Early Snow Cover Points to Cold Winter

October 28th, 2014 at 8:40 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Snow Cover Northern Hemisphere 10 28 14  Snow Cover Eurasia 10 28 14  Snow Cover Canada Oct. 28 2014Click on these images from Environment Canada to enlarge.  The graph on the left is total snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere, the graph in the center is snow cover in Eurasia and the graph on the right is snow cover in N. America (Canada and Alaska)  We continue to have a huge build-up of snow in the northern areas of the Northern Hemisphere.  The bottom line in these graphics is average snow cover.  The line above that is one standard deviation above average.  The red line represents the growing snow cover this fall.  From Canada across Siberia to northern Europe, snow has come significantly earlier than average.  There is a strong correlation between early snow cover in eastern Asia and cold/snowy winters in the eastern U.S.  Air that sits over all that snow is going to be cold and getting colder as the sun continues to retreat to the south until we reach the Winter Solstice on Dec. 21.  While this is just one element that is considered in making a winter forecast, this early build-up of snow suggests that governmental units, charities and families should be prepared for the possibility of extended periods of colder and/or snowier weather relative to average  this winter.  This would especially be a factor in the mid-South that are not used to getting much snow in the winter.

Some Good News

October 27th, 2014 at 12:22 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

gas prices  Let’s start off this Monday with some good news.  Here’s the latest from Ed:

Sunday, October 26, 2014, 5:00PM:  “On June 5, there was a hike to $3.99 in Michigan.  Today, you can find gas under $3.  What a move!  Looking ahead, the recent jump $3.19 coincided with another drop in wholesale prices, so there is a lot of room for prices to drop this week.  I would be looking for gas below $2.90 in places soon.

Now, what explains this 25% drop in retail prices since June, and an even better record the past several years?  I have a few theories:  (1) In September, I wonder if some hedge funds got caught “leaning the wrong way”, betting on higher energy prices.  When that did not materialize, they had to liquidate their bets, causing a sudden drop in prices.  I have no evidence of this, other than I’ve seen this happen before, especially in stocks and other commodities.  (2)  There is significant evidence that the demand for oil and gas has been falling the past several years, while the supply has been rising, due in part to significant increases in US production.  We have been driving less, buying fewer cars, and fuel efficiency has been improving. Consequently, we have been buying less gasoline (which is what the Democrats wanted), while supplies have been increasing (which is what the Republicans wanted).  Hence, a bipartisan victory — lower prices.  (3)  Energy “investors” are looking at the Middle East differently than they did a decade ago.  Then, with the war in Iraq, there was a “global tensions premium” built into energy prices.  As our involvement in Iraq has wound down, the premium has slowly disappeared, and, in the case of the past few months, not so slowly.  What is confounding about this theory is that we have new Middle Eastern tensions (a.k.a., ISIS).  But, perhaps ISIS is not as big a deal as it appears, or perhaps the US really is heading towards energy independence as politicians have talked about since 9/11, and finally, in 2014, we are starting to reap the benefits.

In terms of the Gas Game, it is harder to predict price hikes when there are fewer hikes.  But I’m not complaining!!!! — Ed A.

Great Lakes Water Levels

October 24th, 2014 at 2:22 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Lake Michigan Mackinac Bridge Michelle Olin Oct. 2014   Great picture from a few days ago of the Mackinac Bridge – by Michelle Olin.  The big story – Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are 22″ higher than one year ago!  Wow…22 times 390 billion gallons per inch = a gain of 8.58 TRILLION gallons of water in just one year.  For Lake Huron, that’s 22 times 400 billion gallons per inch = 8.8 trillion gallons.  These are the biggest one-year rises ever recorded on the lakes.  Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are both up 1″ in the last month and are now 4″ above the long-term October average.  From Aug. 1 to Oct. 1 the water level of Lakes Michigan and Huron rose 2″.  On average, those lakes drop 5″ during those 2 months.   Lake Superior is unchanged in the last month, up 10″ year-to-year and the lake is now 8″ above the century average.  Lake Erie is down 2″ in the last month, but the lake is up 8″ in the past year and is now 7″ above the long-term average.  Lake Ontario is down 6″ in the last month and down 2″ in the last year.  Ontario is 2″ below the century average.  Lake St. Clair is down 1″ in the last month, up 16″ in the last year and is now 9″ above average.   If you add up all the Great Lakes – the sum total comes to a one-year increase of 23.99 trillion gallons of water!  That’s enough water to give every person in drought-stricken California approximately 600,000 gallons of water!  The phenomenal increase in the water levels of the lakes is due to above average precipitation, below average evaporation and a longer period with ice-cover last winter.

Also:  State record muskie caught in Torch Lake.  At 50 pounds, 8 ounces – it beat the old record by 2.5 pounds!   7.5 million dollars raised to buy dune land at Saugatuck, MichiganMichigan National Guard testing wind funnelsCleveland christens “floating office”Ghost ships of the Great Lakes.

Tornado in Washington State

October 23rd, 2014 at 7:34 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Tornado Longview Damage   Tornado Longview Washington Doreen Grose A tornado struck Longview, Washington this afternoonVIDEO HERE.    They report roof damage and trees toppled, but no serious injuries.  It was on the ground for at least 6 blocks.  Pictures from KGW-TV.  More pictures here.  Helicopter video of the damage here (complete with annoying audio).  “The wind also blew the roof off the gym at Kessler Elementary School, but the kids were outside playing in the rain at the time and didn’t even notice, school officials told KGW.”

Partial Solar Eclipse

October 23rd, 2014 at 1:45 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Solar eclipse partial NASA   I didn’t said much about the partial solar eclipse that occurred this evening.  A solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the sun and the earth.   In a total eclipse (a very rare event in any one given spot), the moon covers the entire sun and you can sometimes see the “diamond ring effect”.  More common is some degree of partial eclipse.  Today’s eclipse starts at 5:36 pm and reaches a peak right at official sunset around 6:42 pm.  “At this point roughly half the sun will be covered by the moon.  However, we had some clouds that have come in from the west and blocked a good view of the eclipse.  A solar eclipse (much more so for a total solar eclipse at midday than this, a 50% partial eclipse at sunset thru some high clouds) is very dangerous to look at.  You can view a solar eclipse safely by using two paper plates…poking a hole in one and having the sun shine through onto the second plate.   There is a much better solar eclipse coming August 21, 2017.  That will be a total eclipse from Oregon to South Carolina and I believe about 80% for Lower Michigan.

Also, here’s a list of flyovers of the Intl. Space Station.  You can also get the latest on West Michigan astronomical events from the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Assn.  Sky and Telescope’s Sky at a Glance will show you the current position of the planets.   Check out for details on auroras, the number of sunspots, asteroid approaches and more.  Here’s a link to a map that shows where the space station is right now (takes a little while to open the page). Here’s another tracking map with the position of the sun.

Early Snowcover and a Cold, Snowy Winter

October 21st, 2014 at 9:24 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Northern Hemisphere Snow cover    Here’s the map that Jack linked to (The natice site appears to be down at the moment, so this will do fine)  It shows the buildup of snowcover as of October 20 across the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere.   The Rutgers Lab keeps track of N. Hemisphere snow cover and they reported that as of the end of September, this year ranks as #1 in 46 years of record in terms of snowcover on Sept. 30th for North America with 4.899 million sq. kilometers with snow on the ground.  For Eurasia it was #8 of 46 years wtih 2,342 million sq. kilometers.  For the combined N. Hemisphere it was 3rd highest in 46 years at 7.241 million sq. kilometers.  It’s not just in one place, it’s everywhere – all around the N. Hemisphere.   The latest analog years to the current pattern are mostly very cold and or very snowy:  1951-52, 1969-70, 1976-77, 2003-04, 2009-10, 2013-14).  In the mix, we have the coldest winter of the past 110 years (1976-77), the snowiest winter ever (1951-52) and the 2nd winter ever (last winter).  1969-70 was Holland’s snowiest winter.  The other two years had average snowfall (72.2″ in 09-10 and 74″ in 03-04).  There is a good correlation between early snowcover in Siberia and cold winters in the Great Lakes.  Remember, we have a weak El Nino, centered more toward the central Pacific and the warm pool south of Alaska that will work to keep the ridge there.  The QBO is closest in value to 1976. Other notes.  Corn is 87% mature, average is 97% – soybean harvest is at 30% last check -average is 78%.  Honeycrisp apples are large this year and the apple crop is excellent quality this year – for some farms the best crop ever.

Breaking News

October 17th, 2014 at 6:31 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Ford Airport 8:45 pm – An American Eagle Plane that has arrived at the Ford Airport in G.R. from Dallas, Texas was held on the runway for about an hour.  Three people on the plane had become ill.  The plane was being surrounded with emergency vehicles.  The three individuals were taken to a local hospital for evaluation.   Stay with 24-Hour News 8 and for the latest.

Hurricane Gonzola Hits Bermuda – Showers Here in W. Michigan

October 17th, 2014 at 2:48 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

bermuda radar   Saturday AM  -  Dang!  Look at this!  The eye of the storm passed directly over Bermuda!  At 8:55 pm, the airport reported an ESE wind at 74 mph with a gust to 96 mph.  An hour later the wind was S at 10 mph and no gusts.  At 11:55 pm, they reported the wind was W at 93 mph with a peak gust to 113 mph.   One report of sustained wind to 105 mph with a gust to 127 mph (Commissioner’s Point).  The radar image is from shortly after 6 pm.   Here’s a recent radar loop as the storm is moving out of the area.  Here’s the latest weather observation from Bermuda.   This could be the strongest hurricane ever to hit the tiny island.  Hurricane Fay did some damage to Bermuda earlier this month.   Here’s more from the Bermuda Weather Service.  Tweet from inside the eye of the storm on Bermuda:  “Now in the eye of the storm. Dead calm outside. Tree frogs chirping. No rain. Little wind. Incredibly eery.”   Most of the island is without power.  Video from the eyewall this evening.   Webcam from Bermuda – it should be interesting when the sun comes up in the AM.   Check out the facebook page of the National Weather Service of Bermuda.  Here’s a satellite view of the storm as it races toward far eastern Canada.  Closer view.

8:45 pm – G.R. down to 51 degrees, Cadillac is 45°.  Scattered light showers/rain across the area – no lightning now.  We’re getting gusts to 20-30 mph.  The cold air is coming down…wind gusts along the Lake Superior shoreline have been running 30-40 mph with temps. in the low 40s.

Great Lakes Water Levels and News

October 16th, 2014 at 7:34 pm by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Lake superior water temperature  Click on the graphic to enlarge.  This is the graph of the water temperature of Lake Superior since Jan. 2009.  You can see the lake has been consistently colder this year.  The lake temperature generally peaks in the first two weeks of August.  A period of relatively calm weather may cause the temperature to spike.  It then comes back down when stronger winds mix up colder water from below the surface.  Lake Superior is 3.5 degrees below normal. Lake Huron and Michigan are roughly 2 degrees cooler than average for mid-October.

The water level of Lake Michigan/Huron is up one inch in the last month, at a time when the lake levels are usually falling.  The lake is 4″ above the long-term average level for October and 20″ higher than it was one year ago.  The highest lake level in October occurred in 1986 (remember the Flood of ’86?) when we had several homes fall into Lake Michigan due to beach erosion.  Officially, we had 11.85″ of rain in G.R. in Sept. 1986.  Some areas from N. Kent Co. into Newaygo Co. had close to 20″ of rain that month.  I looked at the weather that fall and saw that Nov. 1986 was about four degrees colder than average in G.R., though we had below average snowfall that winter.  I had mentioned earlier that there were some similarities to the cold, snowy winters of the late 1970s.  We had the coldest winter of the last 100 years in 1976-77 – then we had the Blizzard of ’78 the following winter, followed by the coldest February and 5th coldest March that G.R. has ever had.  That winter was a weak El Nino and it had above average snowfall in Nov., Dec. and Jan. (in G.R.).  The winter of 1978-79 brought Grand Rapids well above average snowfall (96″) and significantly colder temperatures for all 3 winter months.

The water level of Lake Superior is unchanged in the last month, but up 10″ year-to-year and 8″ above the century average.  Lake Erie is down 3″ in the last month, but up 7″ in the last year and 8″ higher than the October average.  Lake Ontario is down 7″ in the last month (Erie and Ontario fluctuate more than the other 3 Great Lakes), down 2″ year-to-year and it’s now 1″ below the century average.  Lake St. Clair is 14″ higher than one year ago and 9″ above the October average.   Outflow from Lake Superior down the St. Mary’s River remains well above average.    The outflow from Lake St. Clair down the Detroit River and down the Niagara River from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario is also expected to remain above average.

Also:  Because the ice caves in the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior were so popular last winter, the National Park Service is proposing charging $5 a person to go see them.   This town has more Asian Carp than another other place on EarthPirates of the Great LakesSome benefits of the higher water levels.   Note – piers and breakwaters will be dangerous places Friday night and Saturday, as strong NW winds kick up.  Waves are expected to peak at 5-10 feet and will crash over the breakwaters.  Winds could reach 25-40 mph.  Small Craft Advisories will be up until Friday evening, then they will be upgraded to Gale Warnings.


Hurricane Gonzalo and Trop. Storm Ana

October 14th, 2014 at 1:37 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]  5 Day Track for ANAHurricane Gonzalo produced wind gusts of 70-75 mph on the island of St. Maartin.  The storm will head to Bermuda, where they had a 96 mph gust from Hurricane Fay last week.  Here’s the latest discussion on Gonzalo.   We also have Tropical Storm Ana, which should come close to the Big Island of Hawaii.  While not a big hurricane, Ana should kick up some knarly surf and has the potential to produce some heavy rainfall.   Here’s the latest discussion on Ana.   The last image (of Ana) will enlarge if you click on it.  You can see the enlarged track of Gonzalo here.