Source: Sherman Publications

Near record snow on tap

by Andrea Beaudoin

February 12, 2014

So far in 2014, the Detroit area is heading towards one the snowiest winters in recorded history.

Seventy inches of snow has fallen, as measured at the NOAA office in White Lake, said Rich Pollman, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in White Lake.

Detroit is sitting in the fifth snowiest winter at this point. The record stands at 93.6 inches over the winter of 1880-1881.

While the earliest snowfall ever recorded in Detroit was on Oct. 12, 2006, the first measurable snowfall this winter season was on Nov. 7.

Detroit also had colder temperatures, well below zero, in the winters of 1976-77 and 1977-78. However the coldest recorded temperatures were recorded in 1903 and 1904.

“At this point in the season, compared to other winters, I would say it compares most closely to some winters Michigan had in the late 70s. One of the worst winters was in 1978,” Pollman said.

This year, the United States is stuck in a weather pattern with a jet stream of arctic air coming straight out of Canada and traveling along a jet stream into our state, which causes the storms, he said, adding colliding pressure systems cause bad weather, particularly strong high and low pressure systems mixing and mingling.

Pollman added we still have the rest of February, and there is still a chance to break more records.

“We also have to face March, which is usually a pretty snowy month, too,” he said.

If the snow melts too quickly, the state could also face severe flooding closer to spring.

“If we suddenly get weather in the 60 degree temperature range, it would be a potential disaster,” said Pollman. “Yet our area is more fortunate than other areas due to plentiful waterways likes lakes and swamps.”

Several rivers begin near Clarkston, including the Shiawasee, Huron, Clinton and the Flint rivers. Seasonal flooding is natural.

“There will be flood warnings assigned,” Pollman said. “We expect flooding and usually begin issuing warnings near the end of February and into March.”

Great Lakes ice is expected to lead to a cooler spring start, he said.

Pollman said all NOAA centers work together to share information on the ebbs and flows, waterways and weather cycles.

NOAA’s staff of 24 includes meteorologists, technical support, computer experts and a hydrologist.

They have a 100-foot-tall, 28-feet-wide Doppler Radar constantly scanning the atmosphere for signs of precipitation. New computer technology as well as better communication has helped greatly increase forecasting accuracy and warnings.

Each day, the NOAA releases a four-foot latex like balloon filled with hydrogen gas to gather information for meteorologists.

The balloon is equipped with infrastructure that sends back information. The balloon reaches 100,000 feet into the atmosphere sending back a wealth of data before it pops.

Lake levels are expected to be up this summer, and increased moisture will make it harder for a drought to develop.