Are snowball fights a thing of the past?

 Sledding, snowball fights, snow angels—these are just a few of the activities people are not enjoying this year as Cincinnati has had hardly any snow as of January 2020.

   In fact, January 2020 was almost marked the lowest snowfall for the month of January on record. However, on Jan. 31, we had a whopping 0.7 inches of snow. Far short of a blizzard, and far less than normal. 

   WCPO meteorologist Jennifer Ketchmark says normal January snowfall is 6.5 inches, so the 0.7-inch snowfall was well under normal amounts. 

   The lack of snow does not mean there is not any precipitation. The temperatures simply are too warm for snow, so any precipitation results as rain, not snow. The jet stream largely influences this weather pattern. 

   WLWT meteorologist Allison Rogers said, “The jet stream drives much of our weather—and weather across the globe for that matter. For a while, the jet stream was blocking a lot of cold air in the northwestern corner of the U.S., and keeping the southeastern half (including Greater Cincinnati) in a warm and wet cycle.” 

   This pattern not only means fewer snowmen and less sledding, but it also means that the snow is not doing an important job—helping to regulate Earth’s temperatures. 

   Rogers said, “When snow covers the ground, it’s reflective. In turn, it reflects a portion of the sun’s energy back into the atmosphere, which helps cool Earth.” 

   Snow also keeps pest populations in check. Ketchmark said, mild winters cause bugs to be a bigger issue than normal in the spring and summer. 

   Ketchmark also said, “Snow is important to businesses. Lawn and garden companies rely on plowing income in the winter months. Winter sports businesses, like Perfect North, need cold (not always snow as they can make their own) to stay open in the winter months and make the majority of their money for the year.”

   Snow plays an essential role in both the environment and the creatures living in it. Even though this year was definitely on the lower end of snowfall, this does not mean that Cincinnati’s snowy days are over!

   “This year just seems to be an anomaly, running just a little too warm giving us more rain than snow,” said Ketchmark. 

   We can even see this difference across the past two Januarys. Rogers said, “January 2019 was one of the snowiest, while January 2020 was one of the least snowy.”

   There is no real way to know what the snowfall will be like in the next few years or even the next month. Who knows? Maybe January 2021 will be filled with blizzards!