Special Report: Part 2: The Winter That Won’t Let Go

Northern Michigan had one of the coldest winters on record. The question now is, what’s going to happen this summer?

Chief Meteorologist Tom O’Hare is here with some insight.

Many have asked that question so many times in just the past 2 weeks. Some think it’s going to be a hot one summer and others say cool. But to figure out the answer, we must look back at our brutal winter.

Cold, ice and snow, this past winter was one you won’t easily forget.

“I tried to survive all my kids being home from school for a prolonged period of time.”

“We had a winter that since I moved up here in 1971 it was below zero this whole winter, and it was the worst winter since I’ve lived up here, that it was that cold all year.”

While some snow fell in October, the big change started in late November.

Temperatures took a dive and just didn’t want to go back up! Going through December, things were looking like a solid winter with just the right amount of cold and snow.

But after the first of the year, high temperatures crashed into the single digits with wind chills of 25 below or colder.

In the end, winter’s numbers look cold. Gaylord was the coldest on record and everyone else was a top ten.

The cold resulted in the Great Lakes freezing over far more than usual. It was the 2nd highest coverage since 1973 at more than 92%.

Lake Michigan broke its record with more than 93% ice coverage.

While Superior and Huron had lots of ice, they weren’t at record levels.

Constant surges of arctic air brought lots of lake effect snow to Northern Michigan, at least at first. Once the lakes froze over you didn’t see as much snow.

There were bouts of good snow but there was also a lot of blowing and drifting snow causing just as many problems.

You would think it was a season of record snowfall but for most it wasn’t. Here you can see our main recording stations of Gaylord, Traverse City, Houghton Lake and Sault Ste Marie didn’t reach their records, But some local towns and villages did, like Maple City, Petoskey and Beaver Island.

You may be asking what happened this winter, why was it so cold? It’s actually pretty simple.

In a typical year, the jet stream is south of Northern Michigan down near Ohio. It moves up and down, bringing up warm air for thaws or down during arctic surges.

This year was much different. The jet stream had a bigger dip over the Midwest. It was so strong that parts of Alaska were warmer than Northern Michigan. You saw persistent arctic outbreaks giving you temperatures 20-30 degrees below normal.

“It kept me in the house quite a bit, which I don’t like to do, it like to get up and walk around.”

“Aside from walking the dogs, stayed inside where it was warm.”

To some extent that cold pattern is still going on. Fortunately it’s not as extreme as it was in January and February.

And so here we are in mid-May and the million dollar question is: what’s the forecast for summer?

“I’m hoping for hot, I want hot, I like hot, I float in my pool, I float on the lake, I go tubing. When you work 40 hours a week, it’s nice to have that warm break.”

“Not too hot, just comfortable, something you can get our and enjoy the day.”

Well, the answer may not be what everyone wants. You can expect a cool summer.

What does that mean to you? Just plan on more cooler days than hot or even warm ones.
– Tom