Helping weather forecasts: Expert speaks on what patterns say is in store

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Matt Zika, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Negaunee, talks about storm spotting during a talk in Houghton Wednesday.

HOUGHTON — Over the past 30 to 40 years, storms have become more extreme. Thanks to population growth, when the storms hit, they often affect more people.

“It makes it even more important that we have folks out there to notify them when this bad weather is coming, so we can try to minimize the overall impact on communities, and people as a whole,” said Matt Zika, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service (NWS) in Negaunee.

Receiving real-time information from the public gives the NWS more detail and helps it convey the weather’s severity to the public, Zika said during the annual Spring Weather Presentation and Storm Spotter Training in Houghton Wednesday. For instance, the NWS can pick up a report from Houghton of large hailstones and a storm moving to the east and include it in future weather warnings.

“People are more apt to respond to the weather warnings when they hear a storm has already done some sort of damage,” he said.

Severe weather reports from volunteers also help the NWS when it has to verify its warnings afterward, Zika said.

The NWS makes weather notices available many days in advance: general outlooks at first, then, closer to the event, watches for winter storms or severe thunderstorms. When it’s time to act, it moves to warnings, which can incorporate radar detection or storm spotter reports.

The Enhanced Hazardous Weather Outlook is available at https://www.weather.gov/mqt/EHWO.

“You can go in here on a Monday or Tuesday, and look, and if it’s green across the board, then you’re probably not going to have too many concerns,” Zika said.

Since the drought concerns of the early 2010s, U.P. weather has gotten progressively wetter. Last year was the 24th coldest on record, and the seventh-wettest. This year is shaping up to be the wettest yet, and one of the top five coldest, Zika said.

Zika also shared images and video residents had sent of extreme weather conditions, including those from the June floods and their aftermath. For occurrences of hail, he said, it’s best to include items of comparable size in the photo, whether they be quarters or baseballs.

Reports can go to the weather service by phone at 1-800-828-8002, or be submitted via website at weather.gov/mqt, Facebook at NWSMarquette, Twitter @NWSMarquette or email via nws.marquette@noaa.gov. During severe weather events, the NWS usually has people listening on ham radio, where it takes reports at WX8MQT. Those with smartphones can use the mPING app. It lets people select precipitation types, choose from levels of wind damage and flooding, or alert the NWS to such items as tornadoes and landslides.

“It’s basically three clicks of your thumb to actually get a report sent to us,” Zika said.