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Government shutdown impacts forecasting of lake effect snow

The government shutdown is impacting thousands of people and agencies right here in the Northland, but it also has its hands on how our weather is forecast.

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Duluth are emergency essential federal employees, meaning they’ve been working without pay for the last 33 days.

However, missed paychecks haven’t been their only concern. According to Linda Engebretson, a union steward for the National Weather Service, an agency in Michigan that monitors ice coverage on the Great Lakes isn’t operating during the shutdown.

That means meteorologists at the National Weather Service don’t have exact data showing how much ice is covering the water, which makes it harder to forecast lake effect snow.

With these brutally cold temperatures expected this week, Engebretson said things might get even more confusing.

“As soon as we develop more ice on the lake, it’s going to be hard to tell where the lake effect snow is going to start and stop,” Engebretson said. “As we build more ice down here at the tip of the lake, sometimes we get less lake effect snow out here, and it’s going to be hard to tell when that’s going to start happening.”

National Weather Service meteorologists also rely on models to create their forecasts. One model they rely on for day-to-day forecasting, called the G-F-S model, isn’t being monitored during the shutdown.

Some experimental models also aren’t being monitored, meaning certain research isn’t being recorded.

Briggs LeSavage

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