Analysis — UP scientists, businesses expect lingering effects after warm winter season

CHANGING SEASONS — As Marquette heads into summer, some experts say the implications of this warm winter could be long-lasting.
CHANGING SEASONS — As Marquette heads into summer, some experts say the implications of this warm winter could be long-lasting.
Emily Radke

The winter season of 2024 in Marquette has been anything but predictable. The unfamiliar warm front that has been taking control of the better part of the Upper Peninsula’s winter has led to many professionals in the field, such as meteorologists, environmental scientists and outdoor recreational specialists, being highly concerned and alarmed about what could be to follow.

As Marquette heads into its summer season, some of the implications of this warm winter could be long-lasting and damaging, according to professionals such as Chief Meteorologist for TV6 Jennifer Perez. 

Adding to these concerns, she explained the importance of the usual snowpack for residents of the Upper Peninsula, as well as how the lack of it could be harmful. The snow usually helps replenish the groundwater systems and restore the moisture in the plants in the area.

“As we continue into summer, there could be a very early, and probably more intense, wildfire season,” Perez said.

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In years past, throughout Marquette and the Upper Peninsula, residents have begun to notice the wildfire problem becoming more obviously prominent and dangerous. The temperatures of this winter have shown experts no signs of hope for easing the issues surrounding the potential for fires in this year’s upcoming summer.

Without the presence of the area’s moisture-heavy winter, experts such as Perez are beginning to grow more and more fearful for the upcoming months. 

Those within similar environmental fields also fear what it could entail for the Upper Peninsula and other areas throughout the country.

“The change in weather that the U.P. is currently facing is truly alarming,” said Aliyah Smukala, an NMU environmental science graduate and a scientist for Apex Companies. “These changes are happening everywhere around the world, and while it’s easy to dwell on what is currently taking place, it’s better for the environment and the population as a whole if we start caring more about what the Earth provides for us and how we can start providing back.”

This winter has been eye-opening for many, thus making it easier than ever for the public to grasp the changes in the climate patterns, as well as the consequences that are likely to follow. 

Over past years, specialists have begun noticing temperatures during winter continuously surpassing the previous years’ records, and this year is no exception. 

Should these changes progress without any preventative actions being taken, scientists such as Smukala believe that serious issues globally could be expected in the near future.

In an effort to encourage more people to be a part of the solution, Perez suggested that the residents of Marquette and the surrounding areas should focus on noticing the changes in their usual weather conditions and being an active part of the solutions.

“We need to be mindful of what we’re doing,” Perez said. “We need to be careful about where we are putting out our cigarette butts… and avoid doing any kind of brush burning.”

Perez also stressed the need to be extra cautious because the low snowpack has led to the area’s greenery being very dry, which could be perfect conditions for deadly fires to start.

The warm season has caused a variety of inconveniences within the community as well, such as the town’s ski hill struggle and low sales of winter equipment. 

The amount of snow and ice the Upper Peninsula typically plans for in the cold season makes it a popular location for outdoor activities like snowboarding, downhill and cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and more. 

However, the warm temperatures have been causing many to rethink such activities this winter, thus affecting the businesses that operate within them.

“The winter we’ve had, or the non-winter we’ve had, affected us drastically,” said Kaet Johnson, general manager of Marquette Mountain Ski Resort. “Many chose not to come thinking we didn’t have snow, or didn’t have coverage, or conditions were poor.”

Johnson urged people to continue to seek out businesses that thrive in the winter season.

“Just because they have grass in their yards or it’s a nice day, they’d rather go biking or something, which I totally get those choices,” Johnson said. “It, however, drastically affects those businesses who have a short window anyways to be open and make revenue and employ people.”

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