winter weather

University of Michigan's Climate Center

Our climate is already changing in the Great Lakes region. And people who manage our cities are finding ways to adapt.

“We’re seeing changes in our precipitation patterns; we’re seeing more extreme precipitation events, " says Beth Gibbons, the director of the University of Michigan’s Climate Center. Her group has released a new online tool for cities in the region. 

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The record-setting cold that gripped Michigan last winter continues to leave its mark. There are still ice floes showing up on the shore of Lake Superior.  

Maybe you’ve seen the pictures on social media and wondered if they were even real.

But it’s true.

Some of the warmest temperatures of the year are drawing people to the beach in the Upper Peninsula, where over the weekend they found abundant ice floating just offshore at Marquette.

imgr

Spring is here and warmer air has finally come to the region, but we're still surrounded by five refrigerators – the five Great Lakes.

Lake Michigan broke a record this past winter for total ice coverage, so you know there won't be many people swimming in the lake over Memorial Day weekend.

The lakes will, however, have plenty of fisherman on them. And with the cold water and warm air, they might experience fog.

But have you ever seen a fog bank like this?

user: Njaelkies Lea / Wikimedia Commons

If you've been wondering why your favorite pine tree has been turning brown as the weather warms up, you can stop wondering and start blaming winter.

Bert Cregg is an associate professor in the horticulture department at Michigan State University. He joined us to explain what the snow, cold and wind has done to our conifer trees. 

Listen to the full interview above. 

NOAA

 

The prolonged winter and the ice cover on the Great Lakes could lead to some lasting effects on wildlife.

For one thing, scientists expect that a lot of the fish that people like to catch will be showing up late to the places they usually spawn.

Solomon David is a research scientist at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

David basically chases fish around for a living.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Warmer temperatures may help break ice jams that have kept about a hundred homes and businesses in Jackson from having running water.

The deep freeze that gripped the state in January froze the pipes linking city water mains to more than 150 homes and businesses in Jackson. The problem is many of the lines were not buried below the frost line.   

Many of the pipes are buried about four feet down.   But this year, the record cold sent the frost line down five to seven feet. 

LisaW123 / Flickr

So here we are, a week in to spring.  And what did we get this week as a present from Mother Nature?

That's right: snow. And cold.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Maczko, who is based in Grand Rapids, joined us today to discuss when the weather will finally warm up.

Listen to the full interview above.

Wikipedia.org

If you grew up in Michigan, chances are when you thought of the very first signs of spring you thought of crocuses and robins. 

But have you noticed that in recent years, something has changed– that robins are pretty much with us all through the winter?

Why has this happened, and do we have any reason to worry about robins in this exceptionally harsh winter?

Julie Craves, director of the Rouge River Bird Observatory in Dearborn, joined us. 

Listen to the full interview above.

NOAA

My neighbors and I officially had our last "pond hockey" game over the weekend. We moved everything off the ice as things started to melt.

So the ice in the region has reached its peak, right? No one thinks we're going to be hit with another prolonged polar vortex, do they? 

Let's hope not.

With the most frigid part of this winter over, let's look at the record books for ice cover on the Great Lakes.

Here's what we know.

Researchers are going to find out how well rubberized asphalt will resist potholes.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers will roll out a deal this afternoon on a spending package to fix Michigan’s pothole-filled roads.

The supplement funding bill is expected to include $200 million for local road agencies. Brutal winter weather has drained county and city road budgets.

State House Speaker Jase Bolger declined to give specifics about the compromise road bill this morning, except to say it will address the state’s immediate road problems.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Lansing is stepping up enforcement of its snow removal ordinance.

About 5% of Lansing sidewalks, roughly 22 miles, are still covered in snow in violation of city ordinance

Beginning today, Lansing police officers are ticketing homeowners and businesses that haven’t shoveled their sidewalks clean of snow.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says this is a safety issue for school children and the elderly.

“This winter….these difficult winter conditions are harder on nobody more than the walker,” says Bernero.

Have you forgotten about the snow already?
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

As our long, cold, snowy winter has dragged on, one result can be seen with stunning clarity from outer space. Satellite photos prove that the Great Lakes are nearly totally covered with ice, and we're close to setting a record for the most ice cover in 34 years.

We wondered if we might break that record, and we wondered what this will mean for the Great Lakes once spring finally gets here and that ice melts.

Alan Steinman, director of the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University joined us today.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee

This winter has been especially tough for the already-fragile population of Michigan honeybees.

Beekeepers are coping with a nearly decade-long decline in commercial honeybees and their wild cousins. It's called "colony collapse disorder".

Now comes the unrelenting cold of this record-setting winter, and beekeepers in Michigan and other states are reporting staggering losses that could endanger crop production all over the nation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it's spending $3 million on a new program to help honeybees. 

Let's find out why this is so crucial and what it means for Michigan's farmers and beekeepers.

Mike Hansen is the State Apiarist with Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

JACKSON – A fresh wave of snow has fallen on much of Michigan over the weekend, but for once the worst of the weather is elsewhere in the region as CMS Energy Corp. dispatches dozens of its employees to help with a severe ice storm expected to hit Kentucky.

Slippery streets and highways have caused numerous accidents in Michigan, including one in which a car hit a state police patrol car handling an earlier accident on Interstate 696 in Southfield.

WWJ-AM says the trooper escaped injury in the crash. Traffic was halted on eastbound I-696.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The brutal winter weather is taking a toll on Michigan retailers.

A major ice storm just before Christmas resulted in poor overall holiday season sales for many Michigan stores.

The brutally cold January that followed was just as bad, according to a new report by the Michigan Retailers Association, which says 46% of retailers report their sales were down last month, compared to January 2013. Only 30% said their cash registers were busier.

The gloom created by slow sales may carry over into the rest of the year.

Just what do you want your city, your community, to look like? Crowded bustling streets? Quiet, residential homes only? Zoning laws determine these things, and although those two words don't sound altogether exciting, zoning laws are creating debate all over the state. We found out more on today's show.

Then, what was that noise outside today? Did you hear it? Sounded like thunder? Well, in this crazy Michigan weather, we're getting thundersnow. We found out about this winter novelty.

And, we spoke with the man who designed and painted the masks on the U.S. Olympic hockey teams. 

Also, we checked in with Daniel Howes on the UAW bid to unionize workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

And, head to Ford Field on Saturday if you want to be part of a world record. ComePlayDetroit is organizing the world's largest indoor yoga session at the home of the Detroit Lions.

First on the show, the state of Michigan is ending its exclusive contract with the Education Achievement Authority to oversee the worst-performing schools in the state.

Michigan School Superintendent Mike Flangan sent a letter to the EAA saying the state will pull out of its exclusivity agreement with the Authority one year from now.

Martin Ackley is with the Michigan Department of Education. He says the state still intends to use the EAA to help turn around struggling schools.

“Now, this is in no way a statement or an indication of a lack of confidence in the EAA or its academic strategies. This is just an action that needed to be taken in order to provide flexibility and to provide options other than the EAA in which to place these most-struggling schools.”

So, what are the other options the state might use to help failing schools? And what's ahead for the controversial EAA?

Jake Neher, who covers Lansing for the Michigan Public Radio Network, joined us today.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

With many Michigan schools racking up snow days, what's the best way to make up lost time? Adding minutes onto the school day? Or adding days at the end of the school year? Should local districts be allowed to decide for themselves or should Lansing make the decision for them?

Bridge Magazine contributing writer Ted Roelofs dug into these questions for his story in this week's Bridge.

Listen to the full interview above.

LisaW123 / Flickr

 Lots of us have made the rueful observation that it's pretty sad when we think of 28 degrees as warm weather.But that's what we've come to in this cold winter.

What caused this relative warm-up? And will the deep freeze come back?

Here to tell us more is MLive and farmerweather.com meteorologist Mark Torregrossa.

Listen to the full interview above.

Peter Ito / flickr

As the winter of 2013-2014 drags on, we're really seeing what it's done to our roads.

Patching crews try in vain to keep up with a bumper crop of potholes. More and more of us are losing tires, blowing the suspension as we bang into one of those gaping potholes.

And keep in mind, Michigan's roads were crumbling before this winter.

With more winter to go, we wondered where our roads stand and what needs to happen in Lansing to do what it takes to repair and maintain the roads.

Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle knows all too well what this winter has done to the pavement, and he joined us today. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Michigan Humane Society staff to sleep in doghouses

Feb 16, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - Some Michigan Humane Society staffers will be spending the night in doghouses as part of an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of leaving pets outside in freezing temperatures.

Outdoor Power Equipment Institute

If you ask just about anyone in Michigan about the weather this winter, chances are he or she will swear there has never been this much snow.

Well, yes and no. Some cities shattered their snowfall records in January, but in some parts of the state, January snowfall was pretty much business as usual.

Let's see who has legit bragging rights when it comes to snowfall.

MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa, who also runs the site farmerweather.com, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Cold temps cover 79 percent of Great Lakes in ice

Feb 9, 2014
National Park Service

CHICAGO (AP) - This winter's bitter cold temperatures in the Midwest have covered a stunning 79 percent of the Great Lakes in ice.

It's not a record, but it's well above the long-term average of about 51 percent.

Lake Michigan is about 63 percent frozen. And the second largest lake in the system, Huron, is about 85 percent covered.

Lake Erie, at 93 percent, has the most ice cover.

The data comes from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State officials say they are processing credits to help low-income customers with their winter energy bills.

The Michigan Public Service Commission said this week that state treasury officials have mailed instruction booklets and forms pertaining to the Michigan Home Heating Credits for the 2013 tax year.

The materials also are available online and at many libraries, post offices and Department of Human Services' branch offices.

The average credit for last year was $124.

Maybe polar vortex has not been a welcome addition to all of our vocabularies, but there are some other great weather words out there.

In this week’s edition of That’s What They Say, Host Rina Miller and University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan discuss regional words to describe the weather.

Depending on where we live, we use different names for a "light snow." According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, some speakers call this a skiff or a skift. However, in the Midwest and on the East Coast, people are more likely to use the terms dusting or flurry.

Bill Brinkman / NASA

Michigan may be “warming up” (31 degree heat wave, anyone?), but evidence of the latest snowpocalypse is still abundant.  

Over at MLive, meteorologist Mark Torregrossa reports that “mile for mile, Michigan has more snow cover than any other U.S. state.”

And as for ice, the Great Lakes are under the largest ice cover in 20 years. Sixty percent of all five lakes are now iced over.

net_efekt / Flickr

County road commissions are closely watching their budgets, after spending more than usual on winter maintenance this year.

Freeze-and-thaw cycles have caused a wave of potholes across Michigan.

"If winter is very expensive, that can impact our other activities that the road commission performs, but pothole filling is something of great importance for us and we will address that," said Jim Harmon, director of field operations for the Washtenaw County Road Commission. 

Gov. Rick Snyder called for $1.2 billion a year in additional money for fixing roads in last year's State of the State address. But his proposal failed to gain traction in the legislature. He's expected to try again this year.

Ships on Lake Superior battle ice

Jan 11, 2014
Credit Coast Guard News (CC-BY-NC-ND) / http://www.flickr.com/photos/coastguardnews/11358608774/

SUPERIOR, Wis. (AP) Ships using Lake Superior are having a tough time due to the worst build up of ice in decades.

Wisconsin Public Radio News reports the National Weather Service started tracking freeze-ups in 1978, and says this is the second-fastest and thickest ice-up in 35 years. Coast Guard Soo Vessel Traffic Director Mark Gill says this is the worst since 1989.

Michigan State Police

Local goverments in southern Michigan are bracing for possible flooding.

William Byl is Kent County's Drain Commissioner.  He said how serious it becomes depends on the temperature swing and on the amount of rain.

"These kind of conditions are really the perfect storm because what you have is snowmelt combined with rain on top of the snowmelt, all falling on frozen ground. And you have no place for the water to go," Byl explained.

user GlenArborArtisans / YouTube

While temperatures are (finally) starting to climb out of subzeros across Michigan, signs of the so-called polar vortex – a low-pressure system that brought arctic temperatures across the country – are still lingering throughout the state.

For instance, boulder-sized ice balls have taken hold of the shores of Lake Michigan. Here’s a video captured on the lake’s coast in Glen Arbor, Michigan:

As MLive’s Heidi Fenton reported, the chunks form when large ice sheets break off into smaller pieces of ice. When waves hit the ice sheets, the ice chunks form into perfectly round, frigid spheres, with some estimated to weigh about 75 pounds.

If temperatures stay low enough, the ice balls – which our webmaster claims look exactly like chocolate truffles he has at home – may continue to grow, AccuWeather.com reported:

"It's possible that the ice is accreting like a snowball or like a hailstone, and that they keep growing," said AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Jim Andrews.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

This time the forecasters did not cry wolf. We got slammed by snow.

Now that the snow has fallen, we’re looking at winds and dangerous cold.

What's ahead and when will we see something resembling a more "typical" Michigan winter?

For the answers we turned to MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa, who also runs farmerweather.com.

I just got back yesterday from nearly two weeks in Ireland, and we were checking on Torregrossa’s reports as we got ready to fly back yesterday -- wondering if we were going to beat the snow and be able to land. The answer was "yes." He was spot-on in calling what was going to happen and when.

*Listen to the audio above.

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