Great Lakes Ice Cover, Water Levels

January 30th, 2015 at 12:11 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Great Lakes Ice Cover One    Great Lakes Ice Cover Two  Ice Cover 3Click on the images to enlarge.  On the left is Great Lakes ice cover now compared to past years on this data.  We don’t have as much ice as last year at this time, but ice cover is still well above average.  The middle image is a graph of weekly ice cover this season.  The ice cover usually peaks in early March and and with the colder than average air this coming week…we could be seeing ice cover reach the average maximum nearly a month before the average date of peak ice.  On the right, we have Lake Michigan ice cover, which stands at 21.5% as of Thursday evening.  Here’s the current ice extent for Lake Superior (25.2% as I write this), Lake Huron (48.3%), Lake Erie (94.1%) and Lake Ontario (22.1%).  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).

The water level of Lake Michigan/Huron is down 2″ in the last month, but up 21″ in the last year.  The lake(s) remains 8″ above the January average water level.  Lake Superior is down 4″ in the last month, but up 9″ year-to-year.  Superior is now 6″ above the historic average for January.  Lake Erie  is down 3″ in the last month, up 6″ in the last year and now 4″ above the average for January.  Lake Ontario is up 2″ in the last 2 months, down 4″ year-to-year and right at the January average.  It’s curious that Lake St. Clair dropped 17″ in the last 3 weeks.  That’s due to a build-up of ice constricting the flow out of Lake Huron into Lake St. Clair.  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.

Great Lakes news:   Keep a lookout for snowy owls.  For the 2nd winter in a row, the owls are coming farther south than usual.  Pretty pics. of Lake Michigan in winter.

East Coast Blizzard

January 26th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

blizzard watch  At 8 am -   The wind at the airport on Nantucket Island gusted to 78 mph overnight!   Much of the island is without power.   Wind gusts hit 74 mph at Aquinnah MA and 70 mph at Sagmore MA.  Also, 65 mph gust recorded in Charlestown, RI.    The peak wind gust in NYC has been 38 mph. We have not reached blizzard criteria in NYC or New Jersey.  The heaviest snowfall so far is 25″ at Worcester MA.  Boston has had 15″ and NYC reports 11″ at LaGuardia and 8″ at Central Park (hard to measure with the wind and drifting).  They’ve had gusts to 60 mph and up to 25″ of snow on Long Island around Mattituck. Islip reports 21″ of new snow.  Heaviest snow zeroed in on Long Island and  SE MA.   There was one report of thundersnow in SE Mass.    Here’s snow totals  from the New York City/Long Island area, the Boston area and current conditions in the East.   I’m on the LOW side of the snowfall totals for NYC….so, a pretty decent storm, but NOT NEAR the worst storm ever for NYC – it’ll be a little stronger from Long Island to the the MA coast up to the north into SE ME.   The light red color on the map here is the Blizzard Warning for coastal NJ, NY, CT, RI, MA, NH and ME – including New York City and Boston.  It’s from Monday evening through Tuesday PM for 12-30″ of snow plus wind gusts up to 70 mph (mainly at the coast or over the open water).

Here’s the official NWS definition of a blizzard:  “A BLIZZARD WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR CONSIDERABLE FALLING AND/OR BLOWING SNOW WITH SUSTAINED WINDS OR FREQUENT GUSTS OVER 35 MPH AND VISIBILITIES BELOW 1/4 MILE FOR AT LEAST 3 HOURS.”  Note that it’s based on wind and visibility and not a specific amount of snow falling.  You can have a blizzard with a snowfall of one inch and not have a snowstorm with a snowfall of three feet.   NWS says “ALL UNNECESSARY TRAVEL IS DISCOURAGED BEGINNING MONDAY AFTERNOON…LIFE-THREATENING CONDITIONS AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TRAVEL DUE TO HEAVY SNOWFALL AND STRONG WINDS…WITH WHITEOUT CONDITIONS. SECONDARY AND TERTIARY ROADS MAY BECOME IMPASSABLE. STRONG WINDS MAY DOWN POWER LINES AND TREE LIMBS.”   Here’s a NWS PowerPoint on the coming storm.  Flurries down to N. Georgia.   Here’s New York City radar.    There’s a Hurricane Force Wind Warning for gusts to 70 knots (80 mph) and 25 foot waves.   Here’s a southern New England weather map and some current weather observations.  United Airlines cancels all Tuesday flights at Newark, JFK, LaGuardia, Boston and Philadelphia.  Cold shot follows blizzard.   This storm will not be quite the catastrophe as the Blizzard of 1888.  NYC has 1,806 plows and more than 126,000 tons of salt.  I hope Bill Nye reads this link.


Elsewhere…rain showers for much of Southern California.  You can follow on SW radar.  Gust to 59 mph from severe t-storm in Tuscaloosa AL.  Double rainbow in Jasper AL.   Sunshine and 40 below zero at Fairbanks (low sun angle near noon).

The early Monday overnight GFS-plot shows 0.31″ of precipitation for G.R. (mainly or all snow) for Weds. night/Thurs. AM and another 0.09″ for Sat. PM/night (all snow).  The GFS (car) gives G.R. 3.3″ of snow mainly Weds. night.   The European isn’t in yet…and I’m tired and hitting the sack – more in the AM.   Pretty cold start to this Monday…some single figures and below zero temps. (mainly northern Lower MI) this morning.

Great Lakes Water Levels

January 23rd, 2015 at 1:22 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Lake Michigan Randy Feister 1 15 15 sunset Pere Mqt. Park Muskegon   Click on the picture to enlarge.  This is a pic. from Randy Feister at Pere Marquette Park in Muskegon.  Thanks, Randy.  The water level of Lake Michigan/Huron is down one inch in the last month, up 21 inches year-to-year and 8″ above the long-term January average level.  Lake Superior is down 4″ in the last month.  That’s not surprising since it’s been below freezing and the precipitation is still on the ground and not in the rivers.  Superior is up 9″ in the past year and up 7″ from the century average.  Lake Erie is down 2″ in the last month, up 6″ in the last year and is now 6″ above the average water level.  Lake Ontario is up 4″ in the last month, down 4″ in the last year and one inch above the long-term average.   Lake St. Clair is down 9″ in the last month, up 7″ in the past year and now sits at 3″ above the century average.  We did a story on the unprecedented rise in the Lake Michigan/Huron water level and how it affects marinas and shipping.

Here’s the MODIS Lake Michigan satellite pic. from Thurs. PM.  There was sun north of Milwaukee in E. Wisconsin and it was partly cloudy up by Traverse City.  Here’s the Lake Superior shot – showing sunshine over much of the U.P.   As I write this, we have 34% ice cover on the Great Lakes.  That includes about 19% on Lake Michigan19% on Lake Superior48% on Lake Huron82% ice on Lake Erie (shallowest lake, gets the most ice)…and 22% on Lake Ontario.   They’re ice fishing at the western end of Lake Erie, 8-10″ of ice!   Lighthouse pictures from West MichiganShipwrecks from the mid-1800s found in Lake OntarioIce breaking on the Great Lakes.

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.


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.

Winter Weather Advisory

December 19th, 2014 at 1:16 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

advisory   Winter Weather Advisory for Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Calhoun and Jackson Counties until 8 am for freezing drizzle and a few icy spots on the roads.

Great Lakes

November 28th, 2014 at 3:06 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Lake Michigan Nov. 17 2014 Jack Martin   Click on the pic. to enlarge.  This is from Jack Martin from nearly 2 weeks ago.  There’s just a hint of the famous “Gales of November” in this picture.   The water level of Lake Michigan/Huron was unchanged last week.  It’s down 1″ in the last month, but up a whopping 21″ in the last year.   The lakes remain 6″ above their historic average level.  The water level of Lake Superior is down 3″ in the last month, up 10″ in the last year and 7″ above the historic average.  Lake Erie has also dropped 3″ in the last month.  Erie is 8″ higher than one year ago and 6″ above the average November level.  Lake Ontario is the exception, down 4″ in the last month, down 5″ in the last year and is now 4″ below the century average level.  Lake St. Clair is 11″ higher than one year ago and 6″ above the long-term average.  Temperatures this month have been well below average over most of the Great Lakes region.  This has also been a month with record snowfall at many locations, including Grand Rapids, Marquette and S. Ste Marie.   Most of that has been lake-effect snow.  Flow out of Lake Superior into Lake Huron down the St. Mary’s River is expected to continue to be “well above average”.  The flow from Lake Huron down the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers will continue at above average levels, as well as flow from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario down the Niagara River and from Lake Ontario out the St. Lawrence River.

The buoys have been taken out of Lake Superior and Lake Ontario.  Both the north (west of Leelanau, east of Door Co.) and south (between Holland and Milwaukee) are both still in the water and they both report a water temp. of 41.5°.   The N Lake Huron buoy shows 41.2° and the S. Lake Huron buoy has a water temp. of 42.6°.  There is one buoy in Lake Erie on the Canadian side (Port Stanley) and that shows 43.2°.

Look at these beautiful pics. of the St. Joseph Lighthouse by Tom Gill in the Daily Mail paper in London, England.

Grand Rapids has had 4 minutes of sunshine in the last 6 days.  That’s an average of 40 seconds of sunshine per day!


Blizzard Bowl

November 25th, 2014 at 1:42 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Sports, Weather

On Nov. 25, 1950 Michigan and Ohio State met for what has been called the “Blizzard Bowl” or the “Snow Bowl“. Check out the film of the storm here and here. Michigan won the game 9-3 despite gaining only 27 yards of offense in 46 plays. They had no first downs, didn’t complete a pass and punted 24 times. In fact, there were 45 punts in the game. Both teams mostly tried two runs then punted on 3rd down, so in case the punter slipped, they could try again on fourth down. Only 2 of the 45 punts were returned (for a total of 8 yards). That was mostly because the return man couldn’t find the ball. Most just hit the snow and stopped without bouncing. There were only 10 fumbles in the game. The temperature at the start of the game was +10° and the wind was howling out of the north-northeast. One Ohio St. player remarked that he was supposed to go down and block a linebacker, but when he ran downfield he could find him! All the points were scored after blocked kicks in the first half. Several hundred Boy Scouts were on the sidelines helping to sweep snow off the field so the officials and players could find the yard markers. Most of the state of Ohio got 10″ or more of snow, with reports up to 33″ and drifts up to 25 feet! The temperature in Grand Rapids that morning reached -10°F, the coldest temperature ever recorded here in the month of November. (photo – OSU library)

Freezing Rain Advisory!

November 21st, 2014 at 11:39 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

advisory   The National Weather Service has issued a Freezing Rain Advisory for the entire area.   The Advisory runs from 4 am to 9 am (and the icy conditions could last beyond 9 am – especially on gravel roads).  The ground is cold and ice is certainly going to be an issue.  We may get a little sleet at the start.  Watch 24-hour news 8 at noon for an update and keep reading the blog – I have some fresh threads below this one.

Winter Storm Warning until 9 pm

November 17th, 2014 at 4:07 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

advisory  Click on the graphics to enlarge.nohrsc  A Winter Storm WARNING (pink color on the map on the left) will be in effect for most of the area until 9 pm Tues.  It’s a Winter Weather Advisory for the counties along US 127 plus Montcalm, Mecosta, Osceola, Branch and Hillsdale Counties.  This is for a combination of significant snowfall, strong winds, blowing and drifting snow, low wind chills (especially by November standards), low visibilities and hazardous driving.  We could see snowfall from 1-2″ in Southern Branch and Hillsdale Counties, to a foot with 2+ foot drifts downwind from the fattest part of Lake Michigan.   Again, I do anticipate quite a few school closings for Tuesday.  There are Gale Warnings for the Lake Michigan shore areas.  Here’s a map of NAM model snowfall and GFS model snowfall.  See links in threads below.  Roads will be snow covered and slippery.  Temperatures will be in the upper teens to low 20s tonight and tomorrow (average high temp. for today is 47°).  The afternoon G.R. National Weather Service discussion says there is a possibility of isolated thunder and lightning in the heaviest snow showers tonight!

On the right, the Monday morning snow cover map shows that the Continental U.S. has a 50.4% snow cover!   This is the most snow on the ground that I can remember this early in the season.  It’s more than 20% above the 10-year average for Nov. 17th.    There were snow flurries all the way down to Dallas, Texas on Sunday – the first time it’s ever snowed in Dallas on any Nov. 16.  Here’s snow on the ground this morning in Kentucky.  The surface weather map shows the cold air that’s coming.   At 8 am it was 24° in G.R. and only 10° in Milwaukee with a wind chill factor of -5°.  As the snow picks up, roads will get very slick.  Tornado last night in Blountsville, Florida.  Two injuries were reported.  The tornado hit the Panhandle State Prison, where about 30 cars were damage (some flipped).  Significant  building damage there.  Almost 7 inches of rain in parts of Alabama over the past 24 hours.  Here’s snow on the ground in Cincinnati (snowday for the Cincinnati Reds!)Snow on the ground in Oklahoma and Tennessee.

At 5:45 pm – Quite variable conditions, with some heavy snow showers and just a few flakes in between the snow showers. Downwind from the fattest part of Lake Michigan, I could easily see some spots getting a foot or more of snowfall total by Weds. evening with 18-24″ drifts.  When the wind is stronger, the heaviest lake-effect snow can fall inland from the lake, with lesser amounts at the shoreline.   Roads will become very icy as the snow picks up in intensity.  Temperatures are in the upper teens to low 20s with wind chills in the single figures.   Colder than average weather setting up for the winter in the populated areas of the Northern Hemisphere…Eastern U.S., Europe and China.

Tweet from Joe Bastardi:  “Weatherbell showing similar set up to 1976,with enso from Sept hurricane activity, n hem snow cover. Similar conditions, similar results.”  The winter of 1976-77 was the coldest G.R. has seen in the last 110 years.  If we get early cold, lots of ice on Lake Michigan could minimize lake snow and lake warming.  This is the kind of winter when we have a chance of having an Arctic high pressure center park over us with clear skies and calm winds – we could challenge all-time record low temps. (-24° for G.R., set in 1899 – G.R. made -22F in Jan. 1994).