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Posted on Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Winter of 2011-12 fifth warmest on record in Ann Arbor

By Cindy Heflin

You may not need the statistics to confirm it, but this winter has been one of the warmest on record in the Ann Arbor area.

The December-through-February period was the fifth warmest in Ann Arbor since 1880, the beginning of modern weather record keeping, said Dennis Kahlbaum, University of Michigan weather observer. December, January and February are considered meteorological winter.

The average temperature for the period was 32.4, 5.3 degrees warmer than the normal average of 27.1, Kahlbaum said. The warmest winter on record was in 1931-32, when the average temperature was 34.4. The coldest was in 1903-04 with an average temperature of 16.8.

The month of February also came in considerably warmer than normal, with an average temperature of 32.8, 5.2 degrees above the normal average of 27.6, Kahlbaum’s figures show. The warmest February on record was in 1998, when the average temperature was 35.6. The coldest was 1885, with an average temperature of 10.9 degrees.

Thumbnail image for 013112_NEWS_Weather_MRM_02.jpg

University of Michigan senior Allison Garlinghouse of Holland sits on a bench on East Liberty Street in Ann Arbor, while enjoying her soup from Le Dog during an unseasonably warm day in January.

January was the 13th warmest on record, and December was the 12th warmest.

The season turned out much differently than the forecasters at had predicted back in the fall, when they warned of bitter cold and above-average snowfall.

“Our forecast was quite wrong for your part of the country,” said Jack Boston, expert senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.

Boston said forecasters were counting on the La Nina weather pattern to keep cold air in the Great Lakes area, but that didn’t happen. “The cold air that came into the United States just went right out again,” he said.

La Nina is a weather phenomenon caused by unusually cold waters off the western coast of South America.

The season was a bit snowier than you might remember, however, with 34.7 inches falling during the three-month period. Kahlbaum, who measures snowfall at a weather station on the University of Michigan’s North Campus, said the winter ranked as 44th snowiest since 1880. The snow usually melted soon after falling, he said.

The snowiest winter was the December-February period in 2007-08, when 65.1 inches fell. The winter of 1965-66 ranks as the least snowiest on record. Only 3.4 inches fell that year.

So what can we expect for spring? Both temperature and precipitation are expected to be slightly above normal, Boston said. March especially is expected to be warmer than normal with an average temperature 2 to 2.5 degrees above normal.

That may not sound like a lot, but it is, Boston said. “Averaged over the whole month that means there are going to be some pretty mild days,” Boston said.

Will the spring forecast come closer to the mark than AccuWeather's winter one did? There’s no way to tell, Boston said.

“You can never predict what your accuracy is going to be. It’s your best estimate of what you think will happen.”

Contact Cindy Heflin at or 734-623-2572 or follow her on Twitter. For updated forecasts and weather conditions any time, check's weather page.


Ryan Munson

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 5:51 p.m.

How about go outside and enjoy a walk or bike ride. Nothing religious or political about that!

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 5:49 p.m.

This is the first "non-winter" I have ever experienced and I hope my last. Once, we were able to count on at least 3-4 heavy snows with massive accumulation and now Gov. Snyder took the snow away.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 4:34 p.m.

Just a friendly reminder to everyone: Climatology and Meteorology are two entirely different fields! Climatologists are not in the business of predicting short-term weather, they are in the business of predicting long-term phenomena. Predicting short-term weather phenomena is an entirely different problem than treating long-term climate change, and they cannot really be compared as such. So remember, any time you want to say "They can't predict the weather 5 days from now, how could they predict the weather 100 years from now?" just remember that climatologists aren't predicting the weather. Predicting weather that far out would be impossible. We can't make a forecast for 100 years from now, but we can talk about what the climate will be like!

Usual Suspect

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

Global warming. Sky is falling.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

Corporations continue to spend tens of millions of dollars attacking scientists and teachers = "the sky IS falling."


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

Hi Chicken Little!

Mike H.

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

Remember this? <a href=""></a> 'Michigan winter likely to be colder than normal' Predictions were calling for more snow, colder weather. That ended up being a tad off, huh?


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

Predicting the weather is always off. It's one of the few jobs in life where you can be wrong most of the time and still keep your job..........


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

At <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> , Prof. Rood at U of M wrote: &quot; On this global scale, both model uncertainty and emission scenario uncertainty address the issue of how fast the surface will warm. Neither suggest any plausible scenario where the Earth does not warm. And simply to make the point, this plot does not suggest that the warming stops at 2100; that's just as far as the information is plotted. At local spatial scales, scales for which the models were not designed, the uncertainty analysis follows a much different logic than presented here.&quot; So there's 2 main points not addressed in either the article or the ideological comments posted here. One is that this are NO climate models which predict ANYTHING BUT climate warming. Two is that climate models aren't used to predict local or regional weather because they are NOT designed for that. IOW: to say that climate models aren't valid because they don't predict Washtenaw County's seasonal weather patterns is to say that using a jack hammer to tune an auto engine is wrong because jack hammers ARE claimed to be the perfect tune up tool. No one is claiming that: and that leads us to wonder about the intelligence of ideological climate change deniers. Propaganda is most effective on some people because it fills the need they have to feel &quot;more right&quot; than the opposing ideological group. It's not successful at depicting REALITY - because its just deceptive flattery leading to egoism. Ideologies are the opposite of Science: they operate with claims and assumptions which are unfounded and lead to dangerous extremes. Scientists propose theories which are then examined and tested systematically. So far, there is no reason to doubt climate change theory.

Usual Suspect

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:51 p.m.

&quot;So far, there is no reason to doubt climate change theory.&quot; Holy moly.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:05 p.m.

Why is it that weathermen are the only ones who can screw up and still keep their jobs?


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

The union protects them from people like us who know that we really don't people like them to tell us we are not going to need a winter coat today.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Fifth warmest in the last 132 years on a planet that has been around for millions of years is a very minute sample. I believe it is getting warmer. I believe some of that warming is caused by man. I also believe the earth has been getting warmer and colder for millions of years. I also believe that this planet will be around long after man ceases to exist.

Rod Johnson

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.

TruBlu: Not the first time, really. Google &quot;oxygen holocaust&quot; for one drastic example.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

&quot;The earth has a way of balancing things out.&quot; Baloney. Balancing *what* things out?


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

TruBlu76 - we can't really controll the climate so throwing our hard earned tax dollars into the pockets of politicians and scam artisits isn't going to fix anything. The earth has a way of balancing things out. After volcanos spew ash into the air we cool as one example, solar flares are another example. And if we mess things up bad enough bad things might happen, people will die, and the earth will find equilibrium again. It always does and always has. You worry too much and give scientists and politicians too much credit that they can control the weather. They can't even predict what it's going to do in a week from now and you trust their hypothesis is correct..........This is a money grab which takes advantage of mans fears of what he can't control, in this case the weather. Many people have gotten rich with the latest fear mongering off of selling security for example after 911, forcing us to all pay for air bags in our already expensive cars as another example...............we need to use our brains more and not be so emotional; we can't and never will be able to control everything and will destroy this country trying to do so while the rest of the world laughs at the scared Americans


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

Two things, Paul: (1) Earth's history has been affected by large scale species growth in the past but this is the FIRST time that a species has impacted the world's climate this rapidly. (2) Humans are also the first species which CAN care about its own fate, your not caring doesn't mean that we shouldn't care.

Morris Thorpe

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

Wow. We can't even talk about the weather without it being politicized? Seems whenever the topic comes up many people per-emptively spew their passive-aggressive jabs. This goes beyond weather and applies to conservatives and liberals. I think we're becoming incapable of rational conversation. &quot;So I was coming home from church and we were talking about how warm the weather has been...&quot; &quot;That's what the liberal media wants you to believe!!!!&quot; or... &quot;So I was coming home from church and we were talking about how warm the weather has been...&quot; &quot;Sop pushing your religion on me!!&quot;

Brian Kuehn

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

Well said.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

U of M students! Proof Positive that Global Warming is happening! 5th warmest winter in History! Ask your Liberal Professors, Liberal Classmates and the News Media and they will all confirm the above!


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

One data point does not make a trend. But this isn't particularly surprising given the rise in global temperatures. You could say that it is an outlier consistent with the trend of rising temperatures. The policies to fix the damage are political in nature, but the reality of global warming has nothing to do with politics. The two issues are often conflated, which makes it difficult to educate people about the science without preconceived political notions getting in the way.


Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

So are you saying that it wasn't the 5th warmest winter, or are you just saying nothing?

Silly Sally

Fri, Mar 2, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

Global warming and the sky is a falling. More buses. Nuclear power. Oh, but wait, I used less natural gas heat so far this winter. Life is good...