and precipitation, Jamison said.

“Call it the winter of normal,” she said Monday.

It didn’t start that way, with above-average warmth in December and January, followed by a below-average plunge in February and so far this month, Jamison said. Statistics bolster that claim — December’s average high temperature was nearly 38 degrees (5.4 degrees warmer than usual) and January’s average high was 30.4 (2.3 degrees warmer), while February’s average was 28 degrees (2.6 degrees below average). So far in March, the average high temperature has been around 33 degrees, 2.6 degrees below the norm.

Snow fell in varying amounts over the past three months, experts said. Generally, Ashtabula County saw between 60 and 80 inches of the white stuff, Jamison said.

Ron Coursen, a NWS observer with a weather station in Ashtabula, said 69.1 inches was recorded at his location. That’s a big jump compared to the previous winter, when only 40.8 inches was tabulated, he said. So far this month, seven inches of snow has fallen, compared to 1.2 inches during the 2011-2012 season, Coursen said.

“Traditionally, March here can be snowy,” he said.

David Marrison, Ashtabula County extension agent, says growers want a very gradual segue into spring. Last year, warm temperatures prompted fruit trees to bud much earlier than usual — which proved disastrous when a cold snap arrived. This past season, with temperatures that didn’t stray too much beyond the expected, bodes well for the growing season, Marrison said.

“This has been a more normal winter,” he said Monday, with no major fluctuations in warm or cold weather.

On the plus side, the area recently enjoyed a bountiful maple sap yield, Marrison said. “We had one of the nicest runs in decades,” he said.

As for the coming weeks, the NWS projections for April, May and June are encouraging, Jamison said. “We’re seeing an increased likelihood of above-average temperatures,” she said.