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Plain Dealer: Hikers, bikers are taking advantage of warm winter

February 7, 2012

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Pat Galbincea
Plain Dealer Reporter

It's been a great winter for hiking and biking.

And as we pass the halfway point of winter, which was Saturday, it's easy to see why.

So far, this has been the third-warmest winter in the past 50 years, with an average high of 40.9 degrees.

The average low has been 27.69 degrees, which is also the third-warmest in the past half century.

We've had 13 days since Dec. 21 when the temperature never dropped below freezing -- staying at 33 degrees and above. That's the fourth fewest at this point.

The Cleveland Hiking Club, with 1,050 members, has had double the number of people at its hikes this winter.

"We hike every day," said Matthew Collings, one 45 hiking club leaders. "So far, we haven't had to cancel any of our hikes because of weather, and the number of people going on our hikes has noticably increased." Collings said in a normal winter, a group leader will take 12 to 15 people on a hike, including 1 or 2 visitors.

So far this winter, group leaders have taken 25 to 38 people on hikes, with more than double the prospective new members.

Cleveland Metroparks rangers have seen more bike riders in the park this winter.

Scott Cowan, owner of Century Cycles in Rocky River, Medina and Peninsula, said the mild first half of winter has increased bike sales 25 percent.

"This mild winter has benefitted us absolutely," Cowan said. "We had a near record number sales in December, record sales in January and so far the first six days in February are at a record pace. Typically, there is not a whole lot going on for us in those three months."

With more people biking, the shop has also benefitted from repairs that it usually would not see for another two months.

"So far, it's been a dynamite winter for us," he said.

The first 47 days of winter have mystified most weather experts, according Mark Adams, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. He said the jet stream has stayed farther north than normal, but he doesn't know why, since there are too many parameters to consider.

"Certainly the weather is not what we expected," he said. "But we're also not breaking any records or setting month high records either ... at least so far. We've had a lot of short-lived arctic shots, and I hope it stays this way the second half of winter."

Adams said it will be cooler today, with more clouds and an expected high in the mid-to upper 30s. Wednesday temperatures will struggle to get above freezing.

Thursday's temperatures will rebound to the upper 30s with some sun, but by Saturday, the high is not expeted to exceed 25 degrees.

"That's when we'll see the next significant cold front," Adams said, "but weather patterns this winter have been fast-moving, so we could be rebounding again to at least average temperatures by next Monday or Tuesday."

Plain Dealer data analysis editor Rich Exner contributed to this story.