In a profession of “Please don’t kill the messenger,” the journalist who brings you the weather forecast may need the thickest skin.
First, MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa has daily opportunities to be wrong – although he rarely is. Second, everywhere he turns doing his job, he runs into global warming, which is about as much fun to discuss at family gatherings as presidential politics and vaccinating your kids.
“As a meteorologist I believe in natural cycles, and we see them over time,” he said. “Also, as an observer of the atmosphere, I believe strongly that mankind has influenced the weather.”
Torregrossa was my guest on this week’s episode of the Behind the Headlines podcast, which you can play by clicking the “Play” button below. The intent was to discuss the summer we just had, and the fall and winter seasons that are just around the corner.
I’d encourage you to listen, but I’ll cut to the chase: Torregrossa is not a politician, he’s a trained weather analyst who relies on scientific and observable data. He doesn’t voice an opinion about who’s to blame or what should be done, he just sees the facts and presents them to our readers.
“Muskegon preliminarily has had its hottest summer on record,” he said. “There were 17 90-degree days in Detroit, six more than normal. Flint, Saginaw and Bay City had 18 85-degree-plus days, seven more than normal.”
Is that just a blip, one summer out of many in a state where weather is notoriously fickle? Maybe. But in every topic we discussed – hurricanes, temperature and snowfall averages, the Polar Vortex – rising global temperatures were a factor.
Human activities “touch every inch of the atmosphere – that’s from the North Pole to the South Pole and from the ground to six miles up,” he said. “The globe is warmer, the oceans are warmer, warmer oceans put off more energy, energy turns into more storm systems.”
For example, Torregrossa sees a La Nina pattern developing in the Pacific. That’s a natural occurrence that tends to bring a colder- and snowier-than-normal winter to Michigan. But then he drops what he calls “an asterisk”:
“It’s one piece of the puzzle of our winter. The other piece is the globe is warming, the polar regions are warming faster than any region, and that’s where our cold air comes from. And so every year it’s harder to get extreme cold to come southward. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”
But his prediction: Global warming takes some of the punch out of La Nina, and we have what Michiganders would call a fairly normal winter.
Perhaps that will put an end to debates about global warming? Nah, just wait until spring.
“One of the hardest concepts for anyone to comprehend is that in this warming globe, Michigan and the Great Lakes actually have about a 15-year trend of cooler-than-normal March and early Aprils,” Torregrossa said.
“The Polar Vortex is getting disrupted and squashed late in the season … a lobe comes down the Hudson Bay and then what do we have? A lot of complaining people in March and April.”
In other words, the climate may be changing, but we Michiganders remain the same.
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John Hiner is the vice president of content for MLive Media Group. If you have questions you’d like him to answer, or topics to explore, share your thoughts at email@example.com.
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