Frequently Asked Questions about JohnDee.com

Q. - Who are you?

A. - Well, my name really is John Dee and I am a private meteorologist.  What that means is that I provide custom weather forecasts to persons looking for a higher end and hopefully more accurate forecast than they can get for free from places like the National Weather Service and media.  A little more information about me can be found in the About John section of the site.  The one thing I would like to make clear is that I am NOT RETIRED!!!  I maintain this site in addition to my full time job responsibilities.  Since those other responsibilities pay my bills, I need to tend to them first.  As a result, this site may not be updated all the time.  But then again, it is free!

Q. - John, your forecasts are generally pretty close, but it seems like you might be a little optimistic on the amounts at times.  Am I just imagining that?

A.- Well, let me first say that I am pretty conservative by nature and that carries over into my forecasting style.  I usually do not put a ton of emphasis on the "wild card" possibilities of a weather forecast- just to try and be in the spotlight .  I find the weather generally exciting enough without having to hype it.  However, I am a snow lover and want snow to fall on me, or by me as much as anyone else.  Because of that, you may find my snowfall forecasts to be a little on the optimistic side.  I am aware of my optimism for snow and try and filter that out of my forecasts, but it is very hard!  So if you find my forecasts a little optimistic, that is the reason. Another thing to keep in mind that the 5-10 day forecast is for a 6 day period, almost a full weeks time period. So when you see areas of the UP painted in Pink in the winter, that means a foot of snow is possible in a weeks time. Pretty close to average for the lake snow belts of the UP all winter long.  

Q. - Sometimes when I go to the different pages on the site, they are not updated, even by late in the day.  Is it me?  Or you?

A. - The honest answer to that question is it could be both.  There are times when my full time paying job keeps me too busy to be able to update items on this site.  It is rare, but can happen.  It may also be the way you have your browser set to handle viewing pages.  To see the freshest page every time you need to set your browser to load that page fresh every time you visit.  There are tips on how to set that up here.

Q. - I love the snow cover maps, but sometimes they are not updated or do not show how much snow is on the ground in areas I am interested in.  Is there places I can go on the internet to get additional snow cover data?

A. - As mentioned in the first question, I am not retired.  Sometimes my full time job keeps me too busy to be able to update everything on the site.  I usually choose the snow cover maps for two reasons.  1) They usually do not change all that dramatically from one day to another and 2) Most of the data that I use to create my custom snow cover maps can be found in my links section, so you can go there to see how much snow is on the ground for a particular location if my maps do not have what you are looking for.

Q.- How often does the snow get cleared from the platform?

A. Every morning.

Q.- I see tracks in the snow by the snow station, what are they?

A.  Early in the winter, the tracks are from deer that roam the property. Once the snow gets deep, the deer "yard up" and any tracks after that are from me clearing snow off the satellite or snow station. 

Q.- Sometimes it looks like you have piled snow up around the snow gauge, am I seeing things, or is that true?  And if so, why, are you trying to make it look like more snow is on the ground that is really there?

A.-  One thing you can always count on me to do is to never lie about how much snow is on the ground up here.  I feel that one of the main reasons why the site is getting over 10 million hits a month is because the visitors know they can trust what I say.  Thus, I think the worst thing I can do is to ever lie or misrepresent the snow conditions up here.  Now, with that said, I do throw snow up against the snow gauge from time to time.  The reason for that is because the snow gauge will either block out the snow from falling directly against it or the winds will swirl around the gauge and cause a depression to form in the snow right against the gauge.  I will throw snow into the depression to bring it up to the same level of the snow around it, taking care to use loose snow so that it will compact at roughly the same rate as the surrounding snow.  Also, if I ever throw too much snow in there, then I make sure to remove enough so that it is level with the surrounding snow. 
As a side note to this, I will from time to time take pictures of the trails and post them to show the general conditions.  However, I do not get too much into reporting trail conditions because they change on a daily basis and on weekends on an hourly basis.  I have ridden down a trail Saturday morning on flat and great snow only to return that afternoon on 1-2 foot moguls.  So please refrain from asking me what conditions are like.  Anything I tell you could be completely different in just a few hours.

Q.- Your historical weather page says you have picked up 10" of snow in the past 2 days, but yet your snowcover has only increased by 3, what gives?

A.-  The majority of the snow we see in the Keweenaw is Lake Effect.  It is very light and fluffy because it is composed mainly of air.  After a period of time, gravity will cause the snow to settle and squish much of the air out of the snow.  I have found that lake effect snow generally settles at a rate of about 6:1, meaning that over time, 6" of lake effect snow will settle to about 1".  Much of the settling takes place in the first 24-36 hours after falling and then slows down over the next few days and may take up to a week to finally settle completely.  The settling process is why we can have over 20 feet of snow fall in a season, but yet have only 4-5 feet on the ground.

Q.- Does a cold or warm summer/autumn give us a better chance of a warm or cold winter?

A.- The honest answer to that is no.  However, I will say this:  The weather does like to balance things out in the long term.  By this I mean if a location has been running significantly above average in temperature for an extended period of time (a few months or more), then there are better than average chances that the weather pattern will flip in an attempt to balance things out.  Sometimes this flip comes at a time which matches up with the season and sometimes the flip will happen halfway through the season. Think of it this way- No drought lasts forever, no heat wave lasts for ever and no cold spell lasts for ever.  Seasons can be hot or cold, dry or wet, but years are usually not significantly warmer or wetter than average.  Over time, Mother Nature always likes to balance out the score.
To make this a little more clear, lets look at an example:  Let's say that the temperatures from October through December 15th have been above by a meaningful amount.  My "balance things out" theory would say that it cannot stay warm forever and eventually things will need to go the other way to balance the temperature equation out.  This does not mean that temps from Dec 16 through all of Jan and Feb will be below average.  The below average temps might not arrive by the end of Jan or end of Feb or perhaps even the end of March, but sooner or later the weather will flip and things will cool off.  The timing is what is important.  Timing is everything EH?
So in a nutshell, a warm summer or autumn or both does not automatically mean the winter will be warm or cold.  But the longer a region sees one weather anomaly occur, the better the chances become that the weather will flip flop to balance out the score card.

Q.- Is there a connection between warm temps on the Great Lakes and more than average Lake Effect Snow?

A.- The first thing to keep in mind is that the most important ingredient for LES (other than the lake being free of ice) is the atmosphere providing conditions suitable for LES cloud and snow development.  No matter how warm the water might be, if you do not have the ingredients in the atmosphere available to make LES, it will not form!
As for the answer to the question at hand...I cannot speak for all the Great Lakes, but it has been my experience that no matter what the Lake Superior temps are in the summer and autumn, by around Christmas time they are always sitting around 34-38 degrees. The big storms that occur in the autumn and early winter will stir up the lake and bring colder water up from below.  Plus, the cold nights in November and December cool the lake off too. I suppose there can always be an odd year, and the lake could remain warmer than average into the depths of winter, but I have seen some very warm Lake Superior surface temps and by Christmas they were 34-38 degrees.
So the bottom line is: If you want lots of LES to occur off Lake Superior, pay more attention to the atmosphere than the lake temps!