Weather Wednesday: When the Great Lakes Freeze

Satellite image of Great Lakes February 2015. NOAA.

 

As of February 25, 2015, the Great Lakes are over 85% ice covered and the coverage is growing weekly.  glsea_curOther than the obvious impact to shipping, what does this really mean?

When the Great Lakes experience heavy ice cover as they have in the winters of 2014 and 2015 there are a multitude of impacts.  Some are beneficial and some are problematic and some are both.

For example, evaporation takes place over open water even in the winter time.  At least partially because evaporation was inhibited in the winter of 2014-15, Lake Michigan water levels last summer increased dramatically over the summer of 2013.  Some of the impacts included reduced usable recreational beach areas. On the positive side, the higher water levels mitigated some of the need to dredge channels and harbor entrances especially along the eastern shore of the lake.  As of February 25, the water level on Lake Michigan was a whopping 21-inches higher than a year earlier and was 8 inches higher than the long term average.  Snow melt and rainfall also are a factor, but the reduced evaporation plays a role. lighthouse

Snowfall amounts are also affected when the lakes freeze.  Lake Effect Snow basically shuts down once the lakes freeze over, a welcomed break for motorists in the Great Lakes snow belt areas.

Heavy ice cover also tends to influence spring and even summer weather in areas close to the lakes.  The temperatures in communities near Lake Michigan were noticeably cooler than inland communities in the spring and summer of 2014, far cooler than the usually welcomed moderating effect of the lake.  One benefit of the late spring is to fruit growers.  The cooler weather delays the blossoming of fruit trees to the extent that the threat of frost damage from isolated cold snaps is mitigated.  And the normal micro-climate of shoreline communities is more pronounced in years when the lakes are ice-covered.

Arcadia, MI. Cool summer of 2014. Author.

Long lasting ice cover also affects the water temperature of the Great Lakes.   Even the normally more moderate lakes remained quite cool for swimming and other warm weather recreation in the summer of 2014.  It is worth noting that there was still visible ice on Lake Superior into June of 2014 and some water temperatures in Lake Michigan were still in the upper-30 degree range on Memorial Day weekend!!  The reduced water temperatures impact how anglers approach their prey.  And the development of algae can also be affected.

It is likely that the ice cover of the lakes will continue to expand for at least a few more weeks this year.

USDA Offers Disaster Assistance and Information on Disaster Programs

fire and clouds of smokeDid you see USDA’s September 2 press release? With this release, USDA is encouraging livestock producers who suffered eligible disaster-related losses to enroll in the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) by October 1. If livestock producers experienced grazing losses as far back as October 2011, they may be eligible for benefits. Grazing losses must be due to qualifying drought or fire-related condition during the normal grazing period for the county. The program is offered through the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

In addition to LFP, USDA provides many other programs to farmers during an emergency or disaster. They are offered through the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Rural Development (RD), and Risk Management Agency (RMA).

This printable brochure  from USDA offers a brief description of each program. Download it for quick reference to nineteen  disaster-related USDA programs.

Meet a Delegate Monday: Jamie Rathbun

Michelle Bufkin, AU Agriculture Communications Student/EDEN Community of Practice Social Media Assistant, recently interviewed EDEN delegate Jamie Rathbun, who will have a breakout session at the EDEN Annual Meeting.

1. How did you first get involved with EDEN?portraitweb

Kansas State Research & Extension’s Point of Contact (POC), Mary Lou Peter, knew that I had been involved in emergency preparedness efforts, so she recruited me to be a delegate. I receive EDEN emails and soak in and save much of the information. I keep note of the resources so that if Kansas ever needs it we will have resources or know who will be the best contact in certain situations. Also, if a question arises and Kansas has resources related to that topic I will respond with those.

2. Kansas has experienced several disasters in the past few years. What has been your role in helping people recover?

I serve as an extension agent two counties that have been lucky and haven’t experienced larger natural disasters. I have done timely news releases before tornado season starts, so that people know what to put in emergency kits. When a community disaster happens, I make sure that we get the message of preparedness out. We had a large downtown fire a couple years ago, so I wrote newspaper articles, about updating inventory and insurance policies, and other preparedness tips.

3. Without giving away your presentation for the 2014 EDEN Annual Meeting, can you tell us about Prepare Kansas?

Some coworkers and I wrote a lesson for Kansas titled Get Financially Prepared: Take Steps Ahead of Disaster. The lesson focuses on having an inventory, making sure insurance is up-to-date, and having a “grab and go kit” prepared. As it was taught across the state, we realized that we can talk to people about these steps, but they might not be motivated to inventory their home. For that motivation, we developed Prepare Kansas, to challenge our constituents across the state through the month of September. Each week during the month, they will have two challenges to complete that will help increase preparedness.

At the EDEN Annual Meeting, we are planning on outlining how we started, where we are headed, and how we plan to keep it fresh. We will also provide information in case anyone wants to implement something similar in their own states.

4. Do you have a favorite resource on financial disaster recovery?

The K-State Research & Extension lesson that I co-wrote, Get Financially Prepared. I also like to use a publication from University of Missouri Extension, Family Disaster Plan. I know it helped me in preparing a “grab and go kit” for my own home.

5. What is your financial advice to people who have never experienced a disaster?

The most important thing is to be organized. It is ideal to have the organization in place ahead of a disaster, for example having a completed home inventory. Organization is important after a disaster as well. Having a system to keep receipts of anything paid or purchased and of financial assistance a person receives to aid in the cleanup process is necessary. These documents are important for insurance and tax purposes after a disaster. Being organized is the goal of the Prepare Kansas challenge.