Bill Steffen

Another Arctic Express

January 16th, 2015 at 3:24 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather     This is the 8-14 day outlook from the Climate Prediction Center for Jan. 23-29.  Look at all that blue, with the darkest blue over the Great Lakes.   This is from the CPC 8-14 day discussion:

8-14 DAY OUTLOOK FOR JAN 23 - 29 2015  


Great Lakes Update

January 15th, 2015 at 8:14 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

modis lake michigan   modis lake ontariomodis lake huron Here’s 3 MODIS satellite pics. from this (Thu.) afternoon.  Click on the images to supersize.  The first shows the clouds over West Michigan  and the clear skies over most of Lake Michigan and Eastern Wisconsin.  You can see that Green Lake (southwest of frozen Lake Winnebago).  Shallow lakes freeze before deeper lakes and this is a great example of that.  Green Lake has an average depth of 100 feet and a maximum depth of 237 feet (about the same maximum depth as Lake Erie (241 ft.)).   Much bigger Lake Winnebago has a maximum depth of only 21 feet, so it is one of the first lakes in Eastern Wisconsin to freeze up.

In the middle we have Lake Ontario with much less ice on it than farther south Lake Erie.   Lake Erie is much shallower (average depth 62 feet) than Lake Ontario (average depth 283 feet, maximum depth 802 feet), so Lake Erie will freeze up before Lake Ontario.  You can see open water in the Finger Lakes south of Lake Ontario.  Those are deep lakes and are slow to freeze in the winter.  On the right we have Lake Huron.  You can see ice in Saginaw Bay and around the shore, with lake-effect clouds in the middle of the lake over the open water.

As of Thurs. evening, we have 34.2% ice cover on the Great Lakes.  Last year at this time it was 21.3%.   Here’s the current percent of ice cover on Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario.   Strong wind can break up ice and move it around the lake.

ALL FIVE of the Great Lakes now have above average water levels.  Lake Superior is down 3″ in the last month.  That’s not surprising since it’s been so cold.  The snow is not melting, many rivers are frozen.  Lake Superior is mostly open water, so we’re still evaporating water without as much runoff coming into the lake.  Superior is up 10″ year-to-year and is now 8″ above the January average.   Lake Michigan/Huron is down 1″ in the last month, but up a whopping 22″ in the last year.  Michigan/Huron is now also 8″ above the January average water level.  Lake Erie is up 2″ in the last month, up 7″ in the last yaer and 8″ above the century average for January.  Lake Ontario is up 5″ in the last month and is now 1″ above the long-term average.  Lake St. Clair is up 2″ in the last month, up 18″ year-to-year and 13″ above the century average.  There is a greater risk of coastal flooding during onshore high winds with these higher lake levels.  The flow on all the connecting rivers (St. Mary’s, St. Clair, Detroit and Niagara is expected to remain greater than average into February.

Also:  Check out these pics. of the St. Joseph Lighthouse.    Diabetes drug affecting fish in Lake MichiganBusiest year ever on Lake Michigan portAsian carp updateFreighters stuck in the ice in the St. Clair River.


European Model Predicts a Snowstorm

January 15th, 2015 at 3:34 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

snow truck   Early Thurs. PM update:  The GFS morning run does not have a big storm…it keeps the northern and southern streams separate.  We do get lighter snow, maybe several inches.   The morning run of the European model does not have a significant storm.  I’ll write more after the news.

Written last night:   Don’t get too excited…it’s more than a week away…just a quick heads up that the overnight European has a snowstorm for Lower Michigan around the 23rd.  Go here and look at hours 168, 192 and 216.  The model has prints out 0.89″ of precipitation in 12 hours for G.R. and it looks like that would be snow.  Behind that system a nice slug of Arctic air follows.  I’ve mentioned several times about the fact that this winter was acting a little like the winter of 1977-78, when we got a BIG snowstorm on the 26th and that was followed by the coldest February ever and the 5th coldest March.   The storm on the European may disappear with the next run never to be seen again.  It may go to our East.  It may be much weaker.  The GFS keeps the northern and southern systems separated, but we still get several inches of snow.  After that, the GFS has a parade of Canadian cold fronts that will keep us chilly thru the end of the month.  Once again, calm down, it’s waaaaaaay to far out to get hyped up about and again it may be gone on the next model run.  Yours truly, the Track-Master will be scanning the data and I’ll update later today.  In the meantime, lots of cool links in the threads below.  Happy Thursday!


January 15th, 2015 at 1:47 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Snowy Owl Glenn Rutgers 1 14 15 Fillmore 4 owls 2 eagles NAEFS_zdns.d264.00  Not as cold this morning, but a significant contrast between the lakeshore north of Grand Haven, where temps. have held in the mid 20s – to down near the Indiana border, where the southwest wind misses Lake Michigan and there have been breaks in the clouds.  Down there temps. dipped to near 5°.

The pic. on the left from Glenn Rutgers near Fillmore is a snowy owl, one of several he spotted there, along with a couple of eagles.   The snowy owls (often young males) fly south in the winter to Michigan from their summer home in the Arctic regions of northern Canada.  In the middle, we have the 8-14 day outlook for Jan. 22-28, showing a higher probability for cooler than average weather in the Great Lakes.  I think the cold will be more widespread in the East during that period, a real slug of Arctic air.   On the right we have the upper level wind pattern off the NAEFS model for the same period, showing the purple trough in the east and pinkish ridge over the Pacific NW.  Europe also gets cold for the last week of Jan.  Look at the NCEP temperature forecast map for February.  BRRR!!!   Natural gas prices going up because of cold January.

Model/forecast update:  A few flurries possible today, mainly from G.R. to the north.  Highs should reach the low 30s…mid 20s and maybe  little sun with lighter winds on Friday.  The GFS gives G.R. 37° on Sat., the NAM 36°…I’ve got out 38° right now.  Not much snow in the offing.  A light mix (rain to snow) Sat. night, perhaps.  Maybe an inch or two on Tues.  I haven’t seen the European yet….a little breezy at times today and Saturday.

AlsoJanuary temperatures so far relative to average…quite cold east of the Rockies, but summerlike warmth in S. Florida.  Grand Rapids is 9 deg. colder than average for the first 2 weeks of Jan.  Continental U.S. is -2.736°C colder than average.  And look what’s coming (Jan. 27)!  Walking thru the 193-vehicle accident on I-94 (warning – some profanity)…snow for the United Kingdom…here’s sunset flying into Chicago from Michigan (from Dan Schell).  Note the ice on Lake Michigan.   Here’s Chicago Weds. from the Harrison Crib, 2.75 mi. east of downtown with another view of the ice (from NOAA Coastwatch).   There was a 24-hour high/low of 23/13 there at the Crib (water intake for Chicago).  Close-up view of the “pancake ice” looking west to Chciago.   Here’s a frosty scene from 1/7 from the Muskegon GLERL camera (NOAA Coastwatch).  Fast ice-over of Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair with the recent cold.   Cyclones bring the threat of flooding to Madagascar and the Philippines.  Monday a record high of 46 in Anchorage AK.  Often when the Great Lakes are cold, Alaska is warm and vice-versa.  Possible showers for the NFL championship games on SundayDrone view of Chicago in winter chill.   The lights of New York from 7,500 feet up.   Cool pattern for West AfricaThe Statute of Liberty at sunsetFairly heavy snow in Derry, IrelandThick smog in Beijing (eerie picture).  Karasjok, Norway had a low of -40 C (-40 F) on Tuesday.

Coldest in G.R. since 1996!

January 14th, 2015 at 2:34 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Thermometer cold KARE   Today’s episode of the “Biggest Loser” features (drumroll) the thermometer!   We hit a record low temperature in G.R. of -13 in Grand Rapids!  The old record was -6 in 1988.  That was the coldest temperauture in Grand Rapids since a -17 reading on 2/4/1996.   Other low temps:  -5 Muskegon, -6 Manistee, Allendale, Spring Lake, East G.R. and Sturgis, -7 Walker and Jenison,  -8 Battle Creek, Ravenna, New Era and Alma, -9 Grandville and Grand Ledge, -10 at Coldwater, Grand Valley, Ionia, Fremont, Byron Center, Holland, Kalamazoo, Three Rivers and Jackson, -11 Belding and Grattan, -12 Lansing, Alma, Bloomingdale, W. Olive, Eaton Rapids, Hudsonville and Fennville, -13 S. Haven, White Cloud, Hart, Albion, Mt. Pleasant, Oshtemo and Mendon, -14 Saugatuck, Stanton,  Mendon and at  the Kalamazoo Nature Center, -15 Benton Harbor, Greenville, Wayland, Houghton Lake and Hartford, -16 Hastings, Saranac, Allegan, Olivet and Big Rapids, -17 Gun Lake, Port Huron, Reed City and Entrican (Montcalm Co.), -19 Flint, Bradley, Grand Junction, Hersey and Leslie, -20 Grayling and Watervliet, -21 Leota (Clare Co.), Paw Paw and Baldwin, -22 Lawrence (ag. station).  That’s two mornings in a row colder than -20 at Baldwin.   Here’s current temperatures.  The coldest last winter was -12 on 2/28.  Twice we bottomed out at -9 last winter and another time at -8.  Today is the 11th consecutive day with below average temperatures.   We had 100% sunshine yesterday.  That’s only the 3rd time since the year 2000 that we have had 100% sunshine on a day in January.   Here’s U.S. Low Temperatures Tuesday AM – coldest was -28 at Houlton, Maine.

Evening – it’s mostly cloudy, most main roads are dry.  Still a few icy spots on lesser traveled (mostly rural) roads, sidewalks, parking lots and driveways.  Not nearly as cold tonight, with temps. in the low 20s at Lake Michigan and teens above zero inland.  There are a few scattered light flurries, but mainly just trace amounts.

As of midday, ice cover on Lake Michigan is up to 25%Total Great Lakes is up to 29.3% – a gain of about 4% in the last 24-hours.   Here’s current ice cover on Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.   There were a few patches of fog around this morning.  Be especially careful driving in fog when the temperature is below freezing.  There can be condensation on the roads and areas of (black) ice.   Here’s a comparison of Great Lakes ice now to past years at this time.   No big storms on the way.  The overnight GFS-plot has 0.02″ precip. Thurs. night, another 0.05″ Sat. night/Sun. AM and 0.08″ Tuesday.  The European would give us about 2-3″ snow next Tues. night into Weds.  On the 10-day European, the only two days above freezing are Sat. and Sun. – that’s mid-upper 30s.  That will knock the snow down a little, but not melt all of it.  In the meantime…more great weather for winter sports.

Just hit 4,000 followers on Twitter – (  Thanks!

Ice Increasing on Lake Michigan

January 13th, 2015 at 9:02 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

modis lake michigan  Lake Michgian ice cover  Here’s the MODIS Lake Michigan picture from this (Tue.) afternoon.  You can see the ice on the east shore of the lake.  It’s not solid, it drifts a bit, but it is increasing at a steady rate with the cold pattern that we have had.  It looks like all the inland lakes except for Torch Lake are frozen over.  Labeled pic.    There’s also the current ice update for Lake Michigan from GLERL, now at 23.4%.  Here’s the current percent ice cover for Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.  The combined Great Lakes now has a 25.2% ice cover.    Lots of ice on Lake ErieThe open water generates clouds on Lake Ontario.  The relatively deep Finger Lakes are open water.

Today (Weds.) will be the 11th day in a row with colder than average temperatures.  Yesterday (Tue.) was the first day since Jan. 2 without at least a trace of snow.  Grand Rapids is now 8.6° below average for Jan. 1-13 and today will put us down to 9° colder than average.   Season snowfall stands at 52.2″ for G.R. and 55.5″ for Muskegon.  Herman in the U.P. has had 141.2″ and Mt. Bohemia reports 130.0″ for the season.

Also:  Pretty sunrise above the clouds near Colorado Springshoar frost near Boulder CO – looks like feathers…deep low pressure center bringing strong winds to Ireland and the U.K. will also usher in cold air to much of Europe…barometer reading below 28″!  Pic. of Monday’s giant solar flarelook to the right of Orion to see Comet LovejoySan Francisco peeks out of the fogtwo passengers on a 65-passenger plane fly from CLE to NYC…low  Monday were 75° at Miami and 74° at Ft. Lauderdale, record warmest lows for Jan 12th…Tropical Cyclone Bansi churns toward Madagascar.

Tuesday – Record Low for G.R.

January 13th, 2015 at 4:15 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

ice cover on the great lakes  Lows U.P. Lake Michigan SS St. Mary's Challenger in ice Grand Haven Channel 1 10 1915  Click on the images to enlarge.  The first is Great Lakes ice cover…now up to 25%.  The middle map is low temps. in the U.P. as of 6:30 am  The third is the SS St. Marys Challenger coming through the ice (with the help of the tug) into the Grand Haven Channel.   Beautiful sunshine this PM with relatively light winds  Low temps:  Muskegon:  -1, Battle Creek – zero, Kalamazoo -1, Holland -1, Benton Harbor -1,  Coldwater -6, Grand Rapids -5, Lansing -4, Three Rivers -10,  Hastings -5, Mendon -6,  S. Haven -6, Charlotte -6, Clarksville -7, Hudsonville -7, Flint -9,  Kent City -8,  Ludington -10, Lawrence (ag. station) -11, Traverse City -12, Marshall -12, Delta Twp. (west of Lansing) -12,  Big Rapids -16, Houghton Lake -15, New Era -16, Hesperia -17, Cadillac -17, Bellaire -19, Fife Lake -22,  Gaylord -23, Pellston -21, Mio -22,  Baldwin -23,  Grayling -24, Iron Mt. -24, Leota (Clare Co.) -25, Indian River -25, Roscommon -26, Wakefield -27, Randville -27, Amasa -27, Stambaugh -31,  Marenisco (U.P. – Ontonagon Co.) -32.    Current temps. here.  Sunshine and light winds today…then another cold start to Thurs., below zero in most locations.  Clouds arrive early tomorrow.  There could be a period of  light snow/flurries as the wind turns SW-SSW off Lake Michigan Weds. PM.  Look for a gradual warming trend with highs reaching the upper 30s on Saturday.  Much of next week will not be as cold.  I don’t see any big storms headed our way at the moment.  Here’s current conditions.    Beach temp. this morning dropped to -0.6 at Muskegon.  The Chicago beach temp. never got lower than 15.1 and the Milwaukee beach temp. stopped at 13.6.

Snowcover this (Tue.) morning:  6″ Grand Rapids, 7″ Lansing, Hastings, Big Rapids, 8″ East G.R. and Holland, 12″ Muskegon.  In the U.P. 18″ Newberry, 25″ Munising, 37″ Grand Marais.  I got a note from near Madison, Wisconsin, saying that they actually had a trace of lake-effect snow off Lake Michigan that got that far west with a general northeast wind.  I can’t remember lake-effect going that far west.

Snow in Scotland...2.98″ of rain in Orlando FL – highest in U.S. Mon. was 83 at the Key West NAS and at Pompano Beach FL…coolest this morning -35 Cotton MN.

Monday PM

January 11th, 2015 at 7:42 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

    8:20 pm Monday – Whew, busy day – meeting here at work, appearance on Maranda, Kyle called in sick – so I’m doing the all the shows and everything that goes with it.  I just finished 2 tours of the station – Cub Scouts and birthday girl Emma.  Now, I start looking thru new data and updating the web…putting in the closed-captioning for the 10 and 11, etc.

Skies will eventually go mostly clear.   The wind is NNE and gets the coldest air down to West Michigan with a minimum of time over open water (so less chance of lake-effect clouds.  Looks like we can break the record of -2 in G.R. tomorrow morning.  That’s the warmest low temp. record in January.  Muskegon’s record is also -2.   Lansing’s record is -17 and we shouldn’t break that.  The record for Weds. am in G.R. is -6 and if we can stay clear, we can get close or exceed that record as well.

Grand Rapids season snowfall now at 52.2″…almost identical to the 53″ we had at this point last winter.  We are 14.5″ ahead of average to date.  If we get average snowfall the rest of the winter, we’ll get to 89″ for the season.

Here’s Grand Rapids radar and Northern Michigan radar, NAM model 3-day snowfall forecast and GFS model 5-day snowfall forecast (totals increased on the Sat. overnight model run). Storm Total Snowfall will show the heaviest snow and Milwaukee looping radar. Regional radar and the Updated GRR NWS Short Term Discussion. More links: Grand Rapids radar, Northern Indian radar, Chicago radar, Detroit radar and Milwaukee radar. Here’s College of DuPage Radar Map (pick any radar in the U.S.), College of DuPage Grand Rapids radar, the West Michigan Lightning Tracker, National Lightning Tracker, the local warning/advisory map and the National warning/watch/advisory map, 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. 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 recent 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 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). Here’s the Consumers Energy Power Outage Map.

Sunday PM

January 11th, 2015 at 1:21 pm by under Bill's Blog, Sports, Weather

Green Bay   Click on the image to enlarge.  This is a screen grab from a skycam (from WBAY) in Green Bay showing Lambeau Field at the start of the Green Bay/Dallas playoff game.  It was 24 deg. in Green Bay and mostly cloudy.  The wind was only 6 mph and the wind chill is 18.  Green Bay wins!  Daughter 2 is happy -  Cowboys 9-0 on the road this season.  Check out V.P. candidate Paul Ryan at the Packer game with his kids.   It was in the low-mid 40s with a chance of a light rain or snow shower during the game late this PM.  At 1 pm Sunday, it was up to 27 in Grand Rapids, warmer than we’ve been in over a week.  It was an even-freezin’ 32 at S. Haven, Holland and Muskegon.  Here’s the latest satellite loop (daytime).   Here’s a summary of the Thursday snowstorm from G.R. NWS.  More local weather in the threads below this one.

Sunday AM snow cover:  36″ Grand Marais, 26″ Munising, 22″ Marquette (airport), 18″ S. Ste. Marie, 17″ Hart, 16″ Ironwood, 15″ Muskegon, Fremont and Traverse City, 13″ Scottville, 12″ west of Hastings, Walker, 11″ Holland and Grandville, 10″ Grand Rapids, East G.R., Kalamazoo and Gaylord, 9″ Big Rapids, Reed City, Middleville, W. Cloud, Manistique, 7″ Houghton Lake, E side of Belmont and Paw Paw, 6″ east of Hastings, Plainwell and Saranac, 5″ Lansing, Grand Ledge and Ann Arbor, 4″ Flint, Saginaw and Alpena.  45.2% of the Continental U.S. has a snow cover this morning, compared to 40.3% last year on this date.

Model update:  Snowfall forecasts for tonight from the NAM (car):  0.5″ Grand Rapids, 2.0″ Kalamazoo, 1.4″ Lansing…from the GFS (car.):  0.5″ Grand Rapids, 1.2″ Kalamazoo, 0.8″ Lansing.  Low temps. Tues. and Weds. AM:  NAM (car) – for Grand Rapids  -11.3, -10.0…from the GFS (car) -6.3, -15.1.   Two pretty cold mornings this week.  No big storms this week.  There could be flurries and it’s not impossible there could be a touch of freezing mist late Weds. night/Thurs. AM.  Schools should be open all week at this point.   EPO index and NAO index are negative at the end of the month, hinting at a trough in the Eastern U.S. and a relatively cool pattern for the Great Lakes.

Also:  Cyclone Bansi in the Indian Ocean

Great Lakes Water Levels, % Ice Coverage and News

January 11th, 2015 at 3:00 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Holland State Park 11 days difference Kelsey Gephart 1 8 15   muskegon glerl chicago glerl Click on the images to enlarge.  The first double pic. on the left from Kelsey Gephart shows the pier/walk at Holland St. Park 11 days apart (on the right, I believe is the snow last Thursday.  The middle and right pictures are form the GLERL cameras at Muskegon and Chicago.  Note the ice that has formed during this cold week.  Here’s current Great Lakes ice cover (which as I type this is at 15.2%).  Here’s Lake Michigan (18% ice covered as I write this)…Lake Superior (8.6%)…Lake Huron (25.1%)…Lake Erie (45.5%)…and Lake Ontario (1.9%).  Deeper lakes take longer to ice over, so often shallow Lake Erie (max. depth 210 feet) has the greatest % of surface ice cover than the other Great Lakes.   Lake Superior (deepest 1,333 feet) takes a long time to freeze.  This is true for inland lakes as well.  Torch Lake east of Traverse City is a deep lake (max. depth 285 feet – deeper than Lake Erie) and will take longer to freeze over than shallow lakes (Houghton Lake (max depth 22 feet) or the west half of Gun Lake).

The water level of Lake Michigan/Huron is down 1″ in the last month, but up a whopping 22″ in the last year (almost two feet!).  The lake is now 8″ above the long-term average January level.  Lake Superior also dropped one inch in the last month.  Superior is up 11 inches year-to-year and is now 10″ above the century average for January.  The higher water has prompted lakeshore flood advisories in the U.P. with strong north winds pushing water toward shore.  Lake Erie is up 2″ in the last month and up 8″in the last year.  Erie is now 9″ above the average level.  Lake Ontario is up 5″ in the last month, down 2″ in the last year and right at the long-term average.  Lake St. Clair is up 1″ in the last month, up a full 24″ in the last year and now 13″ above the average water level.  Connecting rivers (St. Mary’s, St. Clair, Detroit, Niagara) are all expected to have above average water flow into the month of February.  The higher water levels have already caused some damage.

Also:  Lake Michigan Shipboard Science Workshop for 4th-12th grade teachers, DNR warns of risky ice, nice satellite pic. showing the lake-effect clouds with northwest winds, ice-dunes forming, the recovery of the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, the beautiful, but dangerous shoreline in winter (nice pics. at link), Coast Guard works at keeping Great Lakes open for shipping in winter, DNR working to improve Atlantic salmon survival rate, Arctic air makes the Great Lakes steam, shipwreck update and Lake Michigan MODIS satellite picture from Saturday.