Detroit weather record could support warming

Published December 1, 2000

Do fossil fuels create greenhouse gases that warm the atmosphere and cause weather extremes and severe storms? Let’s look at the record for Detroit, Michigan, and see if the evidence supports this theory.

’16. Ice formed every month of the year. But just six years later, the weather was so mild that flowers bloomed in mid-winter and a ship was able to cross Lake Erie in mid-January. In May of the following year, there was a foot of snow on the ground.

’26. Unseasonably warm weather caused grass to grow a foot high in January.

’45. Small ships were able to cross Lake Erie and reach Detroit every month of the entire winter.

’56. The Detroit area experienced frosts every month, including heavy ones on July 3 and 4 that ruined fruit and vegetable crops.

’68-’70. Turbulent weather continued to whipsaw Detroit. The area experienced six snowstorms during April of ’68, the last one on the 25th. Heavy snowstorms hit the area a year later on April 13, and again on October 23—with frosts in between on August 17, 18, and 19. The ensuing winter was so bitter that piled-up ice in the St. Claire Flats was still 10 feet high on April 26 of ’70. Little rain fell all summer in ’69, kicking off a severe three-year drought that led to horrible forest fires in September and October three years later.

’73-’75. On January 29 of ’73, the temperature ranged from 18 below to 35 below zero Fahrenheit. In ’74, ice formed on May 7—but the next month the temperature hit 98 degrees. And in ’75, after another bitterly cold winter, a tornado roared through Detroit on June 27, killing two persons.

’76-’77. Ice in the Detroit River was already a foot thick in December. Mid-month gales piled up river ice and snow into a scene reminiscent of Antarctica. A month later, in mid-January, a snowstorm paralyzed the city. But early February produced extraordinary warmth. Then on March 20th, Detroit was hit by heavy snowfall accompanied by lightning that set off the City Hall bell.

’77-’78. The temperatures a year later were incredibly warm—the first ice didn’t form on the river until February 9, and the winter’s first snow fell on February 11. But the summer of ’78 was torrid. For a week in July the temperatures ranged up to 100 degrees.

’78-’79. All through January and February, the temperature stayed above freezing. But a frost occurred on June 17. On August 1, a thunderstorm produced walnut-sized hail.

Proof positive that global warming causes violent and extreme weather? Before you conclude the radical environmentalists must be right, note that all these events occurred in the nineteenth century: between 1816 and 1879!

Based on an article by freelance writer Daniel Hager, published in the June 20, 1998 issue of the Detroit News. The cited weather data were collected from History of Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan, by Silas Farmer, published in 1890.