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      Cold Winter in Perspective

      So far, the winter of 2013-14 is one of the coldest on record at the National Weather Service (NWS) near Negaunee. Records here go back to only 1961, so some of the extremely cold winters of the late 19th and early 20th century are not included. However, this one is nudging its way into some pretty frigid territory. Here are the top coldest winters, compiled by the NWS through yesterday:

      1. 6.3 1976

      2. 7.8 1983

      3. 8.6 1978

      4. 9.6 2013

      5. 11.1 2008

      6. 12.3 1973

      7. 12.5 1981

      The winter of 1976-77 was brutal. The mean temperature for December was 8.5 degrees (1981-2010 average 18.5), for the entire month of January only 3.3 degrees (1981-2010 average 13.6). December 1978 was not that cold. The mean temperature for the month was 14.2 degrees. However once January started, it was lights-out cold. The first two weeks of the month had a mean temperature of 3.6 degrees below zero! The month then moderated slightly but was followed by a much-below-average February. The winter of 1983-84 featured a brutally cold December, especially around Christmas. It stayed cold through much of January, but then in February there was a spectacular flip. The month ended over 11 degrees above average.

      With the pattern we are locked into, weâ??re likely to see one of the colder Januarys on record. At this point, it appears February will at least start with below average temperatures. There is a good chance that we may leapfrog past the winter of 1983-84 by the end of the month to make this the coldest December-January combo since the 1970s.

      One of the results of the cold is an impressive buildup of ice on Lake Superior. Image 1 above shows lots of ice on the western end of the lake. The color scheme indicates that it is still likely broken and thin in some spots. Image 2 is a satellite view from yesterday. It shows an impressive lack of clouds due to the ice coverage on the western end of the lake. The circled area on the left showed the only region just off the U.P. shore with substantial open water. Ice will continue to grow quickly over the next week and that will continue to limit lake-effect snow from the Gogebic Range to the Copper Country.