Traverse City News and Events

Eye-Popping Numbers From The Warmest Winter In Traverse City History

By Craig Manning | March 29, 2024

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calls it “the warmest winter on record for the contiguous United States,” and northern Michiganders felt every degree of it. From a balmy Christmas Day to a barely-there ski season, the winter of 2023-24 disrupted Traverse City’s typically robust cold-weather commerce and prompted plenty of conversations about climate change. But just how wildly weird was this winter? With spring officially underway and April around the corner, The Ticker crunches the numbers.

11: Number of days this winter that set or tied all-time temperature records in Traverse City, according to Extreme Weather Watch. Ten of those days occurred in 2024, between February 7 and March 12, while the 11th was the aforementioned 58-degree Christmas Day.

73: Peak temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, recorded in Traverse City on February 27. That was not only the hottest day of the winter, but also Traverse City’s first-ever 70-degree February day, its earliest-ever occurrence of a 70-degree day in a calendar year, and its hottest day ever recorded in the meteorological winter, which spans December, January, and February. The previous daily record was 57 degrees, recorded in 2018, while the previous winter record was 66 degrees, set on February 22, 2017.

34.6: Average temperature observed in Traverse City during the entire month of February. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), that average makes 2024 the warmest February on record for, beating out the previous champ, 1998, which had an average temp of 33.8 degrees. No other year had an average February temperature that was above freezing. Traverse City also only had 15.3 inches of snowfall in February, 6.1 less than average.

73.1: Traverse City’s season-to-date snowfall, in inches, according to the NWS, compared to a normal-to-date 95.6 inches and the average season total of 101 inches.

33.6: Average temperature for Traverse City’s entire December-through-February stretch, per the NWS. It’s the first (and for now, only) Traverse City winter ever recorded with an above-freezing average temperature. Traverse City’s previous warmest winter was 1997-98, when the average temperature was 31.3 degrees.

51.9: Observed cumulative snowfall, in inches, tracked in Traverse City between December 1 and February 29 – down a whopping 26.4 inches from NWS’s full-winter average.

16.02: Percentage of the Great Lakes that were covered in ice at the winter 2023-24 maximum, which occurred on January 22. Per NOAA, that’s “the fourth lowest annual maximum ice cover for the five lakes as a whole since records began in 1973.” For reference, in an average winter, the Great Lakes top out at about 53 percent ice cover.

0.56: Great Lakes ice cover percentage as of this past Wednesday. Typically in late March, around 20 percent of the entire Great Lakes basin still has ice cover. Right now, Lakes Michigan, Erie, Ontario, and St. Clair are all at 0 percent ice cover, while Lake Superior has 1.18 percent and Huron has 0.54 percent.

46: Number of days between when Hickory Hills opened for the 2024 season on January 19 and when it announced it was closed on March 5. Hickory wasn’t the only ski destination with an abbreviated season: Schuss Mountain closed on March 9, three months to the day after opening; Mt. Holiday called it a season the same day, after months of stops and starts. Jim Pearson, Holiday’s executive director, estimates the ski area “probably had a month total of tubing, maybe two weeks of skiing with a few runs open,” and only ran its recently refurbished blue chairlift “about four days” all winter.

42: Number of Michigan counties that got federal drought declarations this winter – Grand Traverse County among them. Under those declarations, small businesses “impacted by lack of snow” are eligible to apply for Economy Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million from the Small Business Administration. Pearson says Mt. Holiday is able to apply for those loans and is “in the process of reviewing” the necessary steps to do so.

1: Number of times Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) cancelled school this winter due to inclement weather. That lone snow day fell on February 28. The past two winters both had four TCAPS snow days, and just five years ago, during winter 2018-19, the district called a record 11 snow days.

It wasn’t just Michigan experiencing all the warm weather. According to NOAA data, the average temperature in the contiguous U.S. for the full meteorological winter was 5.4 degrees above the long-term average. It’s the warmest winter the lower 48 have seen, at least in the 130 years since reliable record-keeping began.

Pictured: A graph of Great Lakes ice cover, courtesy of NOAA.

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