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Published: Thursday, 3/1/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

'Winter That wasn't' ranks 10th-warmest in Toledo area

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Aaron Pettaway makes his way across North St. Clair Street in a heavy fog at the end of the workday. Wednesday was unusually warm too. Aaron Pettaway makes his way across North St. Clair Street in a heavy fog at the end of the workday. Wednesday was unusually warm too.
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In several ways, Wednesday was the winter of 2011-12 in microcosm: The beginning was very wet, the afternoon dry, sunny, and warm.

And then, just to put a bizarre cap on the Winter That Wasn't, dense fog developed in downtown Toledo during the evening rush hour along a warm front.

The fog spread as warmer air surged up from the southwest and overrode cooler air at the surface, pushing the Toledo Express Airport temperature from 47 at 3 p.m. to 63 at 5:41 p.m.

Yet somehow this winter's three extra months of Novemberlike weather won't set any records, neither for warmth nor for lack of snow.

The period from December through February -- which meteorologists prefer to define the season rather than the popular timetable associated with solar solstices and equinoxes -- had an average daily mean temperature of 32.7 degrees, making it the 10th-warmest winter in Toledo since record-keeping began in 1873-74.

That's a full 3 degrees cooler than the most recent winter on the list, 2001-02, which was Toledo's fifth-warmest of all-time, and even 0.8 degrees cooler than 1997-98, which was 9th on the list. The all-time warmest, with an average daily mean of 37.8 degrees, occurred in 1889-1890.

But while not a record-breaker, this season still was warm enough that the Metroparks District of the Toledo Area's new ice rink at Side Cut Metropark was never used.

That was "the biggest disappointment" of a winter that also frowned on sledders and cross-country skiers, said Scott Carpenter, the parks district's spokesman.

"It was never cold enough for a long enough stretch to open it," Mr. Carpenter said of the rink.

The one bit of good luck, he said, was there was fresh snow on the ground for a grand-opening event Jan. 21, so at least it felt like winter for the party.

The snowfall of Jan. 20-21 was the biggest of the season; 3.6 inches fell at Toledo Express.

And while Toledo's snowfall this winter will almost surely end up well below average, it's unlikely to appear on the weather service's list of 10 least-snowy winters at all, thanks to just enough dribs and drabs of snow scattered throughout the three months.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 16.8 inches of snow had fallen this season at Toledo Express, which put 2011-12 in 10th place on that list as well.

But unlike the Top 10 warmest winters list, the snowfall figure covers the 12 months from July through June and thus is still subject to change. The current total is just 0.3 inches below 10th place, and at least a little snow is likely in Toledo during March, and sometimes even in April or May.

Snow showers were forecast for Thursday morning on the cold side of the same storm that delivered Wednesday's rain, warmth, and fog.

Tom King, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Cleveland, said that, as predicted in long-range forecasts last fall, Toledo's winter was wetter than normal, consistent with a well-publicized La Nina water-temperature phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean.

But because there also was a persistent air-pressure pattern over the Arctic and North America that blocked frigid polar air from moving south very often, Mr. King said, that moisture fell mostly as rain, not snow.

"Just a few more degrees cooler" and Toledo's winter would have been very different, he said.

Of course, if you like outdoor activities that don't require sleds, skis, or skates, this was your winter.

"All month in February, we had people on bicycles, and sometimes on Rollerblades," Mr. Carpenter said. "The general consensus at our office was, this was great. It's like fall never ended."

A springtime outlook from the National Weather Service says the odds favor warmer-than-normal conditions continuing.

The long-range prediction estimated a 38 percent chance of warmer-than-average weather at Toledo Express from March through May, a 34 percent chance of normal temperatures, and a 28 percent chance of cooler-than-normal weather.

Mr. King said the chance of a warmer-than-normal March is especially strong: 60 percent, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

But don't forget how, 10 years ago, Toledo was seemingly on its way to its second-lowest snow total on record when back-to-back late-season storms dropped 10.4 inches on Toledo between March 24 and 26 -- several days after the spring equinox.

So it's far too soon to know what the final 2011-12 snow tally will be.

While forecasters expected another warm-up Friday, with a high near 60 and showers and thunderstorms likely in the Toledo area, snow showers were again on the meteorological menu for Sunday.

"March is usually a mixed bag" of weather, the Metroparks' Mr. Carpenter said.

In that regard, Toledo weather seems to be returning to form, at least for now.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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