Ohio Valley Sees Extreme Temperature Swings

Photo by Scott McCloskey Denny Wilson, a member of St. Michael Parish in Wheeling, braves the heavy snowfall early Friday while volunteering to clear snow on the sidewalk and parking lot areas near the school. By Monday, the temperature had risen to 64 degrees — a record high.

What a difference a week makes.

A 69-degree temperature swing in the span of five days led Wheeling to experience record low temperatures last week and then a record high this week.

Data from the National Weather Service listed Wheeling’s high temperature on Monday at 64 degrees, which broke the previous high temperature recorded for Feb. 4 of 61 degrees set in 1928. The weather service lists the normal expected high temperature for Feb. 4 at 38 degrees.

But just last Wednesday, the area recorded its lowest-ever temperature for a Jan. 30, with the thermometer bottoming out at 5 degrees below zero.

All weather data for Wheeling is taken at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport.

The previous low for Jan. 30 was 4 degrees below zero, recorded in 1948. The normal low for that day is 22 degrees.

Tom Green, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, chalked the temperature extremes up to shifts in the jet stream. He said our region of America sits primarily between two jet streams — a polar jet stream to the north, and a tropical jet stream to the south.

The polar jet stream consists of strong upper level winds over Canada, he said, and most of the time the extreme cold is found far to our north. Last week, though, that jet stream moved south and led to the record low temperatures.

“Over the last week, (the jet stream) moved further south, allowing us to tap into cooler air,” he said.

As for what happened this week to lead to record high temperatures, Green said it has nothing to do with the tropical jet stream moving north and bringing with it warmer air. Instead, the polar jet stream moved north, leading to the quick change in temperature.

He said such drastic changes in the weather are not uncommon for the area.

“Typically, we have fluctuations in the jet streams,” he said.

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