Lake-effect snow: is produced in the winter when cold winds move across long expanses of warmer lake water, providing energy and picking up water vapor which freezes and is deposited on the windward shores (The Weather Channel Definition).
What defines the Northwoods as a region? One way to determine the region is by looking at the weather and climate patterns in the Lake Superior Basin and comparing them to the rest of the counties in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Some helpful data to describe this region were found on the United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service website. Most of the data needed to describe this region is found under the National Water and Climate Center. For any counties that were not available were found from Sperling’s Best Places which is a site that compares US cities by climate, cost of living, crime and other statistics. With this data, four maps were created that show weather patterns and how Lake Superior has an effect on this region. A fifth map was then created using Frost data added to Average January Low data. The final map created is an overlay of the Average July High Temperatures and Percentage of Agriculture and Land use Data.
The research of the Lake Effect contributes to the purpose of describing the Northwoods as a distinct region within the Midwest because not only does it help with understanding the weather and climate patterns but it shows why there is not a chance for agriculture to grow here. The soil is poor and it also remains frozen or partially frozen throughout most of the year. In the reading, “The Northwoods: Back to Nature?, author Timothy Bawden states, “while the seasonal high and low temperatures do not vary dramatically across Wisconsin, the average length of the growing season, or days between the last and first killing frost, is considerably shorter in the northern part of the state" (Bawden, 1997). Apart from the frost data, the snowfall data may give a reason to why there are not a lot of permanent residences up in this region. Living in the Lake Superior basin can be hard and the conditions can be brutal.
The majority of the information for Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin counties was found on the United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service website under National Weather and Climate Center. For the counties that had no datum here were found on Sperling’s Best Places which is a site that compares US cities by climate, cost of living, crime and other statistics. The data for each county was separated and placed onto an excel spread sheet under four categories; Average Annual Snowfall, Average Annual Precipitation, Average January Low Temperatures (Fahrenheit), and Average July High Temperatures (Fahrenheit).
From there the data was then added into ArcMap™ and each category was joined separately to MI, MN, and WI counties. Four maps were produced showing the data by county and now the changes are easily seen across the three states due to the Lake Effect of Lake Superior. The fifth map created shows Frost Free Days added to Average January Lows. The data is taken from the two sets and shows the average of Frost Free Days and January lows to show the average across MI, MN and WI counties. This is a raster map so it is a combination of county data and point data. The final map created is an overlay of Average July High Temperatures in Kriging form with Ben Colbenson’s Percentage of Land use and Agriculture Data.
- Gathered data for Snowfall, Precipitation, January lows, July highs
- Separated the data onto an excel spread sheet
- Added the data to ArcMap™ to display the data on four separate maps
- Produced four separate maps (Snowfall, Precipitation, January lows, and July highs)
- Made a raster map of the average between Frost Free Days and January Low Temperatures
- Compared the Kriging map of Average July High Temperatures with Ben’s Percentage of Land use and Agriculture data
- Created a map with an outline of the Northwoods based on the data collected from the Lake Effect
For the results, six maps have been produced showing the data collected. The maps shown below show the Average Annual Snowfall, Average Annual Precipitation, Average January Lows , Average July Highs, the Average Frost Free Days added to January Lows and an overlay of Average July High Temperatures with the Percentage of Land Use and Agriculture. A seventh map was also created that has an outline of the Northwoods that was found based on the data collected.
The first map is the outline of the Northwoods that was found based on the data collection of the Lake Effect. The Northwoods is outlined in red and contains parts of Northern Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin, and parts of Upper and Lower Michigan. On each map this line is also placed so it will be easier to compare the data to the area that is considered the Northwoods.
The two Climate graphs above show the differences between the Northwood counties and Non-Northwood counties from Figure 1. To create these maps data was collected for all 242 counties in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The average Temperature, Precipitation and Snowfall totals were collected for each month for each county separately. They were then added together in two separate groups, The Northwoods and Non-Northwoods and then divided by the number of counties in each group to receive the average. They were then placed on these two graphs so they can be compared and evaluated. The data was collected from the United States Department of Agriculture under the National Weather and Climate Center and The Weather Channel
The second map is the Average Annual Snowfall in inches for Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin counties with 2002 data. When compiling the data from the excel spread sheets and placing them on this map the effects of the Lake Effect are easily seen. Lake Superior has a great affect on the Northern coast of Upper Michigan. The Lake Effect in Lower Michigan is not as drastically seen but along the Western part of the state on the coast of Lake Michigan it is visible that it receives more snow than the Eastern part of the state. The Lake effect causes a large amount of snow to be carried across the Great Lakes in a Southeast direction coming from Northwest Canada. By this image of the data placed on ArcMap™ of the counties it is easily seen that the Keweenaw Peninsula in Upper Michigan gets hit the hardest with snow. 235.5 inches is the greatest amount in Baraga County, Michigan on this map and the lowest is 19.7 inches in Midland County, Michigan.
The third map that was created shows the Average Annual Precipitation by county in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. There is not a distinct pattern when looking at this map of the three states. There are a few counties in Upper Michigan that receive more rainfall but the most is gathered in the southwest corner of Lower Michigan. By looking at this map it does not help draw the line for the Northwoods at all (Data source 2002).
For the fourth map that was created shows the Average January Low Temperatures for each county in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. At first glance you notice that the temperatures are warmer in the areas that received the most snow but then if you consider the Lake Effect, this makes perfect sense. Since these counties receive so much snow and are in close proximity to a large body of water they will be warmer. This map shows very distinct areas where the temperatures are the coldest in Northwest Minnesota because they are further from the water and are warmest in Southwest and Southeast Michigan because Lower Michigan is surrounded by four of the Great Lakes. The areas that receive the most snow are not the coldest but are about the average temperatures throughout these states (Data source 2002).
My fifth map that was created shows the Average July High Temperatures for each county in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. By looking at the maps there is almost a distinct line coming down from Northwest Minnesota going through upper Wisconsin and the upper part of Lower Michigan. The Great Lakes obviously keep these counties a little cooler during the hottest month of the year (Data source 2002).
The sixth map created shows the average between Frost Free Days and Average January Low Temperatures in the MI, MN and WI counties. When rastering the two data sets it took the center points of each county and of the frost free locations. The area that receives the most frost throughout the year is Northern Minnesota. The least amount is the bottom half of Lower Michigan. There is also almost a definite line that comes from the Northwest corner of Minnesota and goes down through the Northern part of Wisconsin and cuts Lower Michigan almost in half (Data source 2002).
The final map created shows the Average July Highs overlaid with the Percentage of Land use and Agriculture in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. This is a map that compares county level data and a kriging map of the July High Temperatures. That means it took the average of each county and made a blended map of the temperatures. It gives it a smoother look so it is easier to see the difference when the two maps are overlaid. When comparing the two data sets there is definitely a pattern when looking at the climate and where the agriculture line lands. Due to the amount of frost that is present throughout the year it makes it a hard place to grow crops in the Lake Superior Basin. From Timothy Bawden’s reading he says, “while the seasonal high and low temperatures do not vary dramatically across Wisconsin, the average length of the growing season, or days between the last and first killing frost, is considerably shorter in the northern part of the state.” The Northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are definitely a great place for forests. It is too difficult of a place for agriculture to survive (Data source 2002).
The final result of the data collected is using it to create an outline of the Northwoods. When only looking at one graph at a time they each have their own distinct region but when comparing them it creates one region that is considered the Northwoods due to the Lake Effect.
After all the data was collected and put into map form the Northwoods has been outlined by the Lake Effect. This data contributes to discovering this place as a region because it can help explain why this area is inhabited by certain ancestries, home to certain outdoor recreation activities and why this area is tree covered rather than being used for agriculture. After understanding the Lake Effect it is obvious of the patterns created in the Northwoods. The most snowfall is located in and around the Keweenaw Peninsula while the coldest temperatures are centered in Northwest Minnesota. The cooler temperatures in July are located in the Lake Superior Basin which consists of Upper Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin and the upper half of Lower Michigan. They are all effects of the Lake Effect.
Bawden, Timothy. “Wisconsin Land and Life”. Edited by Robert C. Ostergren and Thomas R. Vale. Madison: UW Press (1997): p. 450-469
NASA Earth Observatory http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/0/989/seawifs_lake_effect_lrg.jpg
Sperling’s Best Places
United States Department of Agriculture: Natural Resources Conservation Service. National Weather and Climate Center
The Weather Channel