Click on the images to enlarge. The picture on the left is a satellite view in late March 2012. The image on the right of that is a satellite image from Sunday (3/30/14). Wow! What a difference! In late March 2012, there is no snow, except for one very tiny area in the Keewenaw Peninsula. The only ice on the Great Lakes is in a couple bays in northern Lake Superior. In the picture on the right, you can see the snow cover across N. Wisconsin and much of Michigan and you can see the extensive ice cover on Lake Superior and Lake Huron and still a significant amount of ice in Lake Michigan (see Green Bay and up by the Mac. Bridge.). Check out the pictures from the GLERL cameras at Muskegon, Alpena and on the right, Toledo.
March 2012 was warmer than an average April and preliminary data shows that March 2014 was colder than an average February! It looks like (again preliminary data) March of 2014 was 9 degrees colder than average (despite the 63° on the 31st) and a whopping 24.1° colder than March 2012. The warmest low temperature of March 2014 was 36°. March 2012 had 17 days with low temperatures warmer than 36°. March 2014 had only one day warmer than 51°. March 2012 had 21 days with high temperatures warmer than 51°, including an all-time record 87 on March 21, which was 40° warmer than the average high (the highest departure from average of any day in G.R. history). In March 2012, we had only 7 days with temperatures cooler than average. In March 2014, we had only 5 days that were warmer than average. In March 2012, the coolest temperature all month was 19°. In March 2014, we had 16 days that were colder than 19°. We also had 15 days (half the days of the month!) that were 15° or more colder than average. For Jan. 1 to Mar. 31, Grand Rapids is 8.1° colder than average! That’ll sure be hard to make up. The good news was that March was a dry month, with 1.54″ of precipitation (65% of average) and 6.4″ of snow. We’ve managed to melt off virtually all of the heavy snow pack with only insignificant flooding. We did set a record for most snow on the ground ever in any March at 18″.
The low temperature of 7° in G.R. was just one degree shy of the record low of 6° set in 1996. Other low temps. this morning: 9° Kalamazoo, 0° Fremont, -3° Big Rapids, -4° Entrican (Montcalm Co.) and Manistee, -5° Baldwin and Reed City, -10 Wellston (Manistee Co.), -14° Cadillac, -17° Lake City and Wakefield, -21 Spincich Lake (in the U.P.). Snow cover: trace Grand Rapids and Lansing, 2″ Big Rapids, 3″ Muskegon, Reed City, Hopkins, 8″ Hart, 12″ Baldwin, 16″ Houghton Lake, 28″ S. Ste Marie, 31″ Ironwood and Newberry, 36″ Marquette (airport), 43″ Grand Marais, 47″ Mohawk. The GFS model is forecasting up to 10″ of snow for the eastern U.P.
Click on the image to enlarge. The cold air has put a (TEMPORARY) hold on the tornado season. We’ve had only four very insignificant, weak tornadoes in the U.S. so far this month of March. Three were in Florida and one in Arizona. So, this is one good side to the chilly weather pattern. You can see that much of the country (Arkansas, Tennessee, the northern Gulf States) has been pretty much free of severe weather this month. I do expect this to change as temperatures warm beginning perhaps in the 2nd week of April. Remember, in years with cold and/or snowy winters, there is usually a flip to a warm 3-6 day period in April (sometimes with severe storms and tornadoes 1956, 1965 – in 1977 we had an F4 tornado near Lansing that spring).
These are the Sunday afternoon 8-14 day outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center for March 24-30. Click the images to enlarge. The map on the left is the probability of warmer or colder than average temperatures. The deeper the blue, the better chance it’ll be colder than average and that deep blue cover the Great Lakes and Northeast with a good chance of below average temperatures for all but the Southwest and southern Florida. It also looks wet, with better than average chances (in the green on the map on the right) for above average precipitation for much of the country. The good news is that California and should see some needed rain. We certainly don’t need any heavy rain in Michigan. The combination of cold temperatures and above average precipitation means that we’re likely to see some snow here in Michigan. The cool pattern will likely last into April here in the Great Lakes. The average high temperature in Grand Rapids is 45° on 3/17 and that goes to 50° on 3/28, to 55° on 4/7 and to 60° on 4/19. The Spring Season (Vernal Equinox) officially begins at 12:57 pm Thursday March 20.
The overnight European has 0.39″ precipitation late Tues. night thru Weds…mostly rain, but a little snow at the end…and 0.55″ Friday/Fri. night and that would be rain changing to snow with temps. next Sat. only in the upper 20s to low 30s. The GFS plot has less precipitation with 0.18″ Weds. and it only gives G.R. one day above 50° for the rest of March!
This picture is just before sunset from the Muskegon GLERL camera. Still lots of ice on Lake Michigan, but the channel is now pretty much open water. Four of the five Great Lakes saw no change in water level over the past month. That would make sense with the amount of ice and the cold air limiting runoff. The one lake that did see a change was Lake Ontario, which is down 3″ in the last month. That makes sense, because Ontario has been mostly open water, some of which evaporates even when it’s below zero and because there is little runoff from the snow that has been accumulating on land and not melting. Lake Ontario is at the same water level as one year ago. Lake Erie is 2″ above the level of one year ago. Lake Superior is up 13″ in the last year (that’s a lot!) and it’s now 1″ higher than the long-term average. Lake Michigan/Huron (one big lake for lake level purposes) is also 13″ higher than one year ago and it remains 13″ below the long-term average. As I write this Thurs. evening, Lake Michigan still has a 74.8% ice cover, Lake Superior at 94.3%, Lake Huron at 93.6%, Lake Erie at 91.3% and Lake Ontario at 29.3%. The Great Lakes total ice cover on March 12 was 84.1%.
Click on the image to enlarge or click here. This graphic from GLERL (NOAA) shows the maximum ice reached on the Great Lakes for 2014, which was Thursday, March 6 and compares it to the highest ice extent in 1994 (on Feb. 14) and in 1979 (on Feb. 19). Lake Michigan peaked on Wednesday (March 5th) at 92.19%. The record ice coverage on Lake Michigan was 93.1% in 1977 – so we missed it by less than 1%. Records go back to the mid 1970s. I had pilots tell me that in those cold winters of the late 1970s, we always still had small stretches of open water on Lake Michigan. I have also heard pilots said the same thing in the cold winter of 1936. The depth of the lake plays a significant part in the ability of the cold air to generate an ice cover. Lake Erie is the southernmost Great Lake, but also the shallowest, so it often has the highest percentage of ice cover. Lake Ontario often has the least percent of ice cover. Look at this MODIS picture of Lake Ontario taken Friday, March 7. What’s interesting is that two of New York’s Finger Lakes still have open water! These are deep lakes. Seneca Lake (on the left in the satellite picture) is 618 feet deep at it’s deepest point and Cayuga Lake on the right is 435 feet deep (there is some ice at the north end of the lake). Lake Erie’s deepest point is 210 feet. The average depth of Lake Erie is 63 feet. The average depth of Seneca Lake is 291 feet and the average depth of Cayuga Lake is 182 feet. Here’s a little article on why these two “finger lakes” don’t freeze over in the winter. The ice will very slowly melt over the next 3-5 weeks. There’s a lot of ice and cold water there, so the lake-breeze will be a prominent feature of our spring and summer weather maps. Here’s the MODIS pictures from Friday of Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior (Superior pic. is from Thurs.).
We have set a record for the most ice on the Great Lakes in any March and we are so close to an all-time record. Currently Lake Michigan has a 91.7% ice cover and the Great Lakes are at 92.2% . The record for Great Lakes ice was set back on 2/19/1979 at 94.7% coverage. The record for Lake Michigan is 93.1% set in 1977. So, we’re within 2% of setting all time records for both Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. As I write this…the temperature in G.R. is 13°. The first 6 days of March were 18.2° colder than average in Grand Rapids!
Click on the images to enlarge. Wednesday, we set new records for most ice ever in March on the Great Lakes (91.0%) and most ice ever in March on Lake Michigan (92.1%). The only time the lakes had more ice was for a short time in February 1979 (at the link you’ll see there was more ice on Lake Ontario in 1979). Here’s what Lake Michigan looked like Wednesday at Muskegon, Chicago, Alpena and Michigan City, Indiana. Here’s Lake Erie near Toledo.
Snowfall records for Grand Rapids: Greatest average snow depth for February (20″ – old record 17.8″ in Jan. 1979), greatest snow depth ever in February (24″ on 2/18 – old record 23″ in 1936 – greatest snow depth ever is 27″ on 1/27/1978), 16 consecutive days of 20″ or more snow depth in G.R. (2/5 to 2/20 – old record was 9 days in Feb. 1936 and in Jan. 1979). There were 18 daily records for most snow depth in Feb. 2014. We have set a daily record for snow depth every day in March so far. We have also set a new record snow depth for March with 20″ on the 2nd. We have had a snow cover in G.R. continuously since the afternoon of Dec. 8 and we have had 4″ or more of snow on the ground continuously since Dec. 10 or 86 days.
This picture was taken by Marilyn Enness Monday morning. This isn’t Michigan – it’s HAWAII! Yup, this is up on Mauna Kea at over 11,000 feet above sea level. The forecast for this Monday was for 5″ of snow in the AM, 1″ in the PM. The summit actually reported 8″ of new snow! They had forecast temperatures in the 20s, 60-80 mph winds and gusts that could reach as high as 100 mph. A High Wind Warning was in effect. The same storm produced a record daily rainfall at Kahului. Rainfall totaled 2.81″ at Kaupo Gap. A High Surf Warning was issued for “high surf along the north and west-facing shores of Kauai and north-facing shores of Oahu, Molokai and Maui of 21-28 feet Monday night and Tuesday and 15-22 feet along the west-facing shores of Oahu and Molokai.”