While students sporting shorts in January would typically be susceptible to frostbite, unreasonably warm temperatures, which rose as high as 54 degrees on Tuesday, have led to the disrobing of layers a bit earlier than usual.
Frank Marsik, an associate research scientist at the University, credited the mild conditions to the La Niña climate pattern — a system in which low-pressure systems pull warm air north from the equator.
“We’ve been experiencing a La Niña for about a year and a half now,” Marsik said. “This should continue right into the springtime.”
Marsik said the La Niña trend has no connection to global warming, a term he said he feels is loosely thrown around in the media.
“Based on temperature gradients and how the earth is heated, when those temperatures change even by half a degree, we see changes in the weather,” Marsik said. “Global warming may be a long-term effect of these storm trends, and any one location may see changes in their weather patterns.”
The average high temperatures at Detroit Metro Airport was 30.7 degrees last month and the average low temperature was 17.8 degrees. These temperatures marked the 13th warmest January in Michigan since temperature recording began in 1880, according to AnnArbor.com.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts higher temperatures and wetter conditions for Ann Arbor in the next several months, said Marsik, adding that La Niña trends can last for over a year.
With warmer temperatures, Marsik suspected that plant operations for the University have been less costly this winter, because buildings may need to be heated less. According to the University’s Energy Management’s website, building space on campus in need of heating and power totals 30.6 million square feet.
Business sophomore Jon Lee said the warmer weather has positively impacted his daily life, especially on a campus where walking is the most common mode of transportation.
“Yesterday, I went out with only a light jacket,” Lee said. “And I actually enjoyed walking to class.”
As students find more opportunity to use their bicycles due to the milder conditions, University Department of Public Safety Officials noted at Friday’s crime meeting that bike thefts have been abnormally high this year as a result of the warmer weather.
—Daily Staff Reporter Andrew Schulman contributed to this report.