The most mesmerizing weather events of 2017

partial solar eclipse
The partial solar eclipse as seen from Greenville, Mich. on Aug. 21, 2017. (Courtesy Mark Dombkowski/ReportIt)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — 2017 was packed with mesmerizing meteorological phenomena in West Michigan, along with a notable heat wave and a big wind storm.

Here are the most popular meteorological and astronomical events to occur in West Michigan this year, based on web traffic.


The ice disc is also known as an “ice pan” or “ice circle,” and exactly it how it forms has been mystifying scientists for decades. Discs can range in size from 3 feet to almost 700 feet and have been spotted across countless cold climates. Several states in the U.S. have reported natural ice discs, as have Scandinavian countries.

For years, the water current was believed to have caused the discs to spin — they were thought to have been caught in a swirl of water called an eddy. Recently, that idea was found to be incorrect. If the water was spinning the solid rings of ice, then smaller discs would spin faster than larger discs, but research proved that all the discs spin at the same rate.

The spinning has to do with the density of water when in ice form and liquid form and how it melts. One lead scientist has proven that the discs are spinning because they’re melting and the melting, sinking water turns the ice at a pretty constant speed.

>>App users: Facebook video of an ice disc in Vestaburg in January


Photo: Ice pillars glow over downtown Grand Rapids late at night on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017.

Ice pillars like these can only form when a special type of ice crystal settles low to the ground. These crystals, which have six sides, are usually only found in really high altitude clouds. However, when temperatures are cold enough, these ice crystals can drop down to the surface. When they are tilted correctly, they are the reason we see artificial light pillars shooting into the sky.

Photo: Atmospheric setup needed for ice pillars to form.

The taller the pillar, the thicker the column of ice crystals. Often on nights when light pillars form, sun pillars are spotted the morning after as the sun is rising.


Photo: An example of how big the waves were on Lake Superior on Oct. 23.

Very strong winds on Oct. 23 and 24 churned up giant waves on Lake Michigan. In fact, they were the biggest waves ever recorded by a buoy.

One whopping wave came in at 28.8 feet. That’s the largest measured on the Great Lakes. The wave occurred around 9:30 a.m. with winds around that time frame gusting in the 60 to even 70 mph range.

The largest waves on Lake Michigan are generated when cold air slams into warm lake water. Here’s video of the waves around that time frame on the shores of Lake Superior.


Photo: A streak of six 90 degree days in September, 2017 made for a weird football season.

2017 was a scorcher in the fall, making a mess of fall colors and leading to a booming wine grape crop. The heat was so harsh, it caused local schools to cancel or call half days!

Storm Team 8’s records show six straight days of 90s, which broke six days’ worth of temperature records! 90 degree highs in September aren’t rare, but this heat wave was monumental for a few reasons:

1. This was the latest September heat wave on record.

This is one of the main reasons we “broke” so many records in September. Had the temperatures occurred a little earlier in the month, they may have had to contend with hotter highs.

2. This was the longest stretch of record-breaking highs we’ve seen in September.

Including this year, there have been only six years on record since 1897 in which we saw five or more 90s in September:

  • 1939 saw five 90s
  • 1931 saw seven 90s
  • 1906 saw five 90s
  • 1899 saw five 90s
  • 1897 saw seven 90s

3. This was the latest we ever received our hottest temperature of the year.

We hit 96 degrees on Sept. 23 this year. Before that month, we had hit 90 only five times and most of those happened in June. The late-season heat wave was strong enough to claim the spot for hottest of the year.

There have been years during which a September day was hotter than 96 degrees. The temperature hit 97 degrees on Sept. 6, 1954, Sept. 1, 1953, and Sept. 15, 1939. The high climbed to 98 degrees on Sept. 2, 1913 and Sept. 16, 1899. Keep in mind that all of these happened in roughly the first half of September, unlike this year, when our 96 degrees arrived late (Sept. 23).

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Photo: The total solar eclipse as seen in Tennessee on Aug. 21, 2017.

Millions of Americans gazed in wonder at the cosmic spectacle, with the best seats along the so-called path of totality that raced 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) across the continent from Oregon to South Carolina.

The path of totality, where the sun was 100 percent obscured by the moon, was just 60 to 70 miles (96 to 113 kilometers) wide. But the rest of North America was treated to a partial eclipse, as were Central America and the upper reaches of South America.

West Michigan saw a partial eclipse, which ushered many Michiganders outdoors.


Photo: Strong storms unleashed high winds across West Michigan.

The fastest wind gust reported in the July 7 storm was in Grand Haven. The lighthouse officially clocked in a gust at 91 mph, though additional unconfirmed reports have the highest gust near 103 mph in Grand Haven.

A Grand Haven man was killed when a tree fell on his home during the storm.

There were no reported injuries in Kent County, but residents in the Alto area, East Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming reported significant damage and downed trees. In Grand Rapids, officials said about 50 traffic signals malfunctioned.

Consumers Energy said the storm downed 2,000 electrical wires as well as numerous trees, leading to multiple road closures.