2012 is 4th-warmest year in city records

Late-summer cooldown prevents setting high mark for heat

Margaret O'Neill, 6, center left, holds her brother Finnegan, 2, both of Sylvania, as the two swim at Burnham Park in Sylvania.
Margaret O'Neill, 6, center left, holds her brother Finnegan, 2, both of Sylvania, as the two swim at Burnham Park in Sylvania.

Record-shattering warmth in March and five 100-degree days in early summer seemingly had Toledo on track for its hottest year on record, but a late summer cooldown put the brakes on that train.

Instead, 2012 ended up being the fourth-warmest year in the city's recorded history, with an average daily mean temperature of 53.1 degrees at the official reporting station at Toledo Express Airport, according to the National Weather Service.

An agency meteorologist in Cleveland noted, however, that the average daily high temperature for 2012 was 63.4 degrees, which was the highest ever, beating the record of 62.8 degrees set in 1998.

Meteorologist Kristen Yeager said the average high could set a record without the mean also doing so if average nighttime lows were relatively cool. That happens, she said, when there's a lot of clear air -- which is what northwest Ohio had quite often during a drier-than-normal year.

Without cloud cover, heat radiating from the Earth's surface rises well up into the atmosphere instead of being trapped near the surface.

In the late summer and fall, Ms. Yeager said, "the weather pattern became more active. There were more storms, the weather was changing more rapidly."

That set up four straight months -- August through November -- when Toledo temperatures averaged below normal, which was enough to prevent an overall record for the year even though December ended up quite a bit warmer than normal.

Toledo temperature records date back to the 1870s, which normal is based on a rolling 30-year period of weather data.

The year-end precipitation total was 30.34 inches, or 3.9 inches drier than normal. That didn't come close to making the National Weather Service's list of Top 10 driest years, but it was a turnabout from 2011, which with 48.96 inches of precipitation at the airport was the wettest year on record for Toledo.

And while the mild winter of 2011-12 didn't make the Top 10 for lowest snowfalls -- there were just enough small storms to keep that from happening -- a late start to the current winter helped Toledo set a record for the longest period between measureable snowfalls: 290 days, from March 6 through Dec. 20.

Seven inches of snow fell during December's final 11 days, leaving the monthly snowfall slightly below the 7.3-inch norm. Toledo's official total snowfall for 2012 was 23.1 inches.

Ms. Yeager said Toledoans should expect winter temperatures, if not much precipitation, for the rest of the week, but longer-range outlooks suggest a warm-up next week.

"We are looking at getting very cold, with highs in the 20s and lows sometimes in the single digits" this week, she said.

The National Climatic Data Center's forecasts for January and for the first three months of 2013, meanwhile, show equal probabilities for unusual temperatures and precipitation, Ms. Yeager said. Chances of temperatures being warmer or colder than normal, and precipitation being lighter or heavier than normal, are roughly the same.