Big, bad winter hasn't materialized for Ann Arbor area - but wait until this weekend
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
What do Tim Tebow and global warming have in common? The polarizing Denver Broncos quarterback and the hotly debated environmental phenomenon are both off-limits for office banter among meteorologists at AccuWeather.com.
"It seems that the subjects we can’t talk about here are politics, religion, Tim Tebow and global warming," said Mark Paquette, a meteorologist at AccuWeather’s office in State College, Penn. That didn't stop him from speculating Monday that the recent string of abnormally warm weather Ann Arbor and much of the nation has enjoyed could be related to a warming earth. But he warned: Don’t get used to it. Winter weather is headed our way, as soon as this weekend.
Paquette noted that last week more than 1,000 record highs were reported across the United States.
“You just don’t see days like that where a thousand low records are broken,” he said, quickly adding that the theory that the high temperatures could be related to global warming is strictly his own opinion and not hard science.
“That’s a subject that’s up for debate,” he said.
Meteorologist Dave Kook at the National Weather Service in White Lake Township said the winter could still end up with a normal or below normal average temperature if we have a colder than normal January and February. What matters is what happens over a long period of time, he said.
“Records happen,” he said. “I don’t think you can really attribute a month and a half of warmer than normal temperatures to global warming.”
We'll leave that debate to the scientists. At any rate, the weather patterns are about to change, Kook said, bringing in cold air this weekend.
The Ann Arbor area will continue to enjoy unseasonably warm weather for the rest of today and Wednesday, with the high today expected to reach 48 and the high Wednesday expected to be 43. We'll enjoy sunny conditions both days.
On Thursday, colder weather will move in with a chance of rain and snow showers and a high near 37. Thursday night, snow showers are likely with a low of 19. Friday will bring a 50 percent chance of snow showers and a high of only 24. Saturday, Sunday and Monday will be partly sunny with highs in the 20s and low 30s.
Paquette said this week’s weather will mark the beginning of a shift from the abnormally warm conditions of December and the early part of January to more normal or slightly below normal temperatures for the rest of the winter. Those temperatures should be accompanied by normal or slightly below normal snowfall as well.
He admitted AccuWeather meteorologists have a bit of egg on their faces after putting out a forecast in the fall calling for bitter cold and a lot of snow this winter.
AccuWeather had forecast the average temperature in December and January to be 3 to 4 degrees below the normal average. In Ann Arbor, the average high for December is 35 and the average low is 20. In January, the averages are 31 and 15.
Instead, the average temperature in December turned out to be about 5 degrees warmer than normal, 12th warmest since 1880, and January so far is running about 8 degrees above normal. Ten days in December had an average temperature more than 10 degrees above normal, Paquette said.
“Hindsight is 20/20. Maybe we shouldn’t have been so confident,” Paquette said.
He said the forecast was based on the climate pattern known as La Nina, caused by unusually cold waters off the western coast of South America. But the La Nina pattern was weak this year, so the cold and snow predicted didn’t materialize.
Paquette said we can expect three distinct Arctic cold snaps to move between now and the end of the month. Each snap will be followed by a bit of a warm-up before the cold air moves in again.
But he now predicts the worst of winter’s weather will arrive in February. “February has a pretty decent shot of being cold and snowy. We’re almost assured of that,” he said.
Wait. Didn’t we hear this before? Paquette seems confident this time.
“We know eventually it’s going to change.”