Rockford Fourth of July hotter than a firecracker

July 12, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Rockford did not escape the successive days of record-breaking heat that engulfed two-thirds of the nation last week. Unless you were beachside, the stifling heat put a damper on out-of-door 4th of July activities especially backyard cookout gatherings. Air conditioning was certainly the order of the day. Locally, venues such as Rockford’s North Star Cinemas were extremely busy all day long with many people changing their holiday plans as they sought to escape a heat wave flirting with 100 degrees. Venturing barefoot out on our concrete front porch at 3 p.m. that afternoon, brought us an abrupt and painful explanation of the term “hot foot”. It also brought to mind the old expression, “It’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.” You guessed it; this was an experiment we always wanted to try. So we got out a small frying pan, sprayed it with a little olive oil, and set it on our concrete porch in full sunlight. Wanting to verify the surface temperature of the concrete, we placed an extremely accurate digital thermometer on the porch’s surface adjacent to the frying pan. The thermometer quickly rose past the current 98 degree outside air temperature to an astounding 133 degrees on the concrete’s surface! We broke an egg into the pan and, although it wasn’t as fast as stovetop, we were soon rewarded with a perfectly cooked sunnyside up egg. Being reporters, we wanted to share the results of this “scientific” test with West Michigan so we contacted our newspartner WZZM TV 13 via an email and a picture. Meteorologist Joe Kopecek of WZZM’s “On Target Weather Team” quickly replied, “Thanks for the pic, I’ll work it into the weather segment during the 11:00 p.m. newscast.” And so he did – did you see it? Proof positive is in the accompanying photo. By the way, Cliff ate the egg on top of an ice cold 4th of July salad of Farm Market mixed greens.

Local meteorologist’s crystal ball foggy this past winter

April 5, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL With the past 2011-12 winter season being one for the record books now might be a good time to poke a little good-natured fun at local West Michigan meteorologists! If anything at all was learned during this, the second warmest winter on record, it’s that the predictions/forecasts of season long weather are pure folly. Let us remind you of the Grand Rapids Press tradition of every November publishing upcoming season-long winter temperature and snowfall predictions by the foremost Meteorologists of metropolitan Grand Rapids. In the Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011 edition of the G.R. Press an intrepid quintet of local meteorologists made their annual predictions for total snow accumulation for the upcoming winter as follows: WOODTV Chief Meteorologist Bill Steffen – 89 inches AccuWeather Meteorologist Carl Erickson – 84-89 inches WXMI Chief Meteorologist Peter Chan – 85 inches G.R.National Weather Service Meteorologist Bill Marino – 85 inches WZZM Chief Meteorologist George Lessens – 80 inches All five predicted colder and snowier weather than normal for West Michigan and to be “shovel-ready”. Off to a slow start, January 2012 was ushered in by a warmer than normal November and December with little or no snow on the ground. Business and industries that rely on cold and snowy weather murmured words of financial gloom. Ice fishermen, skiers, snowmobilers, etc., hung their heads in dismay. In the newspaper and on TV every evening, the meteorologists collectively persevered in their predictions telling us “not to worry” there were still 3 months left in the winter season. What they and winter enthusiasts failed to understand was what farmers have always known, “When it comes to Mother Nature, there are no guarantees.” In the Thursday, Jan.5, 2012 edition of the Rockford Squire, your reporters threw our hats into the ring and made a belated prediction for the 2011-12 winter season. Hey, the experts had been wrong thus far so why not? We predicted not 80-90 inches of snow but rather 50-60 inches of snow and temperatures remaining overall unseasonably warm. We based our prediction on established west to east jet-stream patterns during November and December carrying winter storms, for the most part, north of the Grand Rapids area. Occasionally the jet-stream split, both north and south, leaving […]


June 2, 2011 // 0 Comments

The Not So Merry Month of May by CRAIG JAMES The month of May can be one of the most pleasant months of the year, but I don’t think this past month qualified as pleasant. It was quite wet and gloomy. At least a trace of rain fell on 21 of the 31 days and there was only one day with 100% of possible sunshine. It was also another windy month. Every day of the month but two had wind gusts of 20 mph or more and three days had wind gusts over 40 mph. I have heard many comments that this has been one of the windiest spring seasons in memory and I have to agree. On the plus side, it was certainly a great month for growing grass and the ornamental trees have looked beautiful. We are also now up to over 15 hours of daylight. The sun on the last day of the month climbed to 69 degrees above the horizon at solar noon. The highest it gets is 70 degrees from June 11 through July 1. The sun is up for 15 hours and 23 minutes June 20 through 24. By the way, solar noon, or the time when the sun is highest in the sky, occurs in Grand Rapids on June 21, the first day of summer, at 1:45 in the afternoon. That’s almost two hours later than noon local time because we are at the western end of the time zone and also because we are on Daylight Saving Time. You may notice that our high temperatures for the day usually occur as late as 6 p.m. at this time of year. Even though the wind made it feel cool much of the time, this past May was actually a little warmer than average thanks especially to the warm Memorial Day. The highest temperature of record for a Memorial Day in Grand Rapids was 92 degrees set way back in 1919. We just missed that reading by three degrees this year. The western states have had a very cool spring. In Aspen, Colorado, there was almost twice as much snow on the ground on Memorial Day as there was on New Year’s Day and the ski hills are still […]

Words on Weather and Climate — December 2, 2010

December 2, 2010 // 0 Comments

Where are all the hurricanes? by CRAIG JAMES The 2010 hurricane season officially ended on November 30. How did the forecasts made by NOAA and other hurricane forecasters before the start of the season turn out? Most of these forecasts called for anywhere from 12 to 20 named storms and better than a 50/50 chance for a major hurricane to strike the U.S. Actually, it was a pretty good forecast for the number of storms, but not for either intensity or number of land-falling storms. This season tied with 1995 and 1887 for the third highest number of named storms in the Atlantic Basin. There were 19 named storms, which is well above the average of 10, and there were 12 storms that became hurricanes, which is more than double the average number of five. There were five storms that reached Category 3 or higher, attaining the status of a major hurricane. However, not one hurricane of any intensity struck the United States. To point out how unusual that is, consider this: Since 1900, there is no precedent of an Atlantic hurricane season with 10 or more hurricanes where none has struck the U.S. Some forecasts were calling for nearly an 80 percent chance of a hurricane hitting the U.S. The five previous seasons with 10 or more hurricanes each had at least two hurricanes strike our shores. The period 2006-2010 is one of only three five-year consecutive periods without a U.S. major hurricane landfall (the other two such periods were 1901-1905 and 1936-1940). There has never been a six-year period without a U.S. major hurricane landfall. I guess that means the odds of one hitting the U.S. coast next season are pretty high. In addition, the last hurricane to make landfall on the USA was Hurricane Ike on September 13, 2008. It is now likely that we will see the string of hurricane-free days extend to June 1 of next year, the official start of hurricane season, when it will be 991 days. And if there is no U.S. land-falling hurricane in the nine days after that, it will hit 1,000 days. Chances are good this will happen. While the Atlantic Basin saw a large number of storms, other ocean basins have been almost […]

WORDS ON WEATHER & CLIMATE — November 18, 2010

November 18, 2010 // 0 Comments

It is going to get colder by CRAIG JAMES    You may think, “Of course it is going to get colder, it is November and we are heading into December.” However, I don’t mean just here in Michigan, I mean temperatures across the globe are going to head downward If you have read some of my past articles, you know how I believe the satellite-derived global surface temperature record is much more accurate than the record from surface-reporting stations. There are so many problems with the surface observations that many people studying this issued believe the surface data set simply can’t be trusted. The problem, of course, with satellite measurements is that they only go back to 1979. Here is a graph of the global temperature anomalies (departures from average) from Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) in Santa Rosa, Calif. The graph begins in 1979 and covers 400 months, which ends last month, October 2010. You can see the spike in temperatures around month 230, which was caused by the strong El Niño in 1998. You can also see the spike this past summer caused by the latest strong El Niño. Notice how quickly the temperatures dropped after the 1998 El Niño, and it looks as if that process has started again. I am one of the many people who believe we could see the graph drop below the zero line by the end of this winter. On the second graphic, I have drawn an arrow indicating where I think the graph will end up by March 2011. If this does indeed happen, you can see from the trend line I have added that we will actually have seen slight cooling since 1998 even though CO2 levels will have gone up over 10% in that time. One of the main reasons for the surface temperatures cooling is the dramatic cooling that has taken place in the world’s oceans, especially in the Pacific as seen in the next image. You can clearly see the much-cooler-than-average surface water in the Pacific along the Equator. This is an indication of the strong La Niña that has developed. Also, note the very cool water in the North Pacific. The Pacific has actually switched into its cold mode after being in […]

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