Forecast for the rest of winter season favors snow, average temps
IRON MOUNTAIN — The National Weather Service is neutral on the temperature outlook through March but predicts about a 45% chance of above-normal precipitation in the Iron Mountain-Kingsford area.
There’s about a 1-in-4 chance of below-normal precipitation locally as La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean are expected to persist through early spring, forecasters say. La Nina, a periodic cooling of the central Pacific, tends to steer storms northward in the U.S.
“The precipitation outlooks for January-February-March are consistent with La Nina composites that favor below-normal precipitation across the southern tier of the continental U.S. with above-normal precipitation more likely from the Great Lakes south to the Ohio and Tennessee valleys along with the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies,” NWS forecaster Brad Pugh said.
December 2021 was the third-snowiest on record at Iron Mountain-Kingsford with 29 inches measured. Thanks to soaring temperatures at mid-month, the snow depth at the end of December was only 11 inches.
Temperatures last month averaged 22.9 degrees, which was about 2 degrees above normal, according to observations at the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Wastewater Treatment Plant. The highest reading was 50 degrees Dec. 16 and the lowest was minus-6 on Dec. 8.
Water-equivalent precipitation was 2.97 inches, which was nearly double the normal amount.
The snowiest December was in 1968, with 36.5 inches measured, followed by 32.1 inches in 1996.
The 29 inches that fell last month matched the total for December 2019. Average snowfall for the month is 13 inches.
The highest one-day total at the treatment plant was 9 inches on Dec. 11, a record for that date, and it was accompanied by 2.5 inches the evening of Dec. 10.
Although December was wet, 2021 was the driest year at Iron Mountain-Kingsford in nearly a decade.
Water-equivalent precipitation measured 26.4 inches, 3.6 inches below average and the lowest since 2012, when the total was 23.72 inches.
Precipitation was much higher the previous four years. The two wettest years on record at Iron Mountain-Kingsford occurred in 2017, 39.31 inches, and 2019, 39.3 inches. The 2020 total was 36.97 inches while the 2018 total was 34.73 inches.
Temperatures in 2021 averaged 44.8 degrees. That was 2.1 degrees above the average for this century and 2.9 degrees above the average since local record-keeping began in the early 1900s.
Despite the snowy December, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows moderate drought or extremely dry conditions in northern Wisconsin and the southern U.P., including Iron, Dickinson and Menominee counties.
A storm earlier this week brought heavy snow to a few locations near Lake Superior, including 23 inches at Ishpeming.