There has been a lot going on in the world of weather and for that matter the topic of earth sciences over the past week. The main attention grabber was another massive earthquake, this time centered near the central coast of Chile that registered an 8.8 on the Richter Scale. Obviously the higher you go on the scale, exponentially the larger the impact of the ground shaking becomes. In case you are wondering, this earthquake was 500 times stronger than the one which struck Haiti back in January. However one fortunate aspect is that the buildings in Chile are built to a much better standard, thanks in large part to a similarly severe quake that occurred back in May 1960. Nevertheless, there has been widespread destruction from Santiago down to Concepcion in Chile. Here are a couple links for more details: The Chile Earthquake and Intensity Info. The map below shows where the strongest shaking took place with the earthquake back on Saturday, shown by the darker shades of orange.
Next week I'll go into more depth on the tsunami created by this earthquake. In a nutshell, there was one which impacted the Chile coast severely, but it was not anywhere near the magnitude of that which resulted in December 2004 across the rest of the Pacific Basin.
Now on to an update on how well the weather almanacs have done with the winter season up to the start of March. First a reminder of what the two more widely known books of information predicted for the Upper Midwest:
Farmers' Almanac: The Great Lakes Region will be Frigid and Dry.
Old Farmer's Almanac: The coldest weather in the country will be found in the Great Lakes, with temperatures 3-6 degrees below average. In addition it will be a snowy winter. The coldest stretches will be in mid December, early to mid January, and much of February. It even was so bold to say that March would be 11 degrees below average. The snowiest times will be in the second half of November, mid December, early January, the second half of February and most of March.
Meantime, my prediction, which followed along the lines of scientific data and analysis was for this to be a milder winter with lower than average snowfall in Northcentral Wisconsin. I did mention there would be some cold stretches, but taking the typical El Nino winter weather pattern into account, the stormy weather would be to our south and east.
Sure enough, the El Nino pattern did hold true to form for the western Great Lakes. December was a chilly one, with temperatures below average in Wausau and Rhinelander by 0.8 degrees. December did feature a good amount of snowfall with 19.7" in Wausau, 23" in Rhinelander. The biggest storm of the winter took place on December 8-9th as anywhere from 6-12" fell in much of the area. January was mild with temps averaging 3 degrees above average in Wausau and was the 5th least snowiest on record with 2.3". Rhinelander did pick up a bit more snow, that being 6.2", while temps were 4.3 degrees above average. Finally February was more of the same in the temperature department, averaging 2.9 degrees above average in Wausau and 3.4 degrees above average in Rhinelander. There was a bit of snow (6.1" in Wausau, 8.4" in Rhinelander), but still below the typical levels.
So the verdict on the almanacs goes something like this...Farmers' Almanac was wrong on the temperatures, but in the ballpark on drier conditions. The Old Farmer's Almanac was wrong on the temps overall, although mid-December and early January were cold. Meantime in the snowfall category lets just say it was completely off. November featured a trace of snow, mid-December featured a little over 1" of snow, early January only about 1", and the second half of February, you guessed it, only around 1" again. I would be very surprised if March ends up being in the double digits below average for temperatures, but I'll reserve judgment on how much snow could fall.
The moral of this story, don't put all of your weather forecast trust into these almanacs. For those of you that think this is an aberration, check out my blog that took into account their past predictions: Fun with Weather Almanacs.
Spring is officially a little less than 3 weeks away! Let's see how long it takes before the mercury can crack the 50 or 60 degree mark.
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