We Deserve a Break Today
by CRAIG JAMES
We are finally getting a break in the prolonged winter weather pattern we’ve been having. If you, like me, think a day above freezing feels like a heat wave, it is because we just aren’t used to this “warmth.” The cold air arrived back on the first of December when five inches of snow fell, and there have only been seven days since then with no snow on the ground.
Saturday, Feb. 12 was the first day above freezing in Grand Rapids since January 18, when the thermometer soared all the way to 34 degrees. That was 24 days in a row when temperatures never climbed above freezing. One more day and it would have been the longest such streak in 32 years. Between January 1 and February 12, 39 of those 43 days never saw a reading above 32. The longest streak of below-freezing temperatures we have ever recorded was 45 days from December 26, 1976 through February 8, 1977.
Thankfully, winter ended in mid February 1977, but I certainly don’t believe it is over yet for this year. We will likely see occasional periods of snow and cold into April and maybe even some freezing rain, too. South of the Ohio River, it looks as if winter is basically over. This should be a great spring to travel to Florida.
A strong La Niña developed this year in the Pacific Ocean. Looking back over winters that followed a strong La Niña, the signs are not very encouraging for next winter and spring in Michigan. The second and even third year after a strong La Niña is usually cold and snowy with strong tornado-producing storms in the spring.
In case you haven’t heard, preliminary indications are that the state of Oklahoma set a new all-time record low temperature last week when the thermometer registered 31 degrees below zero in the northeast part of that state. You never know whether the state climatologist will decide to throw out that reading for some strange reason or other, as happened in Illinois two years ago and in Michigan in 1994, but there were several other thermometers nearby that were also below the previous record. Temperatures have risen as much as 100 degrees this week from those record lows.
The state of Arkansas almost broke a 24-hour snowfall record on February 9 when 24 inches fell in 24 hours in the northwest part of the state. The record was 25 inches in 24 hours, which still stands. It is amazing to me that the state of Arkansas can receive more snow in 24 hours than we have ever seen in Grand Rapids.
There is bad news from Mexico where, earlier this month, the coldest weather since 1957 may have killed between 80 and 100 percent of that country’s fresh produce crop. Since earlier freezes damaged a lot of the produce grown in Florida, this is certainly going to have a huge impact on U.S. grocery prices.
One encouraging sign is that the amount of daylight is increasing. As of today, we have gained one hour and nine minutes of daylight in the evening since the earliest sunset on December 13, and 37 minutes in the morning since the latest sunrise, which was on January 7. And in case you were wondering, Daylight Saving Time begins on Sunday, March 13. That just means it will be daylight longer in the evening so you can see the snow on the ground later in the day.
Craig James has been retired since July 1, 2008, after 40 years of broadcasting television weather. He was chief meteorologist at WZZM-TV for 12 years and chief meteorologist at WOOD-TV for 24 years. He is a graduate of Penn State University, where he received a Centennial Fellowship Award. He was also honored as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.