COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — No previous February in Columbus has failed to produce a measurable snowfall — until 2023. A few flurries were evident this month, but nothing that stuck to the ground (0.1 of an inch or greater).
The previous least snowiest February in 2009 yielded only 0.2 inches (tying 1949), with records extending to 1885 in the city.
Record high temperatures of 72, 72, and 73 degrees were recorded on Feb. 9, 15, and 23 — the first time the mercury has climbed to 70 or higher on three days in either January or February in Columbus weather records.
Winter snowfall through the end of February is only 11.5 inches, about half of what we might normally see by March 1 in Columbus. The bulk of the season’s accumulation fell on Dec. 23 (4.9 inches) and Jan. 22 (3 inches).
This is not surprising, given the extreme mildness of the past two core winter months.
Temperatures in January 2023 averaged 7.8 degrees above normal. The average temperature in February is nearly 9 degrees above the average of 32.5 degrees. Only two Februarys have been warmer in Columbus since 1879: 2017 (42.2 degrees) and 1882 (41.8 degrees).
In February 2017, there were two days of 70-degree warmth, and one day when the temperature hit 69 degrees.
There are several reasons for the unusual mildness, both linked to the jet stream or steering currents in the upper atmosphere.
This season is the rare third consecutive La Niña, a climate pattern reflecting cooler-than-normal water in the tropical eastern Pacific that influences the jet stream, shunting arctic air north of Ohio during much of the winter.
A notable exception was two days before Christmas, when a lobe of the polar vortex descended on the region for several days, bringing snow, wind, and brutally cold conditions.
NOAA’s spring outlook (March-May) predicts a general continuation of warmer-than-average conditions in the eastern portion of the country, which does not preclude occasional blasts of arctic air.