Whether or not northwest Ohio gets a white Christmas this year remains to be seen, but the odds so far are even.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) annual U.S. Winter Outlook indicates the Midwest is in for above-normal temperatures and wetter-than-average precipitation this winter — but La Niña may be a factor. La Niña is a natural ocean-atmospheric phenomenon marked by cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures across the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator that alters weather patterns around the globe.
“Christmas is more than a month out so we can’t forecast precisely, but probabilistically we’re looking at a 25-50% chance of a White Christmas,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Chris Roller said.
“Sometimes in a La Niña we get an early punch of cold and snow, then it warms up during mid-winter and we get a cold and snowy finish,” he said. “We’re not completely sure that will happen but there’s potential for it.”
That first cold punch was more of a love tab with a light dusting of snow and high winds making 47 degrees feel more like 20. By Tuesday afternoon we should be back above 50 degrees with a slight breeze and minimal wind chill.
“La Niña is just one piece helping drive what happens next,” Roller said. “With that the overarching pattern is greater-than-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures for the next three months, but the polar vortex is a wild card.”
The polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding the North Pole. It gets stronger in the winter months and occasionally flows south over the Midwest.
Last year’s La Niña conditions combined with polar air over Lake Michigan to bring snow to northern Indiana. “We got 10 inches of snow in South Bend (Indiana) on Christmas Day,” Roller said.