When people call me during the winter months, they often ask about the weather. These queries are usually about the snowfall, but sometimes, temperature. I suspect that these questioners are hoping that my winter weather is worse than theirs — and most of the time, it is.
Living east of Lake Michigan, our weather is greatly influenced by this Great Lake. First, it has a moderating effect on the temperature. Summer winds cool off as they cross this massive body of water and winter air is warmed by the lake. These are both good things. Whereas in Michigan we track the number of days that don’t go above freezing, our Wisconsin neighbors (who send us our weather) note the number of days that don’t surpass zero.
The bad part is that as the air moves across Lake Michigan, it also picks up moisture. First, this produces clouds; Michigan has many fewer sunny days than does Wisconsin. When these clouds float over the land, they cool off, producing precipitation: snow in the winter months and rain for the others. If you’ve ever heard about lake-effect snow, this is it. Living about 45 miles from Lake Michigan guarantees us a great deal of lake-effect snow. (Though people 20 miles inland receive much more, whereas those 60 miles from shore see much less.) Right now, we have about 18 inches of snow laying about, with more on the way. We had a couple feet earlier in the winter, but a warm spell melted most of it before the next batch arrived.
Personally, I measure the severity of the winter by how much gas my snow blower consumes. Last year it was twice the amount as the year prior; this year I’ve already used as much as last year. Don’t talk to me about global warming; it seems like the next ice age.
Sunday, however, was a balmy 45 and I was able to shovel snow in a sweatshirt. Now we’re back below freezing, where it will stay at least until Saturday when we will enjoy a rare weekend reprieve.
As for me, I’m just marking off the days until spring — and hoping I can hold out.