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      Backward Spring

      The Michels brothers, Ken and Tom, took a snowmobile ride in the woods north of Ishpeming on May 11, 1996.

      A â??backwardâ?? spring is a term probably coined in New England for a spring season that reverts back to winter. That is just what happened in 1996 as well as this year and, for that matter, last year, too. Actually, an argument could be made that spring never really arrived in 1996 until it was almost summer. Consider this: the biggest snows of April 1996 didnâ??t occur until mid-month and after. The biggest storm blasted the U.P. on April 29-30.

      Low pressure formed over Texas and then lifted northeastward. It was situated over southern Illinois on the morning of the 29th (Image 2 above). Rain developed to the northwest of the stormâ??s track and as the system developed northeastward, the air was just cold enough for the rain to change to snow in north-central Wisconsin during the afternoon. Heavy, wet snow then moved into much of Upper Michigan.

      The storm reached its maximum intensity as it moved through the Great Lakes and its supporting upper-air trough â??closed offâ?? over the western Great Lakes (Image 3). Heavy snow fell most of the day on the 30th, bringing some impressive late-season totals. A daily-record 8.1 inches of snow came down at the Houghton County Airport. A total of 14.3 inches was measured at the National Weather Service (NWS) near Negaunee during the two-day storm.

      April 1996 came in nearly 6 degrees below average with nearly 44 inches of snow. Below average temperatures hung on through nearly the first three weeks of May. Despite the continuing chill, the high sun angle melted the snow anyway. The NWS site lost its last inch of snow cover on May 11. There was still plenty of snow left in the woods though (see first picture above). It took another week before the first taste of summer visited the U.P. On May 18, 1996, the high at the NWS topped 80 degrees. On that day, the last of the ice went out on Teal Lake near Negaunee. Just up the road, the last pile of crusty, old snow left my front yard on that day, too.

      Spring took a step back in a good share of the U.P. today as wet snow developed with the first surge of precipitation that lifted northward ahead of low pressure over Iowa. The low will slowly decay as it works into the Great Lakes tonight into tomorrow. Milder air wrapping in from the east means that only periods of rain showers are expected across the U.P. tonight into Wednesday. There may be some snow mixed in especially over western sections Thursday as colder air wraps in behind the departing low, but with the low weakening, no significant precipitation is anticipated. April 2014 will not challenge 1996 for the coldest on record. As of yesterday, the month stood 4.7 degrees below average. Still, there is a chance we get close to last yearâ??s anomaly of 5.5 degrees below average. Early May, according to NOAAâ??s CFS model, does not hold much prospect for a lasting reversal of the pattern that has held on since early December (Image 4).