BREAKING NEWS! Ohio’s weather is actually pretty normal, according to WFMJ’s Wilhelm

Did you see that one coming?


Bridget Fekety, Junior Contributor

Ohio: State of the cardinal, carnation, and–of course–winters that bring severe wind chills one week and warm, welcoming breezes the next. 

Winter or any other season, Ohio’s temperamental weather patterns have quickly established themselves as one of the state’s defining characteristics.The weather is undoubtedly quite mysterious, but it seems that another topic–predicting this seemingly unpredictable weather–takes the cake for being the most notable complex weather enigma. But why is this so and what are the complexities included in the process of predicting?

Eric Wilhelm, chief meteorologist at WFMJ, first cleared the air by breaking down what meteorology–the branch of science concerning forecasting weather–actually is, explaining, “Meteorology is a very complex science. We’re trying to predict the behavior of the air.”

Wilhelm further noted, “We don’t just look at what’s going on in our immediate area when we’re trying to figure out the forecast, we have to look at the big picture first and then hone in on our local area.”

Wilhelm added that education, experience, intuition and — of course, science — all contribute to creating an accurate forecast.

Now having a better understanding of the basics regarding weather and predicting it, what is the biggest challenge Ohio posed in terms of being able to accurately forecast the weather?

Wilhelm said, “Probably the biggest challenge around here has to do with our proximity to Lake Erie.”

He elaborated, explaining, “If it were not for the Great Lakes we would not have lake-effect snow in the winter…temperatures…would probably be somewhat easier to predict both in the winter and the summer.”

According to Wilhelm, Lake Erie, during the summer, has a cooling effect on the air while, in the winter, the closer you are to the lake, the less cold the air masses. Therefore, even if the lake water is hypothermia worthy, the cold water actually moderates cold air masses, ensuring that chilling air flows from Canada are subdued.

After discovering that the weather is pretty complex, it was also revealed that complexity comes with confusion for many not educated in meteorology. When asked about the biggest misconceptions Wilhelm had heard regarding weather forecasting, he said, “There’s a lot of cliches and misconceptions.”

Of course, the biggest misconception is, ironically, weather personnel never are never right when it comes to the weather. 

“I’ve heard it a minimum of 20,000 times,” Wilhelm joked, though, on a more serious note, he continued, “People don’t like uncertainty. Weather is a very nuanced thing to communicate, but people don’t want to deal with that. They just want to know ‘Is it going to rain a lot? Is it going to be hot tomorrow?’”

Wilhelm expressed his distress, elaborating on the subject by talking about how everyone perceives “hot” or “a lot” differently. As a meteorologist, he could provide a temperature or a percent, yet there is literally no definite, correct answer for many of the generalized questions people may ask. 

Another point made was that, “…Around 50-60 years ago…weather presentations on TV…were not very science based and weather presenters tended to be a little more ‘entertainers’ than true scientists.”

He proceeded and, luckily, the quality and accuracy of weather forecasts have become increasingly more scientific based over the past three decades. On the flip side, unfortunately, the “wrong weatherman” stigma hasn’t budged a bit. 

“A lot of people…still view weather forecasting as throwing darts or guessing,” he said solemnly, “but it’s nothing like that at all.”

While the “weathermen are always wrong” is a misconception, Wilhelm also had misconceptions to note regarding weather apps. 

“They’re all pretty lousy. They’re not accurate, but they’re convenient…and people will sacrifice accuracy for convenience,” he said. 

Weather apps prove to be useful in terms of what type of weather may occur on what day, but rarely shows the severity of weather situations. This proved true during my own week where Canfield was hit with a thick bout of fog that made driving considerably more risky and all my app had to show for it was some little grey lines to show it.

“If there is going to be severe weather…something that really could be impactful, you gotta turn to experts and not an automated weather app,” Wilhelm urged.

Definitions, misconceptions, and weather apps aside, after applying all this newfound knowledge, what does this mean for Ohio’s wacky weather patterns?

The Verdict:

Ohio: State of freezing, scorching, but surprisingly normal weather.