Cold winter woes in Michiana

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - It is no surprise that this has been a brutally cold winter for Michiana.

What could this cold weather mean for the months to come?

It has been fourteen below zero this year at the South Bend Regional Airport. And we hit that number twice. Before this winter, it had been almost 3 years since we had seen sub-zero temperatures. All this cold air left us with the 9th coldest January on record.

So, why has it been so cold lately?

Sam Lashley, a Meteorologist at the National Weather Service explains:

“We’ve had a large area of high pressure off the coast of the U.S. (They’ve actually been very warm and dry out that way). But that high pressure is diverting the jet stream up into Alaska and to the North Pole region, and then it takes a dip south into the Great Lakes and the Midwest, and we’ve had this continuous feed of cold air throughout the winter.”

While the temps have plummeted, the snow has piled up. We have had over 88 inches of snow so far this year at WNDU.

So, how out of the ordinary is this winter?

While the past couple winters have been warm, we did have some pretty cold air back in 2011 and in 2009.

Lashley says that this cold is not unprecedented, but it does remind many of us of our childhood winters in the 1970s. “It’s just a return to a more normal winter for northern Indiana.”

People who love the cold and snow are loving this winter, but it has definitely been rough on those that don’t.

So, let’s try to find some positive in this ice box. How about the added moisture in the soil? Well, don’t wish for 60 degree weather just yet…

Sam Lashley explains how rapid melting of snow will result in flooding. ”If we have a gradual warm up and not a lot of precipitation that falls, that water will be released more slowly and the flooding impacts will be minimized.”

Ok, what about bugs? Is this cold weather going to mean fewer pests this summer?

Jeff Burbrink, a Purdue Extension Educator, delivers the bad news:

“Yeah, a lot of insects like the stink bugs, ladybugs, that sort of thing will live in the cracks and crevices and bark in trees, and they’re pretty well protected. They’re used to these kind of conditions, and they have some built in antifreeze in their bodies and can tolerate it much more than us people, and they’ll do just fine.”

What about allergens? The cold weather helps to keep them in check, but what about this Spring?

Burbrink tells us that the cold really has no effect on what happens this Spring: “Once you get up into that 30-40 degree range things begin to get more active and growing. And that’s when you start having more allergens.”

Is there any good news?

There is in the long term outlooks. Lashley tells us about the possibilities for this summer and beyond: “The consensus is as we get into the summer months that we’re looking at more of a typical, normal summer. And our really long range outlooks for next fall and winter suggest the possibility of above normal temperatures with the development of an El Nino.”

That sounds like great news. But we still have more of THIS winter to go. And while we do see warmer temperatures on the horizon, we still need to keep those coats handy.

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