FAIRMONT – The weather outside is frightening.
According to Jenna Lake, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, Saturday’s temperature broke a 130-year-old record. She said the record high of 71 degrees is unusually hot for this time of year.
“Our normal for this time of year in Pittsburgh is 35 degrees,” Lake said. “On Saturday, we had a record high temperature of 71 degrees, and that broke the old record of 68 degrees. In terms of snow fall, we’re about seven inches below average for this time of year.”
Lake said the weather has been relatively warm because of the balancing act of air pressure that is currently leaning more towards the midwest region of the country. Because the midwestern states like Wisconsin and Illinois have been so cold lately, the air pressure over the eastern region has been causing warmer temperatures.
“The reason that we have been seeing these kind of statistics is the U.S. has been stuck in an atmospheric pattern where the midwest is being slammed with cold and snow,” Lake said. “The eastern part of the U.S., because of that pattern, has to compensate because our atmosphere works on balancing.
“The low pressure over Wisconsin and Minnesota is resulting in high pressure over the eastern region, so we’re having warm southwest flow while they’re having cold northwest flow.”
While the warmer weather may throw off people’s perceptions of the seasons, animals follow a routine that coincides with the time of year. Birds, for example, will still migrate during the winter months, because their food supply sticks to the same yearly routine.
“They’ll do that regardless because they have been doing it for a long time, and they do it mainly because the food supply dies off,” said Mike Book, director of the Raptor Rehabilitation Center. “Birds will freeze to death or starve to death when we have snow they can’t get through.”
According to Book, birds of smaller species migrate to warmer areas each year in order to find vegetation to continue feeding on until spring. Larger birds, however, may migrate to areas unfamiliar to them, having a different food supply than the smaller breeds. He also said, however, that the cold can be lethal to some birds, so they normally get to the warmer areas.
“It’s good for the birds, the birds that stay around,” Book said. “When we do have extreme cold, the weak and the older birds do die. They will freeze to death because of lack of food and lack of energy.”
Book said that many birds do migrate south for the winter months, but others may just migrate to a different area, West Virginia included. He said that big cities are more likely to maintain their bird populations, because they have a constant food supply as well as many places to nest and breed.
“That’s what dictates whether you have a viable breeding population,” Book said. “They don’t care what ind of a ledge it is, as long as it’s a place where there is food. Cities have a lot of pigeons and other birds and a big food supply. So these guys can reproduce better in a city than they can out in the wild.”
Although the eastern region of the country has been experiencing a mild winter so far, Lake said this could all come to an end soon. Meteorologists are looking at a forming storm heading for the east coast, and depending on some variables, it could bring a substantial amount of snowfall to West Virginia.
“We’re expecting this pattern to shift a little bit,” Lake said. “We are tracking a winter system this weekend, but it is definitely going to be one that has a range of possibilities in terms of type of precipitation. But there is definitely a chance we could see some snowfall this weekend.”