As January came to a close, it seemed unlikely that Northeast Michigan's temperatures could continue their below zero barrage. Now that February has passed, not only did the arctic temperatures continue, but actually became more frigid.
In Alpena, according to weather data collected by the National Weather Service at Alpena County Regional Airport, the average temperature for February was 10.8, well below the average of 20.3. The high temperature was reached on Feb. 19 when it warmed to 44 degrees. A record low of 23 below was reached on Feb. 28.
There were 15 days where temperatures were below zero at some point during the day and some days saw wind chill factors slip to as low as 35 below in some areas.
" Cold," was how Tim Locker of the National Weather Service summed up the month. "It was the sixth coldest February since data began getting collected in 1916, with the coldest being an average temperature of 7.7 degrees in 1934. There were several wind chill advisories and the cold was sustained. We just really had a hard time getting to the freezing mark, let alone above it."
As the cold days piled up, so did the amount of ice on the Great Lakes and that has helped to prevent snowstorms or significant snowfall. He said Alpena was below average for February, as well as the entire winter.
"The average is 17.5 and Alpena recorded about 13 inches of snow," Locker said. "For the season we have received 55.8, with the average being 67.1. If Alpena does see a thaw and the ice starts to break up, that could generate some snow events in March, if the temperatures remain low."
Looking ahead in March, Locker said it appears temperatures will remain below average, so the ice isn't going to disappear any time soon. He said if the weather cooperates the area could see a significant improvement before the end of the month.
"It doesn't look like it is going to be warm for the first half of the month, but if things return to normal we reach our monthly average high temperature of 45 degrees," Locker said. "For the next 10 days, though, it is going to be cold, but we could hit 30 degrees on Friday and then 34 on Monday."
Locker said the polar vortex has pushed the jet stream further south than normal. He said not only has that led to the arctic temperatures, but also kept snowstorms from hitting the area.
"Storms generally like to form in and around the jet stream and it has been well south of us," Locker said. "As a result, Alpena has been spared some of the snow and ice that communities in the southern part of the state and in the southern states have seen. It has been colder than most winters, but the Alpena area hasn't received the snow that some areas around it has."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689.