Bill Steffen

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.


Blog Hack for St. Patrick’s Day!

March 15th, 2015 at 9:39 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! (early)

There once was a man named Bill,
of weather he could not get his fill.
He loved to forecast,
and then to broadcast,
so the people would know of a chill.
He worked on it daily and nightly,
he wanted to forecast so rightly.
When the skies were all clear,
or the weather severe,
with the clouds or the sun shining brightly.
Now no one could doubt our Bill’s skill.
Or the sheer force of his will.
For nothing could stop,
our mustache-clad pop,
from all the forecasting thrill.
But Bill left his blog unprotected,
so this is to be quite expected.
We opened it quick,
and with one little click,
we posted this rhyme undetected!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! – From Daughters # 1 and 3
From Dad:
‘Twas night and I heard not a peep,
Shenanigans while I counted sheep,
I better beware,
Whilst I rest unaware,
Having left my computer on “sleep”.

Sun Day

March 15th, 2015 at 2:42 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

muskegon glerl   This is the sunset pic. from the Muskegon GLERL camera (from NOAA Coastwatch).  Looks like someone lit the fuse and the firecracker is about to explode.   The clearing line pushed east overnight and we’ve got sunshine today.  The models give W. Michigan highs in the upper 40s to low 50s…I’m on the high side of those numbers.  The NAM (car) gives G.R. 62 on Monday and Jackson 65.  The NAM MOS has 65 for G.R.  Enjoy the warm air, it’s not going to last as a cooler pattern will settle in for what looks like a long time.  We’ll be back to near normal for the midweek and we could be downright chilly for next weekend.  The GFS (car) gives G.R. 1.2″ of snow Friday AM and a low of 17 Saturday AM (It also gives G.R. 0.04″ of rain Monday night).  I’ll be the European model isn’t quite as cold as the GFS.  I’ll be working the Sunday evening shift…so watch me at 6, 10, 11 for the updated forecast.

The Grand River is high (nearing bankfull – not flood stage) in Comstock Park.  Other rivers are high, but no significant flooding is expected (barring as ice jam somewhere).  We’ll see below average precipitation again this week.

BTW someone asked why sometimes our forecast is different on TV than on the web.  The meteorologists have to input the 8-day forecast separately for TV, internet and phone and we can’t/don’t do it at the exact same time.  So there may be a brief time when one is updated and another is getting updated.  I always make sure I do TV first.  There is also a brief time after midnight when a new day pops up on the internet 8-day forecast and it uses model data to fill the 8th day.  So, for a couple hours, Day 8 may be different (the computer loves to put “drizzle” in for the weather for Day 8).  We usually have that fixed quickly.  I often stay until 2 am working on email, the blog or some project.  I like staying up for the latest model data (which is an hour later when we have Daylight Saving Time) It’s usually quiet then.  Daughter #3 is down from TVC this weekend…my wife made a wonderful spaghetti dinner last night.  When I was in college, I felt so lucky when I had enough money to go down to Gino’s and get spaghetti, a salad and a piece of garlic bread for Sunday evening dinner…a warm and friendly place.

Last Weekend of Winter

March 14th, 2015 at 2:48 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Modis Lake Michigan 3 13 15   Modis Great Lakes 3 13 15  Windmill Holland Sunset ReportIt 3 13 15 Here’s the MODIS pictures of Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes from Friday afternoon.  The ice on the lakes is slowly shrinking.  The land is brown.  You can see more snow on the ground west of G.R. than to the east.  The sunset pic. of the famous Holland DeZwaan Windmill is from Beach Bum Joe at ReportIt.

Pretty uneventful forecast.  We’ll be in the mid-upper 40s this afternoon.  Lots of clouds now (noon hour)…some flurries in the U.P., but dry here…we’ll start Sunday a touch below freezing, but recover to 50 with lots of sunshine.  Monday will be the warmest day of the bunch, a bit on the windy side.  I had out 60…depending on the arrival time of a cold front, it could easily be mid 60s SE of G.R., especially if the wind misses Lake Michigan.  It’ll be a good 10 deg. cooler at Lake Michigan.  Yesterday while it made 59 at the airports in S. Haven, Benton Harbor and Holland, the high temperature at Holland St. Park was 42.4 and on the beach at Muskegon, the high was 42.8.  Downtown Chicago was in the mid 60s and the Harrison Crib 2 3/4 miles east out in Lake Michigan was running a good 10 deg. cooler in the low-mid 50s…so that relative short distance cooled the air that much.

Here’s the high temperature map from yesterday – a warm day over much of the country.   The Turrialba volcano in Costa Rico is erupting againCyclone Pam heading toward New ZealandSignificant damage in Port VilaVideo of damage.  It’s Pi Day - I’ve remembered 3.14159 since high school.  Nice snowstorm for Maine.  20,000 customers in Ohio without electricity.   It’s the anniversary of the famous 1993 superstorm blizzard.  It snowed all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.

Great Lakes Ice Breaking Up

March 13th, 2015 at 1:17 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Boardman River TVC Michelle Olin 3 15 Lake Michigan Michelle Olin Winter Homestead ResortHere’s a couple of great pics. from Michelle Olin.  The first is the calm-as you-will-ever-see-it Boardman River in Traverse City just before it empties into Traverse Bay.  The second is from the Homestead Resort looking out over the  frozen bay.   Great Lakes ice cover as I write this is at 64.3%. The link will give you the latest ice extent. The ice cover on all the Great Lakes is slowly breaking up and melting. Ice extent on the Great Lakes usually peaks in early March. Right now ice extent stands at 36.2% on Lake Michigan…for Lake Superior 75.6%, Lake Huron 74.8%, Lake Erie 92.9% and Lake Ontario (31.7%). Lake Erie is the southernmost Great Lake, but usually gets the highest percentage of surface ice cover, because it’s a relatively shallow lake (average depth 62 feet).  Check out the graph of ice extent this season for lakes Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario. Compare Great Lakes ice today to Great Lakes ice one year ago. Here’s a year-to-year comparison for Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Great Lakes ice cover peaked last year on March 6th at 92.5%, a little below the record of 94.7% in 1979.    Zoomed in pic. of West Michigan showing the snow cover and ice on Lake Michigan.

The water level of Lake Michigan/Huron is steady in the last month, but up 21″ in the last year. The lake(s) are 7″ above the March average water level. Lake Superior is down 2″ in the last month, but up 8″ year-to-year. Superior is still 8″ above the historic average for March. Lake Erie is down 3″ in the last month, down 1″ in the last year and now 5″ below the average for March. Lake Ontario is down 5″ in the last month, down 6″ year-to-year and it’s 11″ below the long term average.  Lake St. Clair is up 2″ in the last month. The water levels in general are dropping due to below average non-lake-effect precipitation and the fact that it’s been below freezing, so the precipitation sits on the ground as snowcover rather than draining into the lakes. The water flow over Tahquamenon Falls slowed to almost nothing a week ago of the intense cold this winter.

Great Lakes news:  Eagles on Lake Macatawa…100 years ago, the worst disaster ever on the Great LakesLake Michigan salmon populationtwo gray wolves cross the ice from Canada to Isle Royale…the latest from Boatnerd.

Also- Volcano erupting in Costa Rica

Pleasant Weather Continues

March 12th, 2015 at 1:51 pm by under Bill's Blog, Weather

muskegon glerl   muskegon glerl 2  Here’s a couple of pictures from late morning at the Muskegon Channel (from NOAA Coastwatch.  We’ve had a few high clouds, but lots of blue sky and sunshine today.  Note the open water in the channel where the water is moving.  The high tempeature was 49 in G.R. (average high is now 43).  With a southeast wind, it was just as warm at the lakeshore.  The Muskegon Beach weather station reached 49.8 degrees and at Holland St. Park, the high was 48.2.   The morning run of the NAM (car)  gives Jackson just a trace of rain Friday night/early Saturday, everyone else is dry.  The GFS is a little farther north with the rain…giving .12″ to Jackson and .04 to Kalamazoo.   A compromise might give a sprinkle to Battle Creek and maybe 0.10″ to southern Branch and Hillsdale Counties.

So far to date, 2015 has averaged 7.7 deg. colder than average in G.R.  Some smaller creeks are at high, but no significant flooding now as the snow gradually melts with no rain. The Arctic Oscillation goes negative...a sign that cooler is on the way starting the middle of next week.  A X-class solar flare may give us a slight chance of seeing the Northern Lights.  Catch my updated forecast on TV8 this evening.

Warmest Day Since December

March 11th, 2015 at 7:37 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

modis lake michigan  Modis Lake Superiormodis lake ontariomodis lake huronmodis lake erie                With clear skies across the Great Lakes, here’s an excellent view of each lake (from MODIS/NOAA Coastwatch).  Note the brown bare ground showing up in Wisconsin and even over toward Saginaw Bay.  The ice is breaking up in the northern section of Green Bay and being pushed east by the prevailing wind.   There is more open water now on Lake Superior and Lake Huron, with some open water at the west end of Lake Erie.  Note the two biggest Finger Lakes (Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake) never did freeze over.  That’s because they are very deep lakes.  Seneca Lake (on the left in the picture) has an average depth of 291 feet and a maximum depth of 618 feet (nearly three times deeper than Lake Erie).  Seneca Lake also has major springs, releasing 328,000 gallons of water per minute.  That helps to keep the water moving, also preventing it from freezing over in winter.  As of this afternoon, Lake Michigan ice cover was at 33% and the Great lakes at 68%.

Wednesday was the first 50-degree day of the year in G.R. and the warmest day since Dec. 23rd.  This is also the first time since Jan. 23-25 that we have had 3 days in a row with above average temperatures.  It’s also the first time since November that we have had 5 days in a row that reached 40 degrees.  Despite that, March 1-11 is still 6.4 degrees colder than average in G.R.  G.R. has not had a minimum temperature above 32 degrees since 12/27.   Another sunny, beautiful day today (Thurs.), enjoy.

Also, this is the latest we’ve gone into March without a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch anywhere in the U.S….46 from March 1-11 last year and last year was a low-count year for tornadoes.  Bill says…it’s going to ramp up in April.   Four tropical cyclones in this satellite pic.  The big one is Pam.   Blizzard Warning for Hawaii!!  Check out the ice piled against the interstate bridge in Toledo.


March 11th, 2015 at 2:41 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather

Fog Rockford Dam Andi Ripley 3 10 15    This pic. is the Rockford Dam Tuesday with a few late winter fishermen in the light fog (pic. from Andi Ripley – thanks!).  River levels have been below average, but are coming up a little with the snowmelt.  You can check Michigan river levels here.  River levels will fluctuate a bit with the ice and some gauges are not available because of the ice.  A slow snowmelt is just what we need, without heavy rain.

Look for more morning fog and clouds.  The fog should thin and the clouds should break up to give us a mild, springlike day.  We may have a few school delays this am.  Check out the WOOD closing page.   I drove home around 3:30 am.  I passed a guy filling potholes near I-196.  My car thermometer said 37 all the way home and both thermometer signs I passed also said 37.  There was a very heavy dew and the roads were wet from melting snow and condensation.  Watch for ice anywhere the temp. is close to 32 this am?  Look at the high temperatures from yesterday.  Lots of warm air on the map.  Marquette NWS reached 58 degrees with 28″ of snow on the ground.  Big Bay and Pelkie had the warmest readings at 66 – warmer than Brownsville and the southern tip of Texas!  Cooler weather relatively to average is likely after about March 19th.  The CFSv2 is cool for late March and early April.    Overnight high temps. from the European model starting with today (Weds.):  50, 51, 55, 46, 54, 55, 46, 47, 41.  Best chance of rain is next Monday night, second best chance (mainly SE of G.R.) is Saturday.

Super Cyclone Pam churns well east of Australia.  Record high Antarctic sea ice extent for the date.  Magnitude-6.2 earthquake strikes 9 mi north of Aratoca, Colombia – pretty deep – 91 miles underground, damage doesn’t significant.   Dust can be blown hundreds of miles west of AfricaNetwork reporter catches the Northern Lights.

Tuesday – PM Clouds/Fog

March 10th, 2015 at 2:38 am by under Bill's Blog, Weather  Great Lakes Ice Cover lake michigan ice cover  Happy Tuesday.  We’ve had some low clouds move up from Indiana overnight and they’ll be with us for awhile.  We also have fog and dew points that are higher than the the freezing mark (32F).  It was interesting watching the high dew point air and low clouds not only move, but develop north during the early morning.  Driving home around 3 am it was still clear and despite a temp. of 35, I passed some slick patches of ice where the melting snow had refrozen over the cold ground. Temperatures can be above freezing and you can still have a few icy spots – mainly sidewalks, driveways and parking lots and mainly at night and in the early morning.  Temperatures will be in the upper 30s to low 40s much of the day.  Here’s current conditions and a satellite loop.

The 8-14 day outlook from the Climate Prediction Center is on the left.  It has a greater probability of cooler than average temperatures over much of the East, including all of Michigan.  This is for March 17-23.  I think this is right.  Keep in mind that averages are warming now at the rate of one degree every 3 days, so it won’t be as cold as February…but I’m sure will get some snow in that period and some days with highs in the 30s.  GFS is really cold around 3/22.

The middle map is Great Lakes ice cover…down to 73% and dropping.  We peaked around 88.3%.  On the right we have Lake Michigan ice cover, down to around 38% today.  It’s not that it’s been that warm…this is mostly the wind breaking up the ice without additional ice forming.  Yesterday it made 46 in G.R. and Kalamazoo, but only 36-38 at the lake beaches.  You’ll see that difference a lot on milder days.  The ice boulders are going to take a fairly long while to melt to nothing.

I’m back at the dentist this late morning getting an older crown reworked.  If I mumble on air tonight, I can always blame the novocaine!  Also:  Monday was the first time in 2015 that the temperature climbed above 90 at Death Valley CA.  5-day rainfall – Branch Co. may get clipped by the north edge of the southern rain…another storm that’s zeroing in on Kentucky.  Snow in Central Italy…wow!  Check out this pile of snow in New Brunswick, Canada!