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El Nino holding snowfall to below-average levels

HOUGHTON – Despite the few heavy snowfalls the Keweenaw Peninsula experienced in January, snowfall amounts are still below normal, thanks to El Nino, according to Todd Kluber.

Kluber, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Negaunee Township, said not only are snowfall amounts below normal for this time of year, temperatures are at or above normal.

Despite El Nino, Kluber said the northern half of Houghton County has been hit by three lake-effect events. Lake-effect snowfalls occur when cold air passes over the relatively warmer Lake Superior.

During the period of Dec. 17-19, Kluber said 7 inches of snow were recorded at the NWS monitoring station near the Quincy Mine north of Hancock. During the same period, 24.7 inches were recorded at Painesdale.

On Jan. 16-19, Kluber said 25.2 inches were recorded at Quincy Mine, 25.7 at Painesdale, 26 at Calumet and 31 at Atlantic Mine.

“January started being a snowy month,” he said.

Normal snowfall for the Hancock/Houghton are as of Feb. 5 is 156, Kluber said. So far, 110.6 has fallen, a deficit of almost four feet.

At the Keweenaw Research Center near the Houghton County Memorial Airport, Kluber said 110 inches of snow have been recorded for the season so far, which is 70 percent of normal.

Kluber said the normal snowfall for the season for the Hancock/Houghton area is 207.7 inches.

Although snowfall totals so far are below normal, Kluber said El Nino has more of an effect on temperatures. So far, this is the second-warmest recorded winter in the past 50 years. The warmest was the winter of 2001-02.

The normal weather pattern for autumn into winter was delayed about a month, Kluber said.

“We were having October weather in December,” he said.

The average high for December was 39.3 degrees, Kluber said.

“The normal is 28.9,” he said.

It’s possible the normal seasonal snowfall amount of 207.7 inches could be reached, Kluber said, if conditions are right.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” he said. “We need temperatures well below freezing.”

For the next week, Kluber said high temperatures should be at normal – in the mid-20s – or above.

There could be some snow showers all next week, and possibly a small lake-effect snowfall.

Later in the month, Kluber said temperatures could start warming, which is normal for February.

“There’s no sign of persistent Arctic air like last February,” he said.