This last stretch of cold weather during late February into the first week of March caused ice concentration on Lake Michigan to rapidly increase. The Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) in Ann Arbor Michigan measures the ice concentration on the Great Lakes daily. On March 8th, the ice concentration on Lake Michigan was measured at 93.29%. This sets a new record ice cover on Lake Michigan. The previous record was 93.1% set in 1977. The period of record dates back to 1973.
A shout out to the Rauwerda’s who make the best snow forts in town. Today we melt some snow as temperatures climb up well into the 40s. We have a chance of rain showers Tues. PM and that will change to snow as cold air filters in. The farther SE you are the more snow you will see. We may see an inch north of G.R. to 3-4″ near Jackson and Hillsdale to 5-6″ in NW Ohio. That’s followed by more Arctic air with the NAM caribou giving G.R. a bone-chilling -8.4° Thurs. AM. The European gives G.R. -1.3° Thurs. AM. It’d have to go calm with fresh snow cover to get below zero (best chance SE of G.R. where there will be more fresh snow). In any case, it’s going to get cold, then back to at least the low 40s on Friday. You may have noticed the “dirty” snow near roads. There was a 6.9 magnitude e-quake off the North California coast (48 miles WNW of Ferndale). No injuries reported yet, no tsunami – it shook for about 20-30 seconds at 1:18 am EDT – it had a depth of 4.6 miles. Neat view of the ice on Lake Michigan flying east looking back at Chicago.
Click on the pics. to enlarge. The first is a MODIS satellite picture from Saturday afternoon. Note the large amount of ice (though past peak) on the Great Lakes. Check out the ice moving in this satellite loop from Saturday (takes a minute to load). There’s still some cold air around. Intl. Falls MN set a record low of -19 Sat. morning. The other two pictures are from Harvey Alley at Riverside Park, where the river is mostly frozen, but there is a little open water and there are some ducks who are managing to survive the late winter. The very good news is that we are in an overall dry pattern. We’re down to 16″ of snow on the ground in G.R. (as of Sat. evening. It still appears that the Tues. storm will be too far southeast to give us more than a trace-3″ and a touch of rain to start, perhaps. If there’s a 3″ total, it’d be down toward Coldwater or Hillsdale. Here’s the GFS model view of the storm on the East Coast late Weds. It was nice to see nearly 80 turn out for the Muskegon Skywarn Training session. Next Saturday we have Van Buren Co. at 10 am and Allegan/Barry at 2 pm. I’m going to try and make the Allegan/Barry meeting at the start – I’ll have to get to work after that. I’m doing the evening shift both Sat. and Sun. next weekend. Happy Daylight Saving Time…sunrise at 8:05 am this Sunday and sunset is 7:41 pm for G.R. March 1-7 temps. were 10-18 degrees cooler than average in Minneapolis, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Pittsburgh, New York City and Boston.
The GFS shows a big (snow) storm around the 17th, but the European doesn’t see that (and I don’t either at this point). The European has +40 temps. on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday of next week (Weds. and Thurs. look chilly), but an overall dry week. We melt a little snow gradually. We need this pattern to hold until most of the snow is gone and the ice is breaking up on the rivers. Also, people keep asking me about the summer. Following cold, snowy winters…there is usually a 4-6 day period of warm (+10 to +15 above average) in April or May and then summer temps. are near average. We’ve had big flips before (the winter of 35-36 was very cold and snowy – then we had the hottest week in G.R. history in July 1936), but most summers are near average and that would be a good guess for June – August at this point. March severe weather has been weak last year and so far this year because it’s been too cold. Most models suggest we go to an El Nino pattern. You’ll probably see the media hype that. Keep in mind that El Ninos during a cold PDO tend to be weak-moderate and centered a bit more out in the central Pacific rather than the eastern Pacific toward S. America. Weak El Ninos can (not always, but can) bring cold and snowy winters to the Great Lakes (1976-78). I’m not betting on a really warm summer or winter of 2014-15 at this point.
Click on the image to enlarge or click here. This graphic from GLERL (NOAA) shows the maximum ice reached on the Great Lakes for 2014, which was Thursday, March 6 and compares it to the highest ice extent in 1994 (on Feb. 14) and in 1979 (on Feb. 19). Lake Michigan peaked on Wednesday (March 5th) at 92.19%. The record ice coverage on Lake Michigan was 93.1% in 1977 – so we missed it by less than 1%. Records go back to the mid 1970s. I had pilots tell me that in those cold winters of the late 1970s, we always still had small stretches of open water on Lake Michigan. I have also heard pilots said the same thing in the cold winter of 1936. The depth of the lake plays a significant part in the ability of the cold air to generate an ice cover. Lake Erie is the southernmost Great Lake, but also the shallowest, so it often has the highest percentage of ice cover. Lake Ontario often has the least percent of ice cover. Look at this MODIS picture of Lake Ontario taken Friday, March 7. What’s interesting is that two of New York’s Finger Lakes still have open water! These are deep lakes. Seneca Lake (on the left in the satellite picture) is 618 feet deep at it’s deepest point and Cayuga Lake on the right is 435 feet deep (there is some ice at the north end of the lake). Lake Erie’s deepest point is 210 feet. The average depth of Lake Erie is 63 feet. The average depth of Seneca Lake is 291 feet and the average depth of Cayuga Lake is 182 feet. Here’s a little article on why these two “finger lakes” don’t freeze over in the winter. The ice will very slowly melt over the next 3-5 weeks. There’s a lot of ice and cold water there, so the lake-breeze will be a prominent feature of our spring and summer weather maps. Here’s the MODIS pictures from Friday of Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior (Superior pic. is from Thurs.).
A relatively small area of light rain and snow moving thru overnight. I can’t rule out a lingering sprinkle or flurry during the morning, mostly toward the Indiana border. Fortunately, we are in an overall dry pattern. We could certainly use a lot of dry weather in the next few weeks as the snow slowly melts. The winds go north-northwest today and we’ll be 5-10 degrees cooler than Friday. I’m headed to the Muskegon Skywarn Meeting. I’ll have a few small door prizes to raffle off and some giveaways. Hope a few of you can make it. Don’t forget the time change Saturday night (technically we move forward an hour at 2 am Sunday). Despite the high of 46° in G.R. on Friday, the avg. temp. for Friday was 3° below average because the low was 11°. We have now had below average temps. on 27 of the last 31 days. The first week of March was 16° colder than average. March will be the fifth month in a row with below average temps. You’d have to lean that way for April, too with the cold water in the Great Lakes.
Model update: Overnight European has us becmg. partly sunny from north to south eventually today with temps. in the low-mid 30s…then mid 30s Sunday PM (might make upper 30s)…then mid 40s Monday, upper 40s Tuesday, low-mid 30s Weds. and Thurs., then mid 40s on Friday, low 40s next Saturday. The GFS is cool (it’s been running too cool). Both models have a wonderful dry pattern for the next week – no heavy precipitation. Right now it still looks like the Tues./Weds. storm will be just south of our area. We’ll continue to monitor that. We need a dry pattern as the snow slowly melts. BTW – only one small tornado in the U.S. in the first week of March – only 18 tornadoes in March last year in the U.S.
Links: Grand Rapids radar, Northern Indiana radar, Chicago radar, Detroit radar and Milwaukee radar. Here’s the College of DuPage Radar Map (pick any radar in the U.S.), College of DuPage Grand Rapids radar, GFS snowfall for the next 120 hours and NAM model snowfall for the next 84 hours. the West Michigan Lightning Tracker, National Lightning Tracker, the local warning/advisory map and the National warning/watch/advisory map, and a surface weather map. You can checkout the latest Grand Rapids NWS discussion, the Northern Indiana NWS discussion (includes the Michigan Counties that border Indiana), the discussion for Northern Lower Michigan, and Eastern Lower Michigan. Check out Storm Total Precipitation (until they reset it). Here’s the Spyglass Condos Weather Station the S. Haven GLERL station, the Muskegon GLERL station, the Grand Haven Steelheaders webcam and weather station, and the weather station at Holland State Park. Check out the Maranatha Webcam at Lake Michigan and links to webcams. Here’s the infrared satellite loop (night) and the visible satellite loop (daytime), Lake Michigan water temperatures (summer). Here’s storm reports from SW Michigan, Northern Michigan, NE Illinois, SE. Wisconsin, Upper Michigan and E. Michigan. Check out the wind and wave height at the South Mid-Lake Michigan Buoy (Apr. to Nov. only), the North Mid-Lake Michigan Buoy (Apr. to Nov. only), the buoy at Big Sable Point near Ludington, the weather station at Manistee Harbor and the weather station on the beach at St. Joseph. Here’s Michigan wind gusts from MesoWest, data from the MAWN agricultural weather stations and Weather Underground (data at the bottom from private weather stations). Check out the webcam at Krupp’s Resort, where they are pushing toward 3 feet of snow on the ground. Check out the cold temps. on the U.S. Low Temperature map. Here’s the morning run of the NAM forecast snow amounts. Here’s a live look at the Houghton Bridge. Here’s the Consumers Energy Power Outage Map. We continue to watch for ice jams on Michigan rivers. Here’s Closings.
The overall cooler than average pattern will continue for at least another couple weeks. Here’s the GRR NWS discussion. Model update: The NAM (caribou) is dry for Friday night/Sat. The GFS-plot prints out 0.08″ of a mix to all snow..maybe half an inch. The European has 0.07″. The GFS plot is pretty cool (too cool I think) and has highs beginning today (Fri.) of 33, 30, 31, 34, 35, 25, 26, 34. The Euro. would take us to about 44 next Monday. The models have most of the big storm next mid-week going SE of us. The GFS would gaze us with a couple inches of snow. The Euro. is still pretty dry. It would be a close call for the more significant snow…so stay up with later forecasts. There’s more on the lake ice and lake levels in the threads below this one. Happy Friday. (pic. from NWS Marquette).
We have set a record for the most ice on the Great Lakes in any March and we are so close to an all-time record. Currently Lake Michigan has a 91.7% ice cover and the Great Lakes are at 92.2% . The record for Great Lakes ice was set back on 2/19/1979 at 94.7% coverage. The record for Lake Michigan is 93.1% set in 1977. So, we’re within 2% of setting all time records for both Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. As I write this…the temperature in G.R. is 13°. The first 6 days of March were 18.2° colder than average in Grand Rapids!
This is my daughter (#2) – playing golf on the frozen waters of a Great Lake in northern Lower Michigan. Click on the picture to enlarge. Someone may recognize the lighthouse. Guess this is the time to pull out that pink golfball. The water level of Lake Michigan/Huron is unchanged in the last month (the lake is mostly frozen, the snow on land isn’t melting – so everything is pretty much steady). The lake is up 13″ in the last year and 13″ below the century average. It’s expected to go up 3″ in the next month as the snow melts. Lake Superior, also frozen over, was also unchanged in the last month. Lake Superior is up also up 13″ year-to-year (a huge increase – that’s an increase of 7.18 TRILLION gallons) and is now 1″ above the long-term average. Lake Erie ( also over 90% frozen over) is also unchanged in the last month and is up 2″ in the past year. Lake Ontario is the only Great Lake that is substantially open water. Ontario is down 3″ in the last month. That makes sense. It’s been so cold that we’re not getting a lot of runoff (and there is a lot of ice at Niagara) and we’re still getting pretty good evaporation with the open water. Ontario is at the same water level as a year ago. Cool pic. here of the ice in the Chicago River with the the moon above. Check out this pic. of frozen Lake Michigan off Chicago.
Cool will rule. Click on the images to enlarge. On the left is the 6-10 day temperature outlook from the Climate Prediction Center and on the right we have the 8-14 day outlook that runs from March 13-19. Looks like a cool St. Patrick’s Day. We better get Cedar Springs to start making a little green flannel. It’s the same old-same old…trough and cooler than average weather in the East and a ridge with warmer and dry weather in the West. The average high temperature for Grand Rapids is now 40…by St. Patrick’s Day it’s 45 and by the end of the month, average high temperatures are in the low 50s (so by then a day that’s 10 degrees colder than average would still be in the low 40s. The days continue to lengthen at the rate of 2 1/2 minutes each day. The change to Daylight Saving Time (spring ahead one hour) is this weekend.
Model update: Some sunshine today and cool…temps. in mid-upper 20′s this afternoon. The NAM (caribou) has 2.2″ of snow for G.R. on Saturday and 0.7″ for Kalamazoo. The GFS plot and European keep us basically dry. We get a little light rain/snow around next Monday, but the main storm will pass to the SE of Michigan. That storm will pull down another batch of chilly air from Canada for the middle of next week (Weds./Thurs.). The good news is not a lot of precipitation over the next week and temperatures will moderate a little.
The First Skywarn Training Session was tonight at Grandville High School (4700 Canal Ave, SW). This was for both Kent and Ottawa Counties. Skywarn sessions are free – sometimes they have refreshments and Storm Team 8 hopes to have a prize or two to raffle off to a lucky attendee in Muskegon. We had a couple hundred people out for the Kent/Ottawa meeting Thurs. night. Here’s a full list of training sessions for this winter/spring in West Michigan. The Oceana/Mason (10 am) and Muskegon sessions (2 pm) are this Saturday. You are free to attend any session, you don’t have to go to the one in your county. Here’s some online Spotter Training and the online Spotter’s Field Guide. Spotting is not just tornadoes and severe thunderstorms…spotters measure rain and snow, report flooding, icing and high wind gusts.
Also, thunderstorms in California…A Jupiter, FL, weather station reported 6.17 inches of rain Weds. evening.