[mountain]Look to the west in Colorado, and the state is coated in mounds of snow and filled with excited skiers (and a fair share of grumbling travelers) ready to head to the slopes after bundling up in thick jackets and winter gloves. For much of December, however, MSU students looked out their windows and, instead of seeing the requisite piles of snow and icicled buildings, they only spotted dead leaves and fellow students in light sweaters. Detroit’s average temperature for December 2006 was 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service, making it the third warmest December in Detroit history.
The weather in Michigan for the early parts of winter was a big disappointment for skiers, snowboarders and the employees of local ski resorts. The lack of snow hit MSU enthusiasts hard as well – the Spartan Ski Club had to cancel their trip to Mt. Bohemia due to the lack of snow, said Steve Mikishko, electrical engineering junior and senior officer for the club. “We were supposed make the trip up there Feb. 9-11,” Mikishko said. “Michigan weather is so unpredictable – it pretty much sucks.”
[club]Although the Michigan weather failed to help the ski club members in the early parts of winter, the skiers took advantage of the snowfall in the western U.S. The Spartan Ski club took a trip to Aspen, Colo. over winter break. “We were in Colorado during their first major blizzard, and left a day before their second blizzard,” kinesiology freshman Sarah Comai said. “I think they got all of the snow that was supposed to go to Michigan.”
Outside the snowless East Lansing scene, many local ski resorts have been closed or have been operating with less than half their trails open, taking a big hit economically. Mount Brighton, located in Brighton, has yet to open; Alpine Valley, in White Lake, has only two of its 10 chairlifts operating; and Mount Holly, in Holly, has only eight of 17 runs open. Farther north, Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands are having a slower than usual winter as well. The cross-country trails have yet to open, and about 25 percent of their downhill slopes are open.
“We’re making snow every chance we get, but the temperatures in December made it very difficult, because it needs to be 28 degrees or under to make snow that will not melt,” said Erin Ernst, public relations manager for Boyne USA resorts. “People are taking advantage of our spa facilities and indoor water park more now than in previous years.”
[golf]While the ski resorts are craving the winter rush, local golf courses are loving the extended mild season. The Inn at Saint Johns in Northville had as many as 100 golfers a day hitting the links in mid-December. “The warmer than usual weather this winter has definitely helped business,” said Jim Mrozinski, director of golf operations at Saint Johns. “We were open all of December, as well as a couple of days in early January.”
Golfers in the western U.S. did not fare so well in December; with all of the snow falling, especially in Colorado, the skiers and snowboarders certainly were the advantaged athletes. According to North Denver News, Denver received 29.4 inches of snowfall in December. In a sharp contrast, metro Detroit saw only 2.4 inches of snow for December, all which quickly melted due to the warm temperatures, according to the Livingston Daily. Detroit temperatures in the month ranged from 16 degrees Fahrenheit on Dec. 8 to 70 degrees on Dec. 1, according to the National Weather Service.
“The weather has been very unusual: it is an El Nino year, which can have an effect on temperatures, making them higher than normal,” Julie Winkler, a professor in the department of geography, said. “Also, Michigan is experiencing a ridge, while the western part of the United States is experiencing a trough.” A ridge is an extended area of high atmospheric pressure, resulting in temperatures that are warmer than usual. A trough is the opposite, an extended area of low atmospheric pressure.[club2]
Although the exact reasoning behind Michigan’s warm December is unknown, it is possible global warming was a factor. Global warming occurs when there is an average increase in the earth’s internal temperature, which in turn can affect the climate. Changes in climate may affect rainfall patterns, cause a rise in the sea level and also impact plants, wildlife and humans. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the earth’s internal temperature rose one degree Fahrenheit in the last century. The U.S. Geological Survey has predicted the Glacier National Park in Montana will not have a single glacier left by the year 2030.
“Global warming may have played a role in the warm temperatures experienced nationwide, but it is all unknown,” Winkler said. “This year’s winter has no part in predicting the future; for all we know, we could have the coldest winter on record next year, or another warm one.”
Whether global warming is partly responsible for the warmer winter or not, many MSU students agree on one thing: global warming is a problem that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. “Global warming is a bigger problem than people are taking it as,” biochemistry sophomore Lauren Topper said. “The earth won’t last forever. There are simple things people can do to at least slow global warming down.”
“Call me Al Gore, but I definitely think that global warming has something to do with the recent warm weather,” psychology sophomore Ashly Markowski agreed. “It is damaging the earth, but I don’t think anyone is going to do much about it until the major damage has been done.”
[flurry]Ways to slow down the effects of global warming include reducing the use of greenhouse gases, replanting trees to replace those that are cut down, and reducing dependence on fossil fuels, such as coal. Unplugging appliances, instead of just switching off the power button, can reduce the amount of energy used by households. In this way, a phantom load, or the drawing of electricity when an appliance is not in use, is avoided. According to Dr. Bill Chameides, an expert on global warming, it costs Americans an estimated $1 billion a year for the power wasted in phantom loads in the United States.
“If every household in America exchanged three standard light bulbs with three energy efficient compact florescent light bulbs (CFL), it would be the equivalent of taking 3.5 million cars off the road,” Chameides said.
As January rolled around and campus filled with students returning for the semester, winter made its comeback as well, with snow on the ground and temperatures around 15 degrees. Students now look out their windows and see fellow students in thick jackets and fur-lined hats trudging through the snow to class.
“I wanted snow over break so I could go skiing, but now that I have to walk to my classes again, I want the warm weather back,” general management junior Josh Falkiewicz said. “I just have to get used to Michigan’s winter again; it was nice while it lasted.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *