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Weather flight anticipates ‘roller coaster’ winter

  • Published
  • By Caroline Clauson
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Ohio weather teaches most everyone to expect the unexpected, and the 88th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight’s prediction ahead of the cold season suggests an equally interesting start to 2023.

Jim Lane, senior operational meteorologist at the flight, says that although the coming winter promises precipitation, temperatures will mean the difference between sledding and rain showers.

“It’s going to be a wetter-than-normal winter,” Lane said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean more snow. Some are saying there’s going to be a lot more snow, and that may well be for some places. I don’t know if it’s necessarily going to translate for us.”

The weather probably won’t become consistently bone-chilling until January, according to Lane, making a white Christmas unlikely.

“Temperatures are going to be near the same as what we typically average for winters,” he said. “I don’t think really cold air is going to get here to stay until after the first of the year.”

And even though Lane predicts typical winter temperatures, he says we may not see them stay steady, introducing potential for a wide range of events throughout the season.

“This year is going to be a roller coaster with swings in temperatures,” Lane said. “Do I think we’ll see temperatures down to the teens? Yes. But it wouldn’t surprise me if a week or two weeks later it’s followed with 50 degrees.

“If we get temperatures into the 50s and we do get systems come through that have a lot of moisture with them, we’re going to get rain. But if we happen to get a finger of the polar vortex, temperatures drop near zero at night and we get a system come through that has a lot of moisture, we’re going to get a lot of snow.”

Unprecedently returning for a third consecutive year, La Nina, the name for intermittent cooling of sea temperatures in the Pacific, is the culprit behind debates and uncertainty among meteorologists.

“We’ve never experienced that before,” Lane said. “And it influences our weather significantly here in North America because all weather across the entire globe is caused by the horizontal contrast in temperatures. Well, the sea state influences that significantly. The heating and cooling of the sea creates a lot of our winds because the entire globe is over 70 percent covered in water.”

Overall, Lane says that just as likely as a picture-perfect Huffman Prairie covered in white this season is the type of storm associated with summertime.

“The one general consensus is that there’s a chance for severe thunderstorms during the winter,” Lane said. “During the wintertime, the atmosphere compresses significantly. So let’s say we have a system come along that has some convective activity. With thunderstorms, those don’t have to have very tall vertical extent to tap into that cold air and go severe.

“So I think we could see strong winds, maybe some tornadic activity this winter, and maybe some hail as well. I think that’s the biggest fear.”

The Weather Flight staff at Wright-Patt knows to take weather in stride by now, averaging 34 years of forecasting and meteorological experience and even more winter surprises.

“I was deployed overseas in 2004, and after a year I was flying home. I flew into 23 inches of snow,” Lane said. “I took the first flight that was allowed into Dayton. I remember that our neighbors had cleaned our driveway and put up ‘Welcome home’ signs in the snow. I didn’t get to experience it as it happened, but I got to experience coming home to it. That’s the wildest I’ve ever seen it.”