Bitter, mid-winter cold froze Upper Michigan and a good share of the country in late November 1976. The record-breaking cold began on the morning of November 28, 1976 when the low at the National Weather Service (NWS) site near Negaunee plunged to 8 below zero. The next day the low was 13 below. Thatâ??s the coldest November reading at the NWS since records began there in 1961. Iron Mountain also experienced its coldest November low temperature at 10 below, while Ironwood went to 18 below zero.
The winter of 1976-77 got off to a quick start. October 1976 came in over five degrees below average in Marquette. The second half of the month there saw frequent snows more typical of December. Nearly a foot-and-a-half came down from the 16th to the end of the monthâ??an October record.
The cold was unrelenting. November also wound up over five degrees below average. It got even colder relative to average as winter began. December 1976 was almost seven degrees below the long-term standard with six below-zero days in Marquetteâ??an unusually high number for a city nestled on the shore of Lake Superior. The cold continued nearly unabated through January into the early part of February before a warmer pattern ensued.
The winter of 76-77 was a brutal one for much of the eastern portion of the United States. The famous blizzard occurred in Buffalo during the peak of the cold wave in January. Lake Erie was frozen over, yet strong winds blowing the length of the lake produced white-out conditions for days.
This brutal winter was the first of three consecutive cold, snowy winters over the central and eastern United States. However, while these winters were in progress, a Great Climate Shift took place which, in large part, is responsible for the milder winters weâ??ve experienced lately.The shift has occurred again in the Pacific, this time to a cold cycle. This cold cycle led to the severe Alaskan winter last year. This year has also got off to a cold start in Alaska and the Yukon (Image 2 above). Bethel in southwestern Alaska is running 6 degrees below average for November and Fairbanks has had only two days this month where the low temperature stayed above zero. The last five days, the mercury has been under ten below zero continuously. Obviously, a supply of frigid air will be available if the pattern is right to bring it down into the U.S.