Unprecedented early-year heat smashes all-time records in Midwest

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:04 PM GMT on March 15, 2012

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The first day of spring doesn't arrive until Tuesday, but Mother Nature has fast-forwarded past spring and gone straight to summer over the Midwest. Yesterday, large portions of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Indiana recorded their all-time warmest temperatures for so early in the year, including the cities of Chicago, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Lansing. Temperature records for these cities go back as far as 1863. Perhaps the most extraordinary record was set in Traverse City, Michigan, which hit 81°F--a temperature 42°F above the average high for the date, and four degrees warmer than any previous day so early in the year. Records go back to 1897 in the city.


Figure 1. Spring has arrived early in Sherrard, Illinois, and much of the Midwest, thanks to a record-breaking March heat wave. Image credit: wunderphotographer JourneysEnd.

Major airports that set all-time heat records yesterday

Chicago, Illinois hit 81°F; the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1872, and 35°F above average. This ties the record set on March 12, 1990.

Springfield, Illinois hit 83°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1879, and 32°F above average. This ties the record of 83°F on March 13, 1918.

Rockford, Illinois hit 79°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1893, and 33°F above average. Previous record: 78°F on March 7, 2000.

Peoria, Illinois hit 81°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1883, and 31°F above average. Previous record: 80°F on March 12, 1990.

Minneapolis, Minnesota hit 73°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1872, and 33°F above average. This ties the 73°F reading of March 7, 2000.

Grand Rapids, Michigan hit 80°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1892, and 37 degrees above average. Previous record: 78°F on March 8, 2000.

Muskegon, Michigan hit 77°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1896, and 35°F above average. Previous record: 73°F on March 8, 2000.

Traverse City, Michigan hit 81°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1897, and 42°F above average. Previous record: 77°F on March 7, 2000.

Lansing, Michigan hit 79°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1863, and 36°F above average. This ties the record of 79°F on March 8, 2000.

Indianapolis, Indiana hit 81°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1871, and 30°F above average. Previous record: 80°F on March 8, 1974 and March 13, 2007.

South Bend, Indiana hit 81°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1893, and 35°F above average. Previous record: 80°F on March 8, 2000.

Evansville, Indiana hit 82°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1871, and 25°F above average. This ties the record of 82°F set on March 10, 1990.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin hit 78°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1869, and 36°F above average. Previous record: 77°F on March 7 and 8, 2000.

Madison, Wisconsin hit 78°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1869, and was 36°F above average. Previous record: 77°F on March 8, 2000.

Green Bay, Wisconsin hit 75°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1886, and 37°F above average. Previous record: 74°F on March 8, 2000.

Dubuque, Iowa hit 75°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1874, and 37°F above average. This ties the 75°F reading of March 12, 1990.

Data for the previous records was taken from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

Why the record early-season warmth?
The unusual warmth is due to a loop in the jet stream that has created a large upper-level ridge of high pressure that is stuck in place over the Eastern U.S.--a phenomenon known as a "blocking pattern." Since the jet stream acts as the boundary between cold air to the north and warm air to the south, and the large loop in the jet places its axis far to the north of the eastern U.S., summer-like warmth has developed over the eastern half of the U.S. Conversely, colder than average temperatures have developed over the western third of the U.S. behind the southwards-dipping loop of the jet stream. There are at least three large-scale patterns working together right now to create an unusually strong high-pressure ridge over the eastern half of the U.S.:

1) La Niña. The on-going La Niña event in the Eastern Pacific has weakened considerably over the past month, but ocean temperatures there are still cool enough to affect the jet stream pattern, favoring high pressure and warm temperatures over the Eastern U.S., and low pressure and cold temperatures over the Western U.S.

2) The Madden-Julian Oscillation( MJO). The MJO is a 2-month cycle of thunderstorm activity that travels west to east along the Equator. The MJO is currently in phase with La Niña, and is helping create warmer temperatures over the Eastern U.S.

3) The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO.) The NAO is in its positive phase, which means the difference in pressure between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High is stronger than usual. This tends to increase the jet stream winds and keeps the jet from sagging southwards over the Eastern U.S.

While the blocking pattern responsible for the heat wave is natural, it is improbable that the intensity of the heat would have been so great unless we were in a warming climate. Climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has posted an interesting (as yet unpublished) paper discussing how the odds of such extreme heat events have shifted in recent years. I plan to discuss these concepts in more detail next week.


Figure 2. Predicted high temperatures for Thursday, March 15, 2012 over much of the Midwest are more typical of June than March.

The forecast
The summer-like heat continues today over the Midwest, with the greatest departures from average (30°+) expected over Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. This area of 30°+ above average temperatures will expand to stretch from South Dakota to New York on Sunday and Monday, then gradually shift eastwards, extending from Wisconsin to Maine by Wednesday. The jet stream loop is predicted to grow more pronounced this weekend, and reach a truly extreme configuration on Monday and Tuesday. On those days, the predicted strength of the upper-level ridge of ridge pressure along the northern tier of states, from Wisconsin to Maine, will be typical of what we see at the height of summer, during July and August. The GFS and ECMWF models are predicting the height at where a pressure of 500 mb is found will range between 5760 - 5800 meters on those days--7% higher than the typical mid-March 500 mb heights of 5460 meters. Record-breaking summer-like temperatures will last until at least Friday, March 23, for much of the Midwest and Northeast U.S.

Extreme jet stream patterns like this often lead to tornado outbreaks in the Midwest, at the boundary of where warm, moist air flowing north from the Gulf of Mexico collides with cold, dry air flowing south. Cold dry air aloft, combined with warm, moist air at the surface, makes the atmosphere unstable, since air rising in thunderstorm updrafts will be less dense than the surroundings, allowing the air to accelerate upwards and increase the intensity of the thunderstorm. This will be the case on Sunday, when NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has highlighted a potential risk area for severe weather from Texas northwards through Nebraska. Fortunately, the winds of the jet stream are expected to blow almost due south to north over the region by Monday, which may limit the amount of cold air aloft that can overrun the warm air at the surface, resulting in a more stable atmosphere and a reduced chance of severe weather compared to Sunday.

Jeff Masters

()
in bloom today (TroyA2)
in bloom today

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if you are out there doc heads up friend its coming
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56140
Dr. Masters was extremely lucky...it's probably about to produce another tornado and it will pass just to the south of Ann Arbor.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32855
REALLY starting to strengthen. Also I think there is a possible tornado behind the main one.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
It was a wedge.



I was born in Farmington Hills, seems like the storm is heading in that direction...
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Live TV Coverage
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hope the doc is in his basement if he has one not sure were he lives in ann arbour but this could pass right over his head
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56140
It's back.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32855
Wow what a cell. Its starting to ramp up again.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
Just updated, looks weaker now, IMO

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http://icons-ak.wxug.com/data/640x480/2xmw_severe.g if
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
It was a wedge.

0_0
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
It was a wedge.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32855
Tight rotation still....

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It seems like I might be right about the roatation reforming to the south. Notice the inflow notch starting to form.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
Quoting wxmod:


Hi Bob,
If you have a woodstove and you have observed wood burning for a lot of years, have you noticed any changes in the way wood burns? This year I burned madrone exclusively because it is one of the cleanest burning woods. The stove pipe is gunking up. I never saw this kind of drippy creosote until just a few years ago. Something is either changing in the atmosphere or in the structure of the wood, or both.


Sorry, I'm not in a position to give you any feedback along those lines. I've been burning "junk" wood the last couple of years. I'm tinning in an attempt to reduce the forest fuel load down slope of my house.

Most of my wood is "too small to bother splitting" Doug Fir. A bit of storm-downed oak.

I'm burning what my grandaddy called "stove wood" - stuff fit for the kitchen cookstove, not serious heating wood.

No one is touching my madrones! ;o)

Is your stove burning well? If you're not getting nice hot fires I'm going back to my original question about the air intake.

Member Since: February 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1344
Quoting Xandra:

Sweden - Mean temperature deviation from the normal for the period 1 - 14 March, 2012

Norway - All-time hottest February day

I can only read a bit of Swedish but I get the picture?
You have not had much winter weather this year as well and now, Scandinavia is heading into summer without going through spring?
Same here,Tack du so mykit.
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If this storm is able to reform it Down Town Detroit could get it.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
Tornado watch for
Windsor - Leamington - Essex County continued

A severe thunderstorm from lower Michigan is moving towards the Windsor area. This storm has the potential to produce tornadoes from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM EDT this evening.

This is an alert to the potential development of severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes..Monitor weather conditions and listen for updated bulletins.


Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56140
Re: What's going on in Michigan.
You might want to read this. MCD 260



MESOSCALE DISCUSSION 0260
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0444 PM CDT THU MAR 15 2012

AREAS AFFECTED...ERN MI

CONCERNING...SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH 76...

VALID 152144Z - 152245Z

THE SEVERE WEATHER THREAT FOR SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH 76
CONTINUES.

THREAT OF PRIMARILY LARGE HAIL AND PERHAPS AN ISOLATED TORNADO
PERSISTS ACROSS THE WW AREA.

SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS CONTINUE TO INCREASE IN COVERAGE ACROSS ERN
MI...PRIMARILY ALONG:

1. A SWD SAGGING COLD FRONT NOTED FROM MANISTEE EWD TO BAD AXE
2. A SURFACE CONFLUENCE ZONE FROM SOUTH BEND NEWD TO BAD AXE
3. A SURFACE CONFLUENCE ZONE FROM NEAR TOLEDO NWD TO BAD AXE

ADDITIONALLY...A DISTINCT SUPERCELL HAS FORMED IN WASHTENAW COUNTY
NEAR A SURFACE LOW NOTED NEAR LANSING...WHERE SEVERAL OF THE
AFOREMENTIONED CONFLUENCE ZONES INTERSECT. HERE...ALTHOUGH DEEP
LAYER SHEAR VALUES REMAIN SOMEWHAT ON THE LOWER THRESHOLDS FOR
SUPERCELL FORMATION...LOCAL ENHANCEMENTS TO LOW-LEVEL SRH VALUES IN
ADDITION TO FAVORABLE THERMODYNAMICS HAVE COMPENSATED SUFFICIENTLY
AND AN ISOLATED TORNADO CANNOT BE RULED OUT. ADDITIONALLY...AN AXIS
OF 60S F DEW POINTS REMAINS OVER THIS AREA...WHICH WILL CONTINUE TO
BE SUPPORTIVE OF VIGOROUS UPDRAFTS GIVEN THE STEEP LOW-MID LEVEL
LAPSE RATE ENVIRONMENT NOTED ON THE 18Z DETROIT SOUNDING.

..HURLBUT.. 03/15/2012

Hope Doc M's hanging onto his hat.

(Mod: Quotations removed. Link added. Graphic and text reentered as they were not showing up.)
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Quoting nigel20:

As long as there is no injuries or major damage I can deal with that


Police checking homes now, so I haven't heard any reports/ ambulances called for.
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Storms over there producing quarter to ping-pong/golf-ball sized hail
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Very nice looking tornado...probably lifted by now.


I realize it says 2011, but I do believe it's from today. Guy made a mistake. =P
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32855
Quoting TheOnlyBravesFan:
Damage reported in Dexter by police, multiple trees down over the county, roads are blocked w/ power lines down.

As long as there are no injuries or major damage I can deal with that
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8485
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Very nice looking tornado...probably lifted by now.

It might be reforming to the south of the original rotation
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Only 10 MPH. In this case if you have a bike near by I would suggest out biking the storm .


This is a case where it is okay to outdrive the tornado.


Wall cloud reported by police near Fleming (Rd?)I believe.

Washtenaw Dispatch
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Wow! A cow just fell past my window!!!

Ok, I wasn't being literal...lol.... but it IS raining domestic pets and the occasional head of cattle here in Nassau this afternoon. That is pretty unusual for us, since March is usually one of the driest months of the year. Our normal situation is to be watching out for forest fires in March. This is our third heavy rain since the month started. I'm wondering if this is typical when we are in a pattern change, i. e. moving from el Nino to la Nina or something similar.



I stood outside for legit 4 seconds, and I was completely soaked.
At Ft. Charlotte they got .35 inches, but out west we got AT LEAST 2.5 inches, in one hour.
It was crazy.
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Very nice looking tornado...probably lifted by now.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32855
tornado watches flying now as well in extreme sw ontario

FPCN11 CWTO 152144 AAB
Updated forecasts for Southern Ontario and the National Capital
Region issued by Environment Canada at 5.44 pm edt Thursday 15 March
2012 for tonight Friday and Friday night.
The next scheduled forecast will be issued at 5.00 am Friday.

Windsor - Leamington - Essex County.
Tornado watch in effect.
Tonight..Mainly cloudy. A few showers ending late this evening then
60 percent chance of showers late this evening and after midnight.
Clearing before morning. Risk of a severe thunderstorm this evening
and after midnight. Fog patches developing after midnight. Low 14.
Friday..Sunny. Fog patches dissipating in the morning. High 24. UV
index 4 or moderate.
Friday night..Clear. Low 11.

Remainder unchanged.

End
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56140
Damage reported in Dexter by police, multiple trees down over the county, roads are blocked w/ power lines down.
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Only 10 MPH. In this case if you have a bike near by I would suggest out biking the storm .
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 175
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 5085
311. wxmod
Quoting TheOnlyBravesFan:


Not the time for that....

Well, I hope nobody gets hurt. Let's quit driving toward the brick wall and we'll have a much better chance of a happy outcome!
Member Since: October 4, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1771
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DETROIT/PONTIAC MI
549 PM EDT THU MAR 15 2012

MIC161-152200-
/O.CON.KDTX.TO.W.0003.000000T0000Z-120315T2200Z/
WASHTENAW MI-
549 PM EDT THU MAR 15 2012

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR NORTH CENTRAL WASHTENAW
COUNTY UNTIL 600 PM EDT...

...A TORNADO WARNING REMIANS IN EFFECT FOR THE REST OF WASHTENAW
COUNTY UNTIL 630 PM EDT...

AT 543 PM EDT...TRAINED WEATHER SPOTTERS REPORTED A TORNADO WITH
CONFIRMED DAMAGE. THIS TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR DEXTER...MOVING
SOUTHEAST AT 10 MPH.

LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
WASHTENAW COUNTY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TAKE COVER NOW. MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A
STURDY BUILDING. AVOID WINDOWS. IF IN A MOBILE HOME...A VEHICLE OR
OUTDOORS...MOVE TO THE CLOSEST SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER AND PROTECT
YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS.

&&

LAT...LON 4242 8398 4243 8366 4233 8366 4235 8400
TIME...MOT...LOC 2147Z 322DEG 7KT 4234 8389

$$

KURIMSKI
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Quoting PlazaRed:
Noting:-238. Xandra
So I was happily repairing an ancient Moorish tiled floor today when my attention was draw by a loud noise of a passing F 16 or something similar on its way to the base at "Moron de La Frontera," ( Please note after the arguments etc. we had last year ,this is a real place, with a real base on it, just down the road from me and even feature in W.Undergrounds list of weather sites!)
As I looked out of the gaping hole in the ancient wall I noticed that there was in front of me a "Poppy" growing wild and on the 15th of March a good month before I have ever seen one before!
If somebody can tell me how you lot attach photos? I will be happy to post one of the poppy, I might even be able to get a F 16 as a backdrop.
More seriously though, than trivia at work; this heat business is not good news for the Northern Hemisphere,28/c = 82/F here in Southern Spain today, no significant rain since April last year!

Sweden - Mean temperature deviation from the normal for the period 1 - 14 March, 2012

Norway - All-time hottest february day
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Tornado Warning

------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DETROIT/PONTIAC MI
549 PM EDT THU MAR 15 2012

MIC161-152200-
/O.CON.KDTX.TO.W.0003.000000T0000Z-120315T2200Z/
WASHTENAW MI-
549 PM EDT THU MAR 15 2012

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR NORTH CENTRAL WASHTENAW
COUNTY UNTIL 600 PM EDT...

...A TORNADO WARNING REMIANS IN EFFECT FOR THE REST OF WASHTENAW
COUNTY UNTIL 630 PM EDT...

AT 543 PM EDT...TRAINED WEATHER SPOTTERS REPORTED A TORNADO WITH
CONFIRMED DAMAGE. THIS TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR DEXTER...MOVING
SOUTHEAST AT 10 MPH.

LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
WASHTENAW COUNTY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TAKE COVER NOW. MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A
STURDY BUILDING. AVOID WINDOWS. IF IN A MOBILE HOME...A VEHICLE OR
OUTDOORS...MOVE TO THE CLOSEST SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER AND PROTECT
YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS.

&&

LAT...LON 4242 8398 4243 8366 4233 8366 4235 8400
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Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 175
Quoting MAweatherboy1:
What in the world happened in the last 2 hours?
clash of the lake breezes
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56140
Quoting wxmod:


Aspectre,
Do you have a wood stove that you have been observing for forty years? This is not because of a slower air intake. The fire is and has always burned plenty hot. The problem is: I used to simply scrape the chimney cap off to clean it and now it is covered with tar-like drippy goo. If anybody out there has noticed a change in the way your wood burning stove burns in recent years, please comment.
I'm not saying you are wrong Aspectre, but couldn't the problem be that there is less oxygen in the atmosphere than there used to be? Or too much carbon dioxide?

We have 3 wood stoves out at our site and I can say with confidence based on over 30 years of working with wood stoves that you have to observe simple basic rules tyo keep them working efficiently.
1, After lighting them, burn them very hot with all dampers open for at least 5 minutes. This clears the flu/chimney of condensation, which attracts creosote build up.
2, At least twice a day open the dampers and burn the stove at maximum heat to heat the chimney as this will discourage creosote build up.
3, If you are burning wet or uncured wood run the stove with the dampers open to clear the chimney often as this type of fuel is prone to leaving heavy deposits on the inside of the flue pipe.
4, Consider getting a "double skinned flu pip"e as this will give you less build up of creosote due to higher internal temperature's.
5, Get a wood stove manual as it will be full of useful tips and ways of avoiding problems. There is one I used to have called I think, " The Wood Stove Manual," Look it up on the Net?
The flue/stove pipe is the bane of your life with a wood stove and it needs to be right. Normally the stove will give no problems but the flue will drive you crazy if its not right.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
We are wondering the same thing.

I may know the answer- Two simple yet oh so complicated words: Mother Nature
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Tornado probability for today.

Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 5085
Quoting wxmod:


Interesting. Isn't that the gas hog capitol of the world. I wonder if anyone is learning anything?


Not the time for that....
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Storm near Otter Lake MI still has no tornado warning. It really does need one.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
We are wondering the same thing.

Yep.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32855
Quoting MAweatherboy1:
What in the world happened in the last 2 hours?
We are wondering the same thing.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3852
What in the world happened in the last 2 hours?
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297. wxmod
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DETROIT/PONTIAC MI
535 PM EDT THU MAR 15 2012

THE TORNADO WILL BE NEAR...
DEXTER AROUND 540 PM EDT.
DELHI MILLS AROUND 555 PM EDT.
BARTON HILLS AROUND 600 PM EDT.
ANN ARBOR AROUND 615 PM EDT.
DIXBORO AROUND 625 PM EDT.
YPSILANTI AND PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP AROUND 630 PM EDT.

THE WARNING INCLUDES AREAS SURROUNDING THESE LOCATIONS...
WILLIS... DIXBORO... YPSILANTI...
SALINE... SALEM... MILAN...
DEXTER... ANN ARBOR...


Interesting. Isn't that the gas hog capitol of the world. I wonder if anyone is learning anything?
Member Since: October 4, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1771
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Already got a tornado warning.

That's good.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 5085
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

It can sometimes mean that something has gotten hit and its debris.

I hope that debris is only trees
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 12 Comments: 8485
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
This thing is moving towards Ann Arbor...

Dr. Masters lives in Ann Arbor.

I'm sure Dr. Masters is prepared. He seems like the person who would be prepared for stuff like this.
Member Since: August 9, 2009 Posts: 10 Comments: 5085
Dexter is a village in Washtenaw County in the U.S. state of Michigan
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 175

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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