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Snow Much Confusion

Sometimes, when you hear or read “a new record was set in Marquette today” in media reports, they are referring to the National Weather Service office in Negaunee Township. Such was the case yesterday, when it was widely reported that a daily snow record of 8.9″ was set on November 19th. Marquetters may have been scratching their heads thinking, “We maybe got 5 or 6″. I don’t see how we got 9!”

You may already be aware that the phrase “NWS Marquette” does not refer to the city proper. Sometimes, however, that phrase is omitted or put in small letters at the bottom of a graphic when discussing “Marquette’s” weather. It’s especially confusing for people who aren’t from here (students, for example) or visiting.

There’s about an 8 mile and 800ft elevation difference between the weather service forecast office just outside Negaunee and the lakeshore of Marquette. As a result, the former averages approximately 200″ of snow annually. The city of Marquette, as measured at the COOP station on Lakeshore Blvd, receives a yearly average of just under 120″. So about 40% less snow falls there than at the NWS office.

In Real Terms

To illustrate, on Nov 19-20 when the NWS office measured 12.3″, the Marquette COOP reported 6.7″ (and that’s including part of the 18th and 21st too). We’re 1 mile SW of the COOP station as the crow flies, and we recorded 6.1″ of snow for the 19th and 20th.*

So, no, we’re not under measuring. It may seem like Marquette received more than half a foot during that period, but drifts are excluded from our measurements. Boy are they impressive in places though! The gales will do that.

That said, we’ve still had one incredible November for snowfall! Officially, 14.2″ of snow had fallen by 8AM today. The normal total for the entire month is 10.9″. Unofficially, at our station next to the Vet’s Home, the 8AM total was 17.3″ with 9 days to go! We tend to measure a bit more snow at our location than they do down at the lakefront. That’s because:

  1. We are about 100′ higher which usually means more snow.
  2. We measure more often which prevents snow from sublimating (evaporating), melting or compacting.

Well, if you’re in Marquette, I hope you like a white holiday. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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UPDATE (later that day): Here’s an example headline: Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula sets daily snowfall record. While this is from downstate, I’ve seen similar things from the local media here.

UPDATE (11/22/18): Speak of the devil, here’s a link to local media spreading confusion: Monday’s snowfall breaks record for Marquette. Earth to media: we have a 147 years of public weather records in Marquette, and, oddly, they weren’t measured in Negaunee Township.

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* The NWS and this station record weather from midnight to midnight. The COOP station records from 8AM – 8AM making daily comparisons a bit difficult.

 

Temperature Readings Just Improved!

Custom Davis radiation shield

There was a Problem?

So perhaps you’ve noticed lately on sunny days forecasted highs have been lower than the actual highs by several degrees. Well… it turns out that’s not entirely true.

During the deepest part of winter when the polar vortex was regularly occurring (late December into January), we were having equipment issues. Normally, we measure temperatures inside an enclosure that has a fan running on solar power during the day and batteries at night. Unfortunately, the weather destroyed the electronics that controlled the battery charging, among other casualties.

As a quick fix, we installed a passive (fan-less) shield for our sensor. Passive shelters are fine during our normally very cloudy, windy winters. Wouldn’t you know it, the sun decided to show up and, along with it, gentle breezes! That makes for beautiful winter days in Marquette. It is also a recipe for solar-induced sensor errors.

The snow acts like a mirror to the sun and the reflected radiation gets into the sensor and heats it up. How much? A rough estimate, based on before and after tests of running with and without a fan, is 3-5 degrees F. Studies have shown that, in fact, on completely calm, sunny days over a fresh blanket of snow, errors can reach up to 18 deg F! Continue reading “Temperature Readings Just Improved!”

Snow Today, Snow Tomorrow?

We measured 4.1″ out of the last system that passed through overnight and this morning. It was the light, fluffy stuff (15:1 ratio of snow to water). Almost 2.5″ fell between 7:00 and 9:30AM alone.

Looks like some more snow will fall overnight Saturday into Sunday AM. Amounts are in flux at the moment. NWS is estimating 1-2″ and Weather Underground is forecasting 3-5″.

Stay tuned! The WU forecast is updated every 20 minutes. NWS updates less frequently but we check once per hour.

Is Marquette Snowier Than We Think?

weather instrumentation facing northwest
Snow board looking NW

Over the last 30 years, the city has averaged 117.2” per year of snow. That’s based on measurements taken every morning close to the lakeshore (at the Waste Water Treatment Plant which houses the official COOP weather station for Marquette, MI).

A few days ago we added a “Seasonal Snow Total” entry to the Almanac section on the home page. This should provide some insight into the kind of winter we are having. Currently, the official weather station is seeing below average snowfall so far (55.1″) while we are experiencing above normal totals (83.6″).

Here at marquetteweather.com, located 1/4 mile south of downtown and approximately 100 ft above the lakeshore, we measure up to 4x daily.  According to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), if snow stops falling midday, measuring the next morning can mean up to a 50% reduction in measurement (see below).  Continue reading “Is Marquette Snowier Than We Think?”