Wednesday, December 6, 2023

East Lansing is expecting predictable winter weather – here's what you need to know

December 5, 2022

East Lansing residents should expect average temperatures and increased precipitation this winter, thanks to a third-straight La Nina season.

The utilization of El Nino and La Nina proves to be an accurate tool in estimating conditions throughout Michigan winter weather seasons. A La Nina pattern, continuing for a third year in 2022, makes for colder waters in central and eastern regions of the Pacific Ocean.

“What we are seeing this upcoming winter is another La Nina year, meaning that the waters are colder than normal,” meteorologist Colton Cichoracki said. “Typically, that means we see more closer-to-normal temperatures throughout the winter, but it also means that we may see a wetter-than-average winter season.”

Combatting winter conditions

Navigating winter weather conditions, for students and other residents, can be a challenge. With colder temperatures nearing, icy sidewalks and roads become a concern. In addition, snowfall impacts travel times for individuals – such as biomedical laboratory sciences junior Isabelle Anthos.

“Weather would be something to cause me not to go to class,” Anthos said. “Especially if it’s cold and windy, it’s a big thing because, even though there is parking on campus, I still feel like you’d have to walk a good ten, fifteen, even twenty minutes to get to where your actual class is.”

Michigan State University students often have long commutes to class, no matter the season, due to the general size and traffic of the campus. Marketing freshman Lauren Ergelic finds that preparation is important when it comes to Michigan winters and that the bus system in East Lansing is a valuable tool for commuting in poor weather conditions.

“I feel like I definitely had the upper hand in this first wave of snow that we had this year because I was able to go home and get the right gear to prepare for snow,” Ergelic said, “I also think that utilizing the buses is my strategy to get to my classes on time and make sure that I can still do everything within my day-to-day and my weekly basis as the snow and the winter start to get more intense.”

When will we see grass again?

April snowfall in the 2021-22 winter season prolonged weather conditions into the spring. Featuring cold but consistent temperatures, snow stuck around longer into the year than what has been seen in prior seasons.

Though weather conditions will be variable throughout the year, with the increase in precipitation leaving chances for both rain and snow, a predictable end to season can be expected in March of this upcoming year. 

“As we get towards spring, the La Nina is going to start weakening,” Cichoracki said. “When that happens, it does typically mean that we will start to get some warmer temperatures in here ... The winter, right now, looks like it will probably end in March, and that we will actually get into spring when spring weather is supposed to happen.”

Managing seasonal depression

Longer Michigan winters can make for longer periods of little-to-no sunlight, affecting the moods of some residents. Seasonal depression occurs in climates where there is an annual cycle of less sunlight during certain parts of the year. For Anthos, winter is the most beautiful time of the year, but it doesn’t come without its challenges.

“I think winters are super long – definitely seasonal depression gets there,” Anthos said. “But I do love it, just because I’m from here. I love the snow and I just think it’s very beautiful.”

In Anthos’ experience, it’s important to maintain relationships with those around you to combat a lack of motivation or setbacks from mood changes during the winter season.

“I mostly try to surround myself with people who I know will help me get through those times and who I know have good work ethics,” Anthos said. “And reaching out to instructors, or other teachers, if you are having issues. I think that if you reach out they will accommodate you.”

Climate change's impact

Michigan in recent years has experienced ups and downs in annual average temperatures. While some enjoy a lack of harsh winter conditions, others find it concerning for the Great Lakes Region historically known as a "Water-Winter Wonderland.”

“It’s definitely noticeable when there’s no snow,” Anthos said. “I definitely think there is something going on, and it is worrisome, but I don’t know if it’s extreme enough where I think it’s a massive issue. Obviously, I know it is a big issue and I do see a lot of climate issues happening, it’s just weird seeing it here.”

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Lansing typically experiences around 47 inches of snow throughout the entirety of the winter season, according to Cichoracki.

“What is clearly happening is our winters are getting wetter,” Cichoracki said. “But when it comes to temperatures and snowfall there is a lot of variability. It’s that variability between years when we see a lot of snow and then we see the next year with, maybe, very little snow."

Even though the 2013-14 winter season brought historically low temperatures to Michigan, there’s been a general rise in average temperatures, bringing an increase in warmer winters in recent years.

“I do feel like [recent changes in Michigan winter weather] is a concern,” Ergelic said, “I also feel like it’s not just the winter that should be a concern. I feel like in all seasons we should be aware of the climate crisis and that we should do things to prevent it, not just in the winter.”

How to stay updated about winter weather

Lansing residents can look at daily weather forecasts in order to gauge commutes and conditions throughout this upcoming season. Cichoracki finds that the easiest way to interpret weather conditions day-to-day is by checking the local news for a more detailed forecast.

“You can download an app on your phone, which a lot of people do,” Cichoracki said. “I still believe that flipping on the T.V. and watching a meteorologist is the best way [to understand daily conditions]. We are also looking at that data, but we can interpret it knowing what we know from going to college and just being in the field and studying this, ... and actually tell you what it’s going to be like.”


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