Bill Steffen

How Long Since Last Tornado Warning

March 22nd, 2015 at 1:28 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

modis lake michigan  Tornado Warning days since   Here’s the MODIS satellite picture of Lake Michigan from Sat. PM (from NOAA Coastwatch).  You can see the (shrinking) area of ice along the Michigan shore (prevailing west wind blows it to the Michigan side of the lake).  The ice is getting thin in Green Bay – still thick up by the Mac. Bridge.  There is still some snow north of a line from Grand Haven to Higgins Lake.  Here’s a picture of Lake SuperiorLake HuronLake Erie (Thurs. pic.)…Lake Ontario (Thurs. pic.)…and a wider view of the Great Lakes.

Remember I mentioned Siberian snowfall in October as a predictor of what kind of winter we were going to have in the NE U.S.?   Here’s more.

The second map is the number of days since the last tornado warning within the County Warning Area (CWA) of each National Weather Service Office.  If you want to live in a place that just doesn’t get tornadoes…try the Northwest Coast of California.  No tornado warnings last year in the U.P.

Also, 6.89″ rain in Chambers, Texas – lots of +3″ totals.  18 days without measurable precipitation in G.R….longest stretch since 2002.  Dry weather leading to wildfires like this one…be VERY careful disposing of cigarettes, matches and any outdoor fires….loading the first cargo of the year at Lake Michigan.


March 21st, 2015 at 5:38 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Erase this   We have the first 4-8 Day SPC outlook area of 2015.  This is for next Tuesday.  It’s a 15% area under the new guidlines this year.  The old guidline was 30% for a Day 4-8 area.

We have had a few scattered showers move through during the early morning with a cool front.  That’ll usher in a little cooler air for the next 3 days.  The time for showers is Tuesday night into Wednesday…probably 1/4 to 1/2″…not enough to cause any significant flooding.

I don’t have a thread up for it…but feel free to comment on the NCAA Basketball Tournament, Tigers, Redwings, Cornerstone’s National Championship or whatever sport I missed.  Tigers open April 6 and Whitecaps April 9.

Snowing in Boston again…NYC has had 2-5″ of wet, slushy snow.  Cyclone Nathan has crossed the York Peninsula and is over the Gulf of CarpentariaShip leaving Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin going out into Lake Michigan at sunrise.  Nice shot of the solar eclipse from Svalbard, Norway.  More pics. here.  Shadow of the Moon on the Earth viewed from the Intl. Space Stn.  Happy face during the eclipse5.3 magnitude e-quake 100 mi SE of Mexico City.



No Severe Weather

March 20th, 2015 at 2:55 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

NONE    From the Storm Prediction Center:  ”
NORMAN, Okla. During a month when severe weather typically strikes, this March has been unusually quiet, with no tornado or severe thunderstorm watches issued by NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center so far. And, National Weather Service forecasters see no sign of dramatic change for the next week at least.

We are in uncharted territory with respect to lack of severe weather”, said Greg Carbin, SPC’s warning coordination meteorologist. “This has never happened in the record of SPC watches dating back to 1970.”

Since the beginning of 2015, the SPC has issued only four tornado watches and no severe thunderstorm watches, which is less than 10 percent of the typical number of 52 tornado watches issued by mid-March. The approximately 20 tornadoes reported since January 1 is well below the 10-year average of 130 for that time period.

There is no one clear reason to explain the lack of tornadoes, Carbin said. “We’re in a persistent pattern that suppresses severe weather, and the right ingredients — moisture, instability, and lift — have not been brought together in any consistent way so far this year.”

Forecasters expect a change soon, however. April and May are typically the busiest months for severe weather and tornadoes. Patterns can change in a few days, Carbin said, and it’s important to be prepared for severe weather when it occurs.

Analysis of the ten lowest and ten highest watch count years through the middle of March reveals little correlation to the subsequent number of tornadoes through the end of June. For example, early 2012 was particularly active with 77 watches issued through mid-March. The subsequent period through the end of June was unusually quiet for tornadoes with about 130 fewer EF1 and stronger tornadoes occurring than what would normally be expected. On the other hand, 1984, with a relatively low watch count of 28 through mid-March, became more active and by late June had about 100 EF1 and stronger tornadoes above the long-term mean of 285.”     From Keli Pirtle at SPC

Spring Arrives

March 20th, 2015 at 1:51 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Season graphic from NASA   Today (Friday) is the Vernal or Spring Equinox. The official start of spring is at 6:45 PM this evening. The word “equinox” means equal night. Today, we have approximately 12 hours of daylight over every point on the globe. The sun technically rose for the first time in 6 months at the North Pole and set at the S. Pole, ushering 6 months without sunshine there. The sun is directly overhead along the Equator at solar noon on the Equinoxes.  In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the start of autumn. At this time of year, we gain about 20 minutes of daylight each week in West Michigan.

Last year on 3/20, we had a high temperature of 37°.  Two years ago, the high on 3/20 was just 30.  Three years ago today, on 3/20/12, we had a record high temperature of 83° in G.R.  March has trended colder of late.   Two years ago, March was 4.1° cooler than average.  Last year March was 9.0 cooler than average and so far this year, March is 1.7 cooler than average.   Here’s the Upper Midwest Winter Climate Trend. Last year it was the coldest winter ever for Ironwood and Marquette, Michigan and Oshkosh, Rhinelander, Eau Claire and Sturgion Bay, Wisconsin. It was the 2nd coldest winter for Alpena and Houghton Lake, Michigan – Green Bay and Wausau, Wisconsin and Duluth and Internationial Falls, Minnesota. It was the 3rd coldest winter for Chicago and Rockford, Illinois – Wheaton, Minnesota and Mason City, Iowa. It was the 4th coldest winter for St. Cloud, Minnesota and Waterloo, Iowa and it was the 5th coldest winter ever for Flint.

Season snowfall totals: Grand Rapids 77.9″, Muskegon 92.1″, Lansing 35.6″.

Check out the webcam from Krupp’s Resort in Twin Lakes! Uh-Oh – this could be trouble.  This is cool – a comparison of low and high tide.  600 flights cancelled today, mostly in the northeast.  Anybody remember this white light?  Another pic. of the snow in Nova Scotia.  WOW – did you see these picsModerate El Nino?


March 19th, 2015 at 3:31 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Modis Lake Michigan 3 17 15 great picture   great lakes ice cover lake michigan ice cover Great pic. from 3/17 from the G.R. NWS.  Ice cover on Lake Michigan is down to 28% and for the Great Lakes as a whole now 52%.  We’ve now gone 15 days in G.R. without measurable rain or snow and during those 15 days, we’ve had 72% of possible sunshine.

Overnight Model update:  The models are backing off on any snow tonight…the European has a dusting in the Indiana border counties, that’s all.  The models are also delaying the colder air on Saturday.  The MOS high temps. for G.R. for the next 3 days:  GFS 46/53/52  NAM 45/53/53.  Nothing significant for precipitation until next Weds.  The European has 0.54″ of rain, the GFS-plot is 1.06″ and the GFS (car) is 1.19″.  The rivers should be able to take that much rain without any significant problems.  The Euro. and GFS both hint at some snow or a mix around the 28th/29th.  European high temps. for G.R. starting with today (Thu.):  45/50/46/38/33/44/48/39/43/39.  Those maybe a little low.  The average high is now 45.  The days are getting longer now at the rate of nearly 3 minutes.  Happy last full day of astronomical winter.

Also:  More snow for Philadelphia, NYC and of course BostonCyclone Nathan will move west into NE Australia today, across the Cape York Peninsula and into the Gulf of Carpentaria.    You don’t see this every day, a line of severe t-storms crossing Saudi Arabia.  This may be the latest the cherry blossoms have bloomed in Washington D.C. since the late 1970s.  Bats picked up on radar.  Sunset at Key West FL.  Wow!  Look at the Northern Lights in DenaliAnother Awesome Alaska Aurora (plus bonus alliteration)…Look at the snow in Halifax, Nova Scotia!   Look at the snow banks on Prince Edward Is. (how long do you thing that will take to melt?).  The lights of Ireland and the U.K. at night along with the Northern Lights viewed from the Intl. Space StationSierra wave cloud at sunrise near Reno, NV.

The Great Tri-State Tornado – 90 Years Ago Today

March 18th, 2015 at 1:00 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Tri State Tornado Newspaper  Tri State Tornado Path  Tri State Tornado Damage  Today (March 18) is the anniversary of the worst tornado in U.S. history (in 1925). It set records for longest tornado on the ground (219 miles) , most fatalities (695), fastest forward speed (average 56 mph, nearly 75 mph at the beginning). The twister crossed the Mississippi River about 75 miles southeast of St. Louis, moving from Missouri, across southern Illinois and into Indiana. The tornado followed a railroad line, destroying towns (four towns were completely destroyed) that had sprung up along the railroad. The twister averaged 3/4-mile wide and at times was over a mile wide. Survivors described the approaching storm as a rolling, boiling fog. Fires set by the tornado could be seen 60 miles from the tornado’s path.

A few years ago, my wife and I drove along the path of this storm and stopped at libraries and city halls to see what I could learn. At a mine, the entire above ground structures were destroyed, trapping miners underground (they were later rescued. Nine schools were destroyed and 69 children lost their lives that day. There were 2027 recorded injures (not counting those who were not counted at overcrowded hospitals). Fifteen thousand homes were destroyed. The twister occurred before the F-scale for rating tornadoes was established, but there is agreement that this one was an F5. Seven other tornadoes caused fatalities that day, another 52 other deaths in tornadoes that occurred in northern Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and southern Indiana. Thorough new and continuing research has found no break in the path and also that the tornado touchdown may have occurred approximately 15 miles before previously thought, bringing the total path length to around 234 mi. Damage from the tornado totaled nearly 17 million dollars, which adjusted for inflation would be close to 2 billion dollars today.


Aurora Tonight!

March 17th, 2015 at 3:30 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Aurora Michael Gaven Gun Lake 3 17 15  7:40 pm Weds. – The kp-index is at a 5.  Yesterday we were up at an 8.  Five is pretty marginal for the casual viewer to see anything here in S. Lower Michigan.  If you saw the Northern Lights, it would likely be a faint greenish-white glow, a little above the northern horizon.   We also have a layer of thin cirrus clouds that may dim the view.    So, don’t hold your breath on seeing anything much tonight.  Keep in mind, we’re closer to the Equator than we are to the North Pole, so seeing the Northern Lights in Southern Michigan is rare.

Photo of the aurora last night is from Michael Gavan at Gun Lake. Click to enlarge. Here’s pics. from Jay near Sand Lake. From  “…A CME (Coronal Mass Ejection)  hit Earth’s magnetic field on March 17th…the “storm” intensified to G4-class (Kp=8), ranking it as the strongest geomagnetic storm of the current solar cycle.     Kp=8 would be a very nice visible aurora for all of Michigan.  Watch the Kp index here (scroll down, left side) and here and here.  Where it was clear late last night, there was a good view of the aurora from Wisconsin and Minnesota/South Dakota.  Check out the national satellite loop to follow clouds (link is daytime, use this loop at night).   A nice green aurora was appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day!   We’d appreciate any photos of the aurora you get – you can email them to:   We’ll make a photo-mojo out of them.   The best aurora pics. seem to be coming from Northern Europe.  Here’s a pic. from Marquette, one from New Zealand (the Southern Lights) and one from Finland.

They saw the Aurora in EuropeLook at the aurora in Alaska!  Solar storm  appears to have caused a rogue GPS-scintillation-causing plasma bubble in western Pacific.  Don’t be alarmed.

Also:  A 6.6 magnitude earthquake occurred 84.51mi NW of Kota Ternate, Indonesia.   Nice double rainbow from Colona, Colorado.

The Weird Temps. in G.R. on St. Patrick’s Day

March 17th, 2015 at 12:11 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

<–click to enlarge the map of Ireland. Over the last 17 years (inc. 2014), this has been the weirdest day for weather in W. Michigan!  After 3 years in a row with temperatures well above normal on St. Patrick’s Day 3/17/13 was 15 degrees cooler than average with a high of 30 in G.R. and last year we had a high of 31, that was 14 degrees cooler than average.  That follows five years that were significantly colder than average. In fact, here are the high temperatures for St. Patrick’s Day starting in 1998: 36, 60, 37, 39, 39, 68, 33, 35, 28, 38, 37, 71, 65, 78, 30 and 31. There were no 40s, no 50s (today will be the first in all that time)…it’s been either real warm or real cold on St. Patrick’s Day in W. Michigan. The weather will be chilly today with a brisk northwest wind, but nice and dry for the big but short St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Conklin. Which brings me to the weather of Ireland.

Just like the wind coming off Lake Michigan moderates the climate, making the lakeshore cooler in spring/summer and warmer in winter…the same is true in Ireland. The wind off the ocean keeps the temperature fairly constant. The difference between the average high temperature in Dublin in January (45F) and July (67F) is only 22 degrees. The warmest temperature in Dublin in calendar year 2008 was just 72F (you won’t find a lot of backyard swimming pools in Ireland). The coolest temperature was 25F. Last winter the lowest temperature in Dublin was 28 (reached several times). Dublin only recorded 1/10″ of snowfall in 2008 – that coming on April 6th. There were two other days with trace amounts. The city did have 1/10″ of snow on 3/11/13 and trace amounts on the 12th and 13th. Dublin is actually 700 miles north of Grand Rapids. Despite it’s northerly location (summer daylight grows to 17 hours long in June), winters are milder due to the influence of the relatively warm Gulf Stream current.

Ireland is the 20th biggest island in the world (3rd biggest in Europe) and is just slightly smaller than South Carolina. Rainfall is frequent and mostly light. Dublin records thunder an average of only four days per year. The average high and low temperature for Dublin on 3/17 is 50/36.

Here’s a St. Patrick’s Day Quiz (I got 7 out of 10). Here’s an Irish Blessing and some cool pics. of Ireland.

First day 12° or more above average in 2015

March 16th, 2015 at 8:15 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

U.S. Temperatures 2 14 to 3 15 15    Click on the graphic to enlarge.  This is a map of global temperature anomaly (difference from average) for the last month.  You can see a large part of the Eastern U.S. has been on the whole quite cold over the past month.  The West has been warm and the southeast ridge has been strong enough to keep Florida on the plus side of average.  It’s been a good year to be a Florida snowbird.

The high of 65/low of 41 in Grand Rapids puts today 16° warmer than average.  This is the first day that has been 16° warmer than average in 2015.  We have already had 17 days that have been 16° or more cooler than average.  This is also the first day that has been 12° or more above average.  We have already had 27 days this year that have been 12° or more degrees cooler than average.

We are down to 32.6% ice cover on Lake Michigan.  Sunday the Great Lakes still had a 60% ice cover.   Large wildfire in Oklahoma shows up on radar.  Here’s an airplane shot of the fireLarge wildfire in Alabama looks like a t-storm anvil.   First 90 of the year in Phoenix AZ today, first 80 in Birmingham AL, first 70 in Kalmazoo, first 60 in Grand Rapids…fourth day of 90 in L.A.   3 pm temperature was 91 in N Platte Neb. – cold front goes thru.  Down to 73 at 6 pm with a north wind at 31 mph, gust to 40 mph.  Forecast low for tonight is 30!   Still no tornadoes in the U.S. in March…only other time we went this late into March without a tornado was 1969.  The Ohio River crested at Cincinnati – highest level since 1997.

Benton Harbor dropped 12° in one hour, 18° in two hours, 26° in three hours and 29° in four hours from 9 pm to 1 am.

Warmest Day Since October

March 16th, 2015 at 2:32 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Lake Michigan Randy Feister 1 15 15 sunset Pere Mqt. Park Muskegon Happy Monday.   Just going on to do the evening forecast.  Traverse City just dropped 9 degrees in the last hour.  They are down 17 degrees from 3 pm to 6 pm.    4 pm temps:  69 Kalamazoo (70 at 3 pm),  65 Grand Rapids, 57 Fremont,  42 Muskegon Beach and Holland Beach, 41 Whitehall Beach.   Today is the warmest day for much of West Michigan since October, with most highs inland in the low-mid 60s and probably upper 40s to low 50s at Lake Michigan.  We’ve made it to 70 along and south of I-94.   We continue to melt the snow and break up the river ice without heavy rain.  We could see a few light showers along a cold front tonight.  That would be mostly northeast of Kent County.  No big storms this week.  There could be a little light mixed precipitation later this week, but less than 1/10th inch it looks like.   This will be the only really warm day, as we go back to a cooler pattern on Tuesday and lasting through much of the rest of March.  The coldest air arrives for next Sat. night and Sunday, when we could have snow flurries/showers.  Highs probably won’t get beyond the mid 30s on Sunday.  The average high temperature for today is 44.

Season snowfall – west to east – showing the influence of lake-effect from Lake Michigan:  Madison WI 30.3″, Milwaukee WI 41.5″, Muskegon 92.1″, Grand Rapids 77.9″, Kalamazoo 72.6″, Lansing 35.6″.   Boston got another 2.9″ of snow taking them to 108.6″ setting a new record for season snowfall (old record was 107.9″ in 1995-96).   From March 8-15 – those 8 days averaged 73.8% of possible sunshine in G.R. – nice.   We have had 12 days in a row now without measurable precipitation and we’ve had 7 days in a row with warmer than average temperatures.

Here’s the high temperature map from yesterday.  Look at the 80s in the Plains.  They haven’t had much precipitation there and the combination of dry ground and a warming (downsloping) chinook wind sent temperatures soaring.  Topping the list was McCook, Nebraska, where there was a spectacular temperature rise of 61 degrees yesterday, from 27 in the morning to 88 in the afternoon.  Both North Platte and Grand Island made it to 85.  Minneapolis made 70 and Fargo was 75, breaking the old record high for the date by 13 degrees!  The warmest spots were in dry Southern California, where Fullerton and Santee reached 94.

Eight fatalities related to Cyclone Pam in VanuatuSignificant rain in Central Mexico.  5.9 Magnitude earthquake near Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.  NOAA Graph showing decrease of ice in the Arctic and increasing ice in the Antarctic.  No state made a top ten driest or wettest winter in 2014-15.  Overall winter a little drier than average in the U.S.

Heavy rain and strong wind hit the Pacific NW.  Rainfall totals:  7.3″ Sheep Canyon OR, 6.4″ North Fork OR, 5.1″ Calamity WA, 1.74″ Portland OR, 1.57″ Seattle, 1.27″ Spokane.  Up to an inch of rain fell in NW California.  Wind gusts of up to 58 mph downed a dozen trees in Portland OR.  As of early Monday, there were 27,000 customers without power in OR and 12,000 in WA.   Heavy snow in New England:  11.6″ Robbinston ME and 7.6″ in Bangor ME.  Look at the snow in Moncton, New Brunswick (Canada).  The ice is gone from the lakefront in Chicago.