Before going into a discussion about heat, drought, and ice, I wanted to first highlight once again how the StormTrack9 weather blog is a place for insight and information long before it reaches a wider audience. Late last year I recapped the status of Peak Oil theory. In the blog entry I linked to the latest night-time image of the earth – a cool zoom-able image. I noted what looked like a new huge city in western North Dakota. I mentioned that it was not a city but the sign of all the oil and gas production occurring in the Bakken shale. If you were reading the weather blog, you were a month and a half ahead of Newscientist writers. Keep reading the weather blog. Stay ahead of the crowd.
Heat and drought were big stories last year and unfortunately one of the stories continues. Mass media might have forgotten about how dry some parts of the country remain, but I haven’t. Here at StormTrack9 we keep a close eye on the Drought Monitor. If my eyes are not deceiving me, then we still have a problem in much of the country. Yes, there have been some bouts of significant precipitation in drought-stricken areas, but not enough to budge the “drought” needle across the mid section of the country or in the southeast. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor still indicates extreme to exceptional drought in many areas. The biggest improvement since last Summer has occurred in parts of the Ohio valley in big food-growing states such as Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. As I have mentioned before, if we have another widespread drought this growing season, you will probably be blown away by apocalyptic media coverage, even though historically, we have had multi-year droughts and even multi-decade droughts many times on this continent through the centuries.
Here in Wisconsin, the drought situation has not changed too much in the last month or two, which is a bit surprising. We had above normal precipitation (in Wausau) in December and now again in January (check Tony’s January recap). This should start to show up in the Drought Monitor. One thing about the heavier snow that makes me happy is that we will have some Spring melt-off that should help lake and river levels somewhat. Deeper snow usually means a good start to the growing season too, based on my experience.
The other half of the big weather story last year – the heat - might be gone but its effects are still being felt. Take a look at the ice coverage map of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Even though we have had some fairly extreme cold over the last couple of weeks, the ice cover is not too extensive. Fast (solid) ice can only be found in the bays. The heat from last Summer produced lake temperatures well above normal and that heat is slow to leave. With some colder weather now in the forecast for the next few days, I suspect we will have more ice floating around on the Great Lakes but most likely remaining below normal for the season. I think we saw some of the heat effects on the smaller lakes around here in NorthCentral Wisconsin as well. Even after we had enough ice on the lakes to put fishing shacks out, the ice was not firm enough to hold up during a couple of the mild spells. A handful of shacks fell through. I don’t think I can recall as many instances of vehicles and shacks falling through the ice as this year. During most years, once the ice is thick enough to drive on, it is good for the rest of the Winter. This was not the case this year.
Have a nice Friday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on February 1, 2013