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Climate Friday | Is climate change playing a role in the lack of snow?

What's up with the snow drought? How does it compare to past years? WTOL 11 Meteorologist John Burchfield has the answers.

TOLEDO, Ohio — It's winter, so where's the snow?

You may have asked yourself that question this season, which has brought mainly damp and mild weather conditions thus far. Mid-January will likely remain mild with minimal snow, adding to our snowfall deficit. 

Is this snow drought due to climate change? And how does this winter stack up to past years?

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Though still part of the fall season, November ushered in its fair share of wintry weather and light snow. The month brought a total of 0.4 inches of accumulation, still only about a quarter of the usual monthly snowfall. 

The winter season officially began with a mainly mild and dry December. The entire month brought only 1.2 inches of snow accumulation with most of that falling right before Christmas. December 2022 ranks as the 13th-least snowy December on record in Toledo, delivering less than one-fifth of the normal snowfall.  

How did December stack up against past years? The least-snowy Decembers on record are 2014 and 2015, each of which featured a mere trace of accumulation. Checking in at number three is 2018, which brought just 0.1 inch of accumulation. 

Rounding out the top four is 1891, which featured only 0.4 inches. A typical December delivers 6.5 inches of snow, which goes to show just how dry and mild these record years were.

Winter typically ramps up in January with cold and snow growing more frequent and intense. Historically, January is the snowiest month of the year in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, bringing 12.3 inches of accumulation on average. 

However, this year has started off anything but cold and snowy. So far, this January has served up a mere dusting of snowfall. If January ended today, it would go down as the least-snowy on record. Right now, January 1935 sits atop that list, recording only 0.3 inches all month. 

Time will tell if we add to our historic winter snowfall deficit, but the long-range weather outlook features mainly mild conditions through the middle of the month. Even with a few snowflakes in Friday's forecast, snowfall accumulation will remain marginal. 

How does this month stack up against Januarys of the past? January 1935 was the least-snowy on record, bringing only 0.3 inches of accumulation. Coming in second is January 1919 which delivered 0.5 inches. 

January 1932 brought only 0.6 inches of snowfall, and January 1983 featured only 0.7 inches. All these years fell far below the normal January snowfall total of 12.3 inches. 

Even with this year's remarkable snowfall deficit, this month has brought some moisture in the form of rainfall. January 2023 has brought a total of 0.77 inches of rain, providing some moisture for the ground. In total winter precipitation stands at 2.66 inches - well below normal - and winter snowfall is at 1.6 inches, a whopping 10.8 inches below average. 

All signs are pointing toward a continuation of the mild and relatively snow-free weather pattern.

Climate change has reduced winter snowfall amounts on average. Due to warming temperatures, more moisture now falls as rain instead of snow. And because warmer air holds more moisture, winter precipitation has become heavier, but more commonly occurs as rain. 

Even though climate change plays a role in our winter snowfall, so does the broader weather pattern such as La Niña. On average, La Niña winters bring relatively mild and damp conditions during the winter months, with rainfall amounts above average and snowfall totals below normal. 

While climate change will make winters like this one more common in the future, the lack of snowfall is also attributable to the La Niña weather pattern this season. Time will tell what the rest of this winter has in store, but it currently stands as a very mild and snow-free season so far.


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