For those of us living in Northeast Ohio, January is, on average, the second darkest month of the entire year, averaging around a pathetic 30% of clear skies. However, this is an average. In reality, it is not out of the realm of possibility for there to be only a couple of start to finish clear nights all month, which means that when clear skies come, they are to be cherished. However, there is good news, too.
Yes, there will be plenty of cloud-bringing cold fronts coming through the area in January but, as the temperatures continue to stay low, the good news is that Lake Erie will begin to ice over, thus shutting off or slowing down the lake-induced cloud machine (if it stays cold enough) by month's end.
The reason the sky was so cloudy in December was that Lake Erie was still largely ice-free (water takes a lot longer to cool than air). As cold air comes across the lake from Canada, the moving air masses will pull moisture out of the lake. The moisture condenses, thus forming clouds. These lake effect clouds are the reason why the usually trusty Cleveland Clear Sky Clock's forecasts need to be taken with a grain of salt in the late fall/early winter months. Basically, with a simple shift of the wind, clouds can start coming out of the North as if from another dimension, blotting out the stars in a few minutes time.
However, with the extended cold period of December-January upon us, things may get better as the lake starts to freeze over, thus cutting off the lake effect cloud machine's fuel (water). Cold can be a good thing!
As a last point, even though we are in the depths of winter, it's not improbable for an extremely warm front to barge up out of the south and give us the legendary, albeit brief, January thaw, especially around month's end. So, with all of their strength, along with warm temperatures, these warm fronts often bring a lot of wind, too. Obviously, wind is not an astronomer/astrophotographer's friend, unless you have an observatory, in which situation the wind won't send your scope bouncing all over the place. If this does not describe you, try and find a shielded place from which to observe on a windy night. The North side of your dwelling is a great place to hide from strong, southern winds.
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Bodzash Photography & Astronomy