Warm-Up Just Ahead

OWU’s Dave Hickcox explains cold snap
It was -7° F in Delaware on January 7, not quite as cold as the record -22° F reading in 1994. (Photo by Yuki Phan ’14)

It was -7° F in Delaware on January 7, not quite as cold as the record -22° F reading in 1994. (Photo by Yuki Phan ’14)

Understanding the whys and wherefores of our ever-changing weather doesn’t make it any more comfortable, walking around outdoors during this month’s sub-zero temperatures. Nonetheless, sometimes it can help to realize that weather is what happens on a day-to-day basis and is ever changing. As OWU’s David Hickcox, geology-geography professor and environmental studies coordinator explains, there are several factors contributing to our recent spate of Arctic-like air.

“There has been a huge ridge of high pressure sitting over the far western United States that forced a band of air (jet stream) traveling at high velocity—more than 100 miles per hour—to veer north or south of us,” says Hickcox, who teaches a geology course on Weather and Climate Meteorology, among others.  “Moving south means warmer weather for us as opposed to the northern direction.”  High pressure buildup forces the jet stream up to the Arctic and around its side, pulling air from Siberia. Hickcox adds that this pattern was common in the late 1970’s and 80’s.

“We’ve had fairly warm winters here in more recent years.” Whether those are attributable to global warming, Hickcox can’t say with finality. “However, we’ve been slowly warming since the 90’s.”

As temperatures begin to warm up this week, a low pressure Alberta Clipper, moving across Canada, will skyrocket our daytime temperatures to 32-40° F and bring much-needed rain to the California lowlands.

Remember, if you don’t like the weather in Ohio, wait five minutes and it will change!

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