Snow on the way to W. MI prompts warnings, advisories

A Dec. 27, 2017 satellite image of Michigan. (NOAA/GLERL)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan, get ready: More snow is on the way to some counties, leading to a Winter Storm Warning and advisories from the National Weather Service.

Snow will develop ahead of weak system arriving later Thursday. It will get an extra boost from Lake Michigan, especially from Grand Haven northward.

Map: The Futurecast for 11 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017.
Map: The Futurecast for 6 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017.

There will be sharp contrast from the heaviest snow to the lighter amounts.

Map: Forecasted snow from Thursday night through Friday, Dec. 29, 2017.

The expected snowfall and  adverse traveling has led to a Winter Storm Warning for Muskegon and Oceana counties and advisories for Ottawa and Newaygo counties.

Map: The warnings and advisories issued by the National Weather Service for noon Thursday through noon Friday.

RECORD COLD AGAIN

For the second consecutive morning Thursday, we achieved a record low temperature in Grand Rapids, at -10 degrees.

Wednesday morning’s low of -12 degrees in Grand Rapids not only was the first subzero temperature of 2017; it also eclipsed the previous low temperature of -5 set in 1993 and is the coldest temperature on record since December 1983, when temperatures plunged to -18 degrees. It now has the distinction of being the third coldest December temperature on record.

Chart: The coldest December temperatures on record for Grand Rapids.

WHY IS IT SO COLD?

West Michigan has the perfect recipe for frigid cold temperatures: a decent snow pack (5 inches in Grand Rapids and 7 inches in Muskegon) and a very light or calm wind.

With a massive area of high pressure drifting across the southern Great Lakes, a mostly calm wind Wednesday night shifted from the southeast, pushing any lake-effect snow and clouds hovering above land to over Lake Michigan.

Map: Cloud cover over Michigan as of Thursday morning. (Dec. 28, 2017)

Temperatures Thursday night will be cold but not as cold. I expect temperatures to hold in the teens along the lakeshore and near 10 degrees inland.

Map: Forecasted low temperatures for the night of Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017.

HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?

The weak system sparking the winter storm warnings and advisories will act to reinforce the cold air and below average temperatures throughout the Great Lakes region. If we do not hit 20 degrees Friday, it is possible we could go nearly two weeks straight with temperatures below 20 degrees.

Chart: High temperature forecast through Jan. 4.

If we look further ahead through the first week of January temperatures remain below freezing for highs with several mornings projected to go below zero.

Chart: European model output for Grand Rapids through Jan. 6.

More record cold is possible on the last morning of 2017.

COLD WEATHER SIGHTS

The cold we’re experience also spawns some natural phenomena, including sun dogs and ice pillars.

Sometimes, both happen at the same time.

A Dec. 27, 2017 photo of a sun dog and ice pillar.

Sun dogs, also known as parhelions, are more common during sunrise and sunset. The light from the sun dog is red closest to the sun,  while areas farther out appear green and blue.

A December 2017 photo of a sun dog. (Matt Losey/ReportIt)

Sun dogs are fairly common in general, often forming as high cirrus clouds 20,000 o 30,000 feet move into Michigan. However, the more rare ones occur when surface temperatures are very cold. No matter where sun dogs form, they’re created when ice crystals bend (refract) as light passing through them at 22 degrees.

The show doesn’t always disappear at night. Sometimes during frigid, calm and clear nights, light will reflect through these ice plates, creating ice pillars and “moon dogs.”

A December 2017 photo of ice pillars at night. (Sandy Davis/Facebook)

The Grand Haven Area Convention & Visitors Bureau also spotted “pancake ice” along the iced over boardwalk leading out to Lake Michigan Tuesday.

We always love viewing and sharing photos so keep them coming! You can send them to us by emailing ReportIt@woodtv.com.

>>Photo gallery: Frigid formations in West Michigan

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