Has this winter been greener than usual?

A satellite image of Michigan on Feb. 13, 2017.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A big warm-up is on the way for West Michigan beginning next weekend, once again limiting snow chances.

So far this year most areas have seen “typical” amounts of snow, but much of it hasn’t been lake-effect.

DECEMBER SNOW SWAYED TOTALS

Because of the storm track during the month of December, both Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids saw a lot of snow.

Usually, the snowiest month of the year is January, but this past season, Grand Rapids saw a whopping 37 inches through December. Since then, only 14.8 inches fell in January and 1.9 inches in February.

That December snow has made this winter seem “normal” number-wise for both Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. Muskegon, meanwhile, is well below where it should be this time of year in terms of snowfall. Muskegon has been on the northern fringe of many snow waves this season.

Here is how much snow we’ve seen by location compared to previous years and averages. These three locations were selected because they have the most accurate snow data:

GRAND RAPIDS

Grand Rapids has seen 55 inches of snow so far this season, which is pretty close to the average amount of 57 inches. Almost all of the snow fell in December. This is well above where the city sat last year as of Feb. 13. However, much of the snow last season was delayed, with several inches falling in March and April.

The 2014-2015 season was very snowy and cold and had already dumped 68 iches on the city by this date.

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How Grand Rapids’s snow has compared to average and over the last three years by February 13th

MUSKEGON

None of the past three years have given Muskegon a “normal” amount of snow by this date, not even 2015. The 2014-2015 season was by far the snowiest of the last three and came the closest to the average of 72.3 inches by this point in time.

Last year, almost 50 inches had fallen on the city by mid-February, but this year has been very snow-free. So far, only 39 inches of snow has fallen on Muskegon this season, just over half the amount it usually sees. Many of the December systems that dumped snow on West Michigan this year passed on the south side of Muskegon, short-changing it on snow.

mkg-snowfall-comp
How Muskegon’s snow has compared to average and over the last three years by February 13th

KALAMAZOO

By this date, Kalamazoo has usually seen about 59 inches of snow. This winter stands at 58 inches of snow, with much of it falling in December.

Last year, during the El Nino, Kalamazoo had only picked up about 45 inches by Feb 13. However, the 2014-2015 season had dumped just above average snow on the city by this date, a good 63 inches.

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How Kalamazoo’s snow has compared to average and over the last three years by February 13th

WHY DOES IT FEEL SO SNOW-LESS?

Even though the snowfall amounts are technically close to average for several cities in our area, it has seemed abnormally green this winter. There are two reasons for that.

The first is the fact that most of our snow fell in December and melted in the January Thaw. This means most of our days with at least 1 inch of snowpack were mainly in December.

The second is that since then, snow has been quick to disappear off our sidewalks and lawns with temperatures frequently climbing above freezing through January and early February.

Here’s how many days each winter season saw with at least 1 inch of snowpack on the ground up to Feb. 13:

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How many days up to February 13th featured at least 1″ of snowpack on the ground

BELOW AVERAGE LAKE ICE

Lake Michigan ice cover is low compared to usual. By mid-February, the Big Lake typically has about 30 percent ice concentration. Current ice cover on Lake Michigan is only 13 percent, with much of the ice on the western shore.

great-lake-ice-cover-2017

This is slightly less ice than we saw last year at this point in time. Last year, we were also under the influence of a strong El Nino, which typically leads to much warmer than average winters and lingering snow into spring.

great-lake-ice-cover-2016

Two years ago, Lake Michigan ice cover was high — about 10 percent more than usual for mid-February.

great-lake-ice-cover-2017

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