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A year full of extreme weather hits home

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Here's one of those headlines that'll probably confirm your hunch:

Weather-wise, this January through September was the most extreme the country’s ever experienced, ever since we started keeping records. 

Let's just flip back through the 2012 calendar, shall we?

First, there was the winter-that-wasn't. Meteorologist Jeff Masters is based in Ann Arbor and is a big name in the weather-blog world.

"It started with the non-winter of 2012. It was one of the warmest Januarys and Februarys on record."

He says that warm winter led into a stormy spring, with a big tornado in March.

"Which ripped through Dexter, Michigan, causing a lot of damage there. And in addition, in March we had summer in March."

Weird, unprecedented 80 degree days in early spring, that tricked all our apple blossoms into blooming and killing off that crop.

And that was all just a warm up to this summer. Literally.

"You never see corn like this this time of year. No ears."

That's Michigan farmer Jon Drozd speaking to MLive reporters this summer.

"'88 was the worst drought anyone had ever seen. Until now. Now this one's the worst."

All of Michigan's counties were declared disaster areas. Nationally, it was the third most expensive disaster in U.S. history.

Plus, it came with some of the hottest days and worst air pollution Detroit has ever seen... and a bumper crop of West Nile virus.

If all of this makes you feel uneasy, meteorologist Jeff Masters says he's hearing that a lot.

"Something is up with the weather. Absolutely. You don't have to be a meteorologist to know that."

He says Michigan's climate has reached a sort of tipping point.

"I think we've moved into a new climate regime. I mean, the climate that I knew growing up is no longer our climate. We've moved to a new, higher energy climate."

Masters says that means more extremes on both ends: massive droughts and frequent storms.

So when it comes to extreme weather, 2013 just might give 2012 a run for its money.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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