Temperate climate buffered by the lake
While not usually considered to be ideal (especially at the end of a long, gray winter), the climate of Northeast Ohio climate has a lot of advantages. We have four distinct seasons that orient us to the progression of the year. Within the seasons, we have a diversity of weather because of our mid-continent location between competing air masses from the north and south. Our temperatures are not as extreme as other parts of the country (with temperatures near Lake Erie further buffered by the water). And we have ample precipitation distributed throughout the year, which keeps our land lush and green.
The following highlights of local climate are excerpted from “Climate of Ohio,” a publication from National Climatic Data Center.
Ohio has a rich and varied climate. Exposed equally to air from Canada and the Tropics, daily weather can change dramatically and a wide range of extremes often occur at some point in each season. Northern counties experience a variety of Lake Erie-induced weather and climate effects, and the northeastern counties experience a snowy winter as good as any occurring elsewhere in the country.
The climate of Ohio is continental, characterized by a relatively large range of seasonal variability with cold winters and warm, humid summers. It is affected by warm maritime tropical air masses that bring summer heat and humidity but which also produce occasional mild winter days. Hot and dry air masses periodically envelop the State and produced the State’s record high temperature of 113 degrees Fahrenheit (° F) on July 21, 1934. The State is also frequented by cold dry continental polar air masses that bring cool and bright summer days and very cold winter days.
The calendar dates of the last spring and first autumn freezes define the length of the growing
season. The freeze-free period in Ohio ranges on average from 160 days in northern Ohio, away from Lake Erie, to 180 days in the southern portion of the State. In an extreme case, when a late spring and early autumn freeze may occur in one year, the freeze-free period may be reduced to 125 days in the north and 155 days in the south. A widespread and severe late-season freeze from May 19 to 22, 2002 reminded Ohio growers that it is safest to consider the start of the growing season as some time after May 20 in most parts of the State. Lake Erie has a beneficial effect on the freeze-free season, from the standpoint of agriculture, extending the average growing season to as much as 200 days in coastal areas. It does so by moderating cold outbreaks occurring in late spring or during autumn.
Ohio’s climate is favored with an abundance of precipitation throughout the year, brought about by two primary atmospheric mechanisms. Precipitation from October through March occurs due to mid-latitude wave cyclones traversing the country while the remainder of the year experiences varying amounts of convective thunderstorm rainfall. The dual mechanisms ensure a constant supply of moisture, some precipitation usually falling on one day in three. Each month averages at least two inches of rainfall, although none average more than five inches.
Ohio is one of the cloudiest places on the planet during winter months, an unfortunate distinction given the fact that it earns none of the accolades for such a climate as are enjoyed by places such as England or Iceland. The long-term average cloudiest Ohio month is December, when sunshine is received only about 30 percent of the time. Generally between 20 and 22 overcast days occur in that month, while only three to six days are clear and the remainder partly cloudy. Conditions improve slowly from that point and Ohio enjoys a broad June through September peak in sunshine and relatively cloud-free conditions, each month receiving slightly more than 60 percent of maximum possible sunshine...Although spatial variations are subtle, the western portion of the State has more clear days on an annual basis, and effects brought about by Lake Erie induce slightly higher cloud conditions in coastal counties in autumn but fewer clouds in spring.
The primary wind direction over much of Ohio is from the southwest, as measured at National
Weather Service sites at larger cities. Some variability occurs but most weather stations report
long-term average winds from a direction between south and west-southwest. The wind can
blow from any direction on any given day however, primarily due to Ohio’s location with respect to the position of large high pressure areas and storm systems that are continually moving across the continent.
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