After brutal January, things are looking up
February 02, 2014 2:00 AM
by JASON LEVAN
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There are probably plenty of people who are hoping Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring after the month of weather we just endured.

Last month was the 19th coldest January ever, according to records kept by the National Weather Service. While the average daily temperature in Indiana was just under 20 degrees, the normal average is 26.6 degrees.

“It’s been cold, but not that bad,” said Lee Hendricks, a meteorologist with the weather service.

To wit: The lowest average temperature was 11.4 degrees in 1977, he said.

Nonetheless, on nine occasions last month, the temperature never climbed above zero, and it failed to cross the freezing threshold on almost half of the days during the month. What’s more, wild temperature swings had us at a low of minus 2 on Jan. 8 and a high of 55 degrees just six days later.

The coldest recorded temperature in Indiana was 13 degrees below zero on Jan. 29, according to the NWS. AccuWeather reported a low of minus 15 on Jan. 22. Wind chills were, at times, 20 and 30 degrees below zero.

But, just in time for Groundhog Day, the region appears to be headed into more of a seasonal trend, according to Hendricks.

A ridge of high pressure that kept the West Coast warmer than normal for much of January has begun breaking apart, causing temperatures in this region of the country to stabilize somewhat, he said.

But that can mean more frequent snowstorms.

“That makes us more susceptible to East Coast storms,” Hendricks said. “There’s no free lunch in the winter … unless you live in Maui.”

More snow may not be welcome news, either, considering the area has already seen higher-than-normal snowfall. In January, almost 20 inches fell, 6 inches higher than average. According to the NWS, 33.7 inches has piled up so far this season. Normal for this point in the winter is 26.2 inches.

What kept the cold coming was the well-publicized “polar vortex,” but generally using that term is somewhat misleading, Hendricks said.

What was really happening for much of January was that “pieces of energy” were breaking off from the polar vortex, a semi-permanent low-pressure system positioned over Canada, sending disturbances south, causing temperatures to plunge in much of the country.

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