Polar vortex could be on the way to Ohio

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Lake Erie island shore
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

COLUMBUS — If you were thinking this winter has been fairly mild so far, it has been, but gear up. Frigid temperatures could be gripping Ohio, the Midwest and the Northeast around the last week of January.

The polar vortex, a wide area of swirling cold air near the North Pole, has weakened and split in two, which happens from time to time when air in the stratosphere above it warms.

With the split, forecasts indicate one of the portions of the vortex may drift south toward Canada and the northern United States. These weakened polar vortex conditions often drop temperatures well below normal (think single digits and sub-zero) and may lead to more snow, according to Aaron Wilson, climate specialist with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Wilson added that it’s possible snow could come with those cold temperatures if the conditions are right. That’s because this winter’s weather is also being influenced by La Nina, meaning the temperature of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central and South America is colder than average. Those conditions can influence weather around the world.

For Ohio, a La Nina year typically means a wetter and warmer-than-average winter and spring. Whether that additional precipitation will mean more snow or more rain is uncertain, Wilson said.

Central Ohio typically gets 25-30 inches of snow, on average, a year, with southern Ohio getting less and northern Ohio much more, with about 60-70 inches of snow near Lake Erie.

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