The winter of 2013-14 has aptly been called the winter that just won’t quit. As of Sunday, snow has covered the ground at Midway airport for 70 consecutive days. Mild, southwest winds are forecast to increase on Monday, perhaps melting the 2 inches of snow that remain. Temps in the 70s were observed over the Plains states on Sunday. As this mild air mass shifts eastward, readings in the 50s are expected in Chicago Monday afternoon. This will make Monday the first day with above normal temps since February 21st. Colder air is then set to return to the area by midweek, following a system that may leave several inches of snow across portions of the Midwest. Another influx of mild air is due to arrive Friday, but long-term outlooks suggest cold and snow may return.
I remember a winter in the late 1980s that produced only about 40 inches of snow, but most of it came in three of four big storms. Did any winters during that period match my memory?
Gary Ryan, Bartlett
You are remembering the winter of 1987-88 that brought the city 42.6 inches of snow for the entire season, yet produced three major snowstorms that accounted for more than 60 percent of the total seasonal snowfall. The first storm occurred on December 14-15, delivering 9.1 inches of snow. Just two weeks later, a second storm brought 8.0 inches on December 28. January snowfall was lackluster with just 5.4 inches for the month, much of it falling in a series of light snows from January 22-26. February hosted the season’s third major snowstorm, a 9.4 inch affair spanning February 9-11.
By Meteorologist Paul Merzlock
Theoretically, extensive Great lakes ice cover, particularly this late in the season, may influence Springtime temperatures in Chicago. Prolonged late-season ice melt delays the warming of lake water. However, a study of lake ice coverage, including data from 1973 to present, suggests there is little or no correlation between the maximum amount of lake ice and average Spring temps. This is simply due to the surface area of the Great lakes being very small compared to large-scale air flow across the continent. The brutal winter of 1976-77 produced 94% ice coverage, but the following Spring turned out to be the warmest on record at the time. Persistent SW flow across the U.S. quickly melted the ice. Temps this Spring are forecast to be below normal, mainly due to a recurring northwesterly jet stream.
Which day of the year in Chicago has the greatest range between its record high and record low?
— Mark Gloudeman, Yorkville
The date is Jan. 20 with a remarkable temperature span of 90 degrees between its record low of 27 degrees below zero in 1985 and 63-degree record high in 1906.
A close runner-up is Dec. 24 with a range of 89 degrees between its record high of 64 degree in 1889 and record low of 25 below zero on a frigid Christmas Eve in 1983.
If this record is ever to be broken, March 4 appears to be a good candidate. With a frigid 12-below record low (1873) and a record high of 73 degrees (1983) already on the books for an 85-degree span, a reasonably reachable high of 79 degrees would elevate this date into the top spot.
This Winter has been brutal for most Midwesterners. However, it has yielded some stunning images of snow and ice. Some of the best photos are from photographer Ken Scott of northern Michigan. These ice cave snapshots were taken on Lake Michigan near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Courtesy Ken Scott http://www.kenscottphotography.com
YouTube … time-lapse clip experiments: http://www.youtube.com/user/KenScottPhotography