Warm spring thrills residents, alarms farmers

By Marina Csomor
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

INGHAM COUNTY — Farmer Dave Wyrick doesn’t trust this unseasonably warm weather.

Michigan apple farmers are worried that the recent warm weather, which already is causing their trees to bud, will soon return to cold and reduce their annual crop.

Although many mid-Michigan residents recently have been enjoying the sunshine, Wyrick can’t help but fear that in a state where it has been known to snow in April, a cold spell is just around the corner.

“There’s every chance that (snowfall) could happen,” said Wyrick, who runs St.Johns-based Wyrick’s Orchard.

In recent weeks, weather in the state has been running about 30 degrees above what residents typically experience in March — the average temperature for this time of year usually is in the mid-40s, said John Kowaleski, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids.

And on March 20, the first official day of spring, the National Weather Service’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and highs in the mid-70s in Ingham County.
Kowaleski said the weather is unseasonably warm because the jet stream, which oscillates north and south and usually is almost above Michigan in March, is over central Canada. Michiganders have been able to enjoy warm air that usually is in the Gulf Coast states at this time of year.

Ingham County resident and Michigan State University advertising junior Ann Keller, who has been running outside in the warm weather, initially was shocked by the summery sunshine.

“It’s unexpected,” Keller said. “March usually is really cold and freezing.”

But the heat and humidity that are needed to create storms, usually absent in the state in winter, have begun to surface.

“Normally we’re not talking too much severe weather in March,” Kowaleski said. “But with this warm weather, it changes things.”

And because Michigan has been known to experience cool temperatures and even snowfall as late as April, Kowaleski said residents must be ready for another freeze.

“There’s certainly that potential,” Kowaleski said. “That cold air is still there.”

The possibility of dramatic temperature fluctuation is a threat to local agriculture.

“If I were a full-time farmer making my living off of this, I would be extremely worried,” Wyrick said.

Plants that sprout annually, such as Wyrick’s apple trees and other fruit trees, are at risk of damage if this weather again turns cold. March’s warm air has incited trees to bud early, and if a hard frost hits, buds will drop off and farmers could lose a significant portion of their yearly crop, Kowaleski said.

“People are enjoying this, but for fruit producers, this is maybe their worst nightmare,” Kowaleski said.

But for those who aren’t area farmers, the sunny skies have been a dream come true. Although Keller enjoys eating Michigan produce, she said she wouldn’t trade having such unseasonably warm weather this month.

“It makes me happy,” Keller said. “I like spring. It’s because it’s like everything’s changing. I like to be warm.”

Despite his crop concerns, Wyrick said he realizes he cannot stress about weather he can’t control. Like Keller, he will try to enjoy the weather in whatever way he can.

“What I’ve learned over the years is you take it as it comes because you can’t do anything about it,” Wyrick said.

Share

Comments Off

Filed under Weather

Comments are closed.