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Michigan residents mourn loss of snow, fear for future as winters vanish

swimmer in the water
One visible sign of this year’s lackluster winter: A swimmer taking a dip in the open water of Lake Superior in February, when the shoreline is usually iced-over. (Bridge photo by Ryan Stephens)
  • Climate change is erasing Michigan winters, affecting the state’s culture, environment and economy
  • We asked readers how they’re grappling with the changes
  • Responses included a mix of sorrow, regret, and urgency

For Lynda Magirl, Michigan’s lost winter is a call to act on climate change, motivating her to install solar panels on her mid-Michigan home this year.

“We all need to do our part,” Magirl wrote in an email to Bridge Michigan.

For Jeff Smith, a Michigan transplant from California, it’s a welcome reprieve from the cold.


“Maybe winter defines native Michiganders,” Smith said, “but even after 50 of them, I can't wait until it goes away for good.”

This is the warmest winter on record in Michigan, and Bridge Michigan last week  documented what climate change means for the future of Michigan’s winters: less snow, more rain, and the slow disappearance of pastimes like snowmobiling and ice fishing. 


While the changes unfold, state, federal and international leaders are engaged in high-stakes debates about how to respond to the climate crisis. The outcome will help determine just how much warmer it gets. 

Bridge recently asked readers to share their thoughts on Michigan’s missing winter. Dozens responded. 

Some called it disturbing. Others said they fear for their kids. A handful celebrated.

We also heard from some readers who don’t believe the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change. Research shows they are increasingly in the minority.

Here’s what readers had to say: 

Charles Palmer, 70, of St. Clair Shores, lamented the loss of traditions that he grew up with in Detroit, from cross-country skiing to ice skating on Belle Isle and playing hockey in flooded backyards.

“It seems apparent that those winters are gone,” Palmer said, but his deeper fear is for the impact on ecosystems, including the explosion of pest populations that freezing winters have historically suppressed. 

As for Michigan’s abundant water, he said, “what is going to happen if the Southwest dries up?”

Jan Hurd said she misses the deep freezes that kept seasonal allergies at bay. “And the beauty of a snowy landscape can’t be beat,” she said.

Gary Roehl of Oscoda County said he is glad he sold his snowmobile a decade ago, when he first started noticing a decline in snowfall. These days, “you can’t give away a snowmobile up here anymore.”

Others said they worry about future generations: 

“An outdoor hockey game on a clear night or during a cold but sunny day is truly a special experience,” said Kate Brady-Medley, of Dearborn. “I’m so glad that my young players have had a chance to do it, but it makes me so sad that they will likely be among the last generation to do this.”

Ann Mullen, a parent from Grosse Pointe Park, expressed deeper concern about what dwindling northern winters mean for the rest of the planet — and for her children’s future.

“I am terrified for them,” she said.


Others lamented the early emergence of daffodils, robins, chipmunks and mosquitoes – all of which are well ahead-of-schedule this year. Some worried what it means for crops, especially fruit crops that can fail when a midwinter thaw causes blossoms to emerge prematurely.

Sandra Daenzer of Lapeer, said she fears a “domino effect” as climate change disrupts the seasonal cycles of plants and animals.

“The earth is resilient,” she said, “but any compromise to any system, compromises the whole.”

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