*Updated 4/6/15 - Colder than Normal Weather To Persist Into the Middle of Next Week

Updated 4/6/15

Opening Day Friday; very cold with snow showers likely

Really not much change in my forecast from last weekend as far as temperatures with readings in the 30s for the game. Given the strength of the cold air forecasted on another blast of  Arctic air Friday into Saturday; there now is the likelihood of snow showers as this colder air pushes across the Great Lakes Friday afternoon and evening which could leave a light accumulation on grassy surfaces. Another reinforcement of cold air will arrive early next week, generally keeping temperatures below normal.

The more sun of course, the warmer the temperatures will rise through the 30s on Friday during the Tiger's game but again, dress for an outdoor hockey game!

And if you think this is bad:
On today's date way back in 1886, Detroit received its biggest snowfall!
By: William R Deedler, Southeast Michigan Weather Historian

Initially, I had intended to write about Detroit's biggest snowstorm ever recorded (24.5") but while researching the storm (which occurred way back on April 6th, 1886), I was struck by the uncanny similarities between that storm and Detroit's second biggest snowstorm (19.3") which occurred nearly a century later on December 1st, 1974. Besides the obvious similar snowfall amount between the two systems, other significant parallels could also be drawn. In addition,  while I was obviously not around to observe the first huge storm, I did have the opportunity to witness the second first-hand, in my earliest days with the National Weather Service. Unfortunately, weather maps for the1886 storm are unavailable, unlike the 1974 storm (below). With the aid of surface observations and weather journals however, at least an estimate of the surface and upper air data can be made. Perusing through the carefully scrolled weather journals of the late 1800's, one can't help but be amazed and "taken back" by the simplistic, yet stylish way of which they were written. In addition to hourly weather observations and climatic statistics, each day contains usually a short synopsis of the weather experienced for that day. It is the weather logs from late on April 5th - April 7th, 1886 that really commands ones attention and awe.
APRIL 1886 -
By early April 1886, some residents of Southeast Lower Michigan had most likely started on spring outdoor activities. High temperatures frequently pushed well into the 50s from mid March on; the last hint of snow fell nearly two weeks before on the 23rd. No doubt the growing season's new green vegetation was well underway.
The weather days proceeding the massive and incredible snowstorm hinted little of what was yet to come; however, there were some subtle signs of trouble brewing. The first was a fresh, brisk northeast wind that blew continuously for nearly three days prior to 6th (generally, an easterly wind along with a falling barometer in this region, foretells of foul weather approaching the area). On the 4th into the 5th, observations including temperatures, wind flow and pressure changes indicated an unseasonably cold high pressure system pushing slowly into Southern Canada and the Northern Great Lakes. This persistent and strengthening northeast wind along with an extended period of steady, then slowly falling barometric pressure, during the three-day period (3rd, 4th and 5th), indicates this high was a fairly strong, resilient and a blocking type of high pressure. A second and more foreboding sign of what was to come was indeed a rapidly falling barometric pressure later on the 5th, which foretold of the major storm approaching Southeast Lower Michigan. The surface observations late on the 5th indicated a low pressure and storm center approaching the Southern Great Lakes from the south or southwest (most likely from Illinois, Indiana or Ohio) as the cold high to the north slowly retreated.
The afternoon high on the 5th reached only 38 degrees (about 15 degrees below normal) and then held nearly steady into the evening. Increasing high cirrostratus clouds mingled with the sunset but then, quickly lowered to altostratus and nimbostratus as midnight approached. Light snow began to fly just after midnight and remained light until becoming heavy during the predawn hours. Note the following taken from the actual Detroit Weather Log dated April 6th, 1886:
"Snow began at 12:30 AM and fell light until about 4:30 AM when it began to fall heavy and a tremendous fall of snow continued all day, ending at 9:00 PM. The fall at 7:00 AM was 4.6" and at 3:00 PM was 17.1" and at 11:00 PM, 2.4" making the total of 24.1 inches melted from the snow gauge. The rain gauge was soon snowed full and was practically useless. Total fall of the snow on the level was 24.5 inches. The snow was badly drifted by the heavy gale. The drifts in some places were 12 feet high and the snow in the street was from 10" to 40" inches deep. A heavy north gale set in at 1:45 AM and raged in fury all day reaching 40 miles north at 2:15 PM and continued all the remainder of the day. Its force with the snow was appalling. It blew the snow in fine particles against the face, cutting like a knife."
The synopsis continues with a description of numerous street cars that were abandoned, strewn about and laying in all sorts of positions. As one might expect with the snow falling in April, the snow contained a high water content (2.43") and, therefore, it was very heavy and packed down well. Obviously, wading through the snow to get around on foot was extremely difficult - so much so that it became necessary to use crowbars and ice picks just to clean a path on the street. Maneuvering through, or just moving the snow, was such a monumental chore that even several ton railroad cars were "held prisoner in their houses". On the train tracks, freight cars were immobilized and abandoned across all of Southeast Lower Michigan. Temperatures held in the upper 20s to around 30 through the entire snowfall, with over two feet of snow reported on the ground. The strong northeast to north gale sculptured towering drifts of snow up to 12 feet high across the landscape .The howling wind averaged over 30 mph during the 24 hour period. The lowest barometric pressure reading noted was 29.60 inches at 11:00 AM on the 6th. This reading isn't too terribly deep or severe (the lowest pressure ever observed in Detroit was 28.34 inches during the late January blizzard of 1978), but the pressure was taken only five times daily (7:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM, 7:00 PM and 11:00 PM), so it likely fell lower As the center of the low pressure drifted further north into the Great Lakes on the 7th, milder air from the south was drawn into Southeast Lower Michigan. The sky cleared as the wind shifted to the south and the temperature rose to 40 degrees, in spite of the very heavy snow cover. In the days following the storm, temperatures managed to push up well into the 50s and even reached the mid 70s by mid month, after all, this was April, right?
This storm stands as Detroit's biggest and severest snowstorm and is well summarized by the following quote in the journal and actually would still stand to this day. . .
"The storm was unprecedented in fierceness, snowfall and blockades in the history of the service and the oldest inhabitants can recall nothing to equal it".

Previous Blog

March 2016

March averaged well above normal at near six degrees above normal across Southeast Lower Michigan along with one of the wettest; around 7th wettest when all climate sites are taken into account. The first week of April will start out much colder as the cold air that has been waiting to be exhausted from Canada makes its way down....and there's a lot up there.

Top 20 Coldest/Warmest Marches in Southeast Lower Michigan
Rank Detroit Area* Flint Bishop** Saginaw Area***
Coldest Warmest Coldest Warmest Coldest Warmest
Temp Year Temp Year Temp Year Temp Year Temp Year Temp Year
1 25.9 1877 50.7 2012 21.2 1960 49.5 2012 22.9 1960 48.0 2012
2 26.2 1960 47.9 1945 26.0 2014 46.0 1945 23.8 1912 45.1 1945
3 26.3 1900 46.1 1946 26.7 1978 44.6 1946 24.6 1916 41.9 1946
4 26.3 1885 44.0 2000 26.8 1984 41.8 2016 25.1 1978 41.8 1938
5 26.4 1912 44.0 1910 27.1 1965 41.4 1929 25.4 2014 41.4 2000
6 28.0 1875 43.3 1973 27.6 1940 41.3 2000 25.7 1926 40.7 1977
7 28.2 1906 43.1 2016 28.0 1950 41.3 1973 26.0 1923 40.5 1929
8 28.5 1895 42.5 1921 28.0 1947 40.8 1938 26.2 1950 39.4 2016
9 28.6 1940 42.4 2010 28.1 1996 40.4 1935 26.5 1965 39.4 2010
10 28.6 1888 41.6 1938 28.6 1932 40.1 1921 26.5 1940 39.2 1921

One of the problems of a El Nino, very mild winter is that while it basically keeps the door locked on the refrigerated cold air up in Canada and North Pole; when El Nino weakens, that cold air generally is exhausted in some fashion and somewhere. We began to see some of that during the second part of the winter in January and February as intermittent blasts kept temperatures departures just a few degrees above normal unlike December's double digit positive values. Look for the Winter 2015-16 Review when snowfall ceases to fly. While March did have its cold times, a notable warm spell mid month slammed the door shut once again; so now paybacks...

Looking at March's Maps:

Ave Temps                                                                                            Departures



                                                                                                             Percent of Normal 

Snowfall totals                                                                                   Percent of Norm


What's really interesting about March is that even though temperatures averaged well above normal; snowfall averaged normal to well above normal, not an easy feat but it does happen.  Some notable storms churned up during the month when Arctic air came a-calling and tried to reclaim its territory.  As the snow maps (above) and snowiest data (below) depicts the Saginaw Valley and Thumb Region received well above normal snowfall.    

Rank Detroit Area* Flint Bishop** Saginaw Area***
Snowiest Snowless Snowiest Snowless Snowiest Snowless
Total Year Total Year Total Year Total Year Total Year Total Year
1 30.2 1900 0.0 2010 19.4 1965 0.0 1945 27.5 1971 0.0 1946
2 24.1 1899 0.0 1946 18.9 1932 0.6 1946 21.7 1973 0.0 1981
3 21.8 1881 0.1 1910 18.3 1954 0.7 2010 19.3 1947 0.0 1945
4 21.0 2008 0.1 1903 17.7 1996 0.9 2012 18.5 1972 0.2 1990
5 21.0 1916 0.1 1880 16.8 1971 1.0 1953 17.4 1912 0.5 1927
6 15.8 1912 0.2 1991 16.3 1947 1.0 1936 15.3 1928 0.7 2009
7 15.7 1993 0.2 2012 16.0 1975 1.1 1938 14.9 2016 1.0 2010
8 15.5 1954 0.2 1905 14.4 1999 1.2 1991 14.6 2002 1.0 1987
9 14.7 1904 0.3 1945 14.4 1992 1.3 1949 14.4 1932 1.0 1921
10 14.6 1930 0.4 1961 14.3 1973 1.7 1924 14.2 1999 1.3 1942

On to the first week of April; The Cold Air Floodgates Open  

Some strong to powerful upper energy short waves and attending cold Arctic air masses are slated to arrive in waves this first week of April and possibly, even as far ahead as mid April.


Round One 

Saturday; 4/2 Arctic Front Arrives - Update snow amounts on Fri evening guidance

A strong blast of Arctic air for April will surge through the region Saturday afternoon and evening. You'll have no problem being alerted by its arrival on impressive winds and falling temperatures. Look for winds of 20 to 30 mph to gust up into the 40+ mph and be accompanied by rain and snow showers changing to all snow and snow squalls as the afternoon wears on into the evening. Temperatures starting out the day rising into the lower to mid 40s will chill into the lower 30s by later afternoon and evening. Overnight lows will fall into the 20s across the entire region. Less than an inch is expected due to the systems quick movement and warmer grounds south of a Detroit to Ann Arbor line. Best snowfalls will be north of that line where 1 - 3" of snow will be possible in a quick burst of snow and snow squalls across the north and central portions of Southeast Lower Michigan. 

Round 2

Sunday: 4/3

A healthy Alberta Clipper will be taking aim on the southern Great Lakes with snow, or rain and snow mixed as she races toward Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio by Sunday afternoon and evening. This system has the potential to bring a decent accumulating snowfalls across much of the region especially north of an Ann Arbor - Detroit line. More on this system as better data is available Saturday and Saturday night in an update. As of now; 2-4" of snow are possible across the northern half of Southeast Lower Michigan with isolated heavier in the Thumb Region and an inch or less across far northwest and northern suburbs of Detroit. around Ann Arbor - Detroit south; rain and snow showers. The track of this system is crucial for snowfall pattern and amounts since just south of the system; little if any is expected. Temperatures will pop briefly into the upper 30s to mid 40s ahead of this system Sunday.

After this system moves through, high temperatures will struggle through the 30s and into the lower to mid 40s early next week. Overnight lows in the teens and 20s (locally colder) will be possible, especially with any snow cover.

Round 3

Look for a rebound of temperatures through the 40s into the 50s by mid week before the next reinforcement of colder air arrives mainly Thursday. Rain showers Wednesday may change to snow showers Thursday.

Updated 4/3/16!

Opening Day Friday; very cold but dry?

As incredible as it sounds; the GFS is predicting temperatures around 20 degrees for Friday's game as of Sunday (4/3). And what's more, it's been consistently calling for 20s or teens for days this far ahead. I feel of course it is too low BUT 30s certainly look very reasonable given the strength of the cold air forecasted. At least it still is dry but with that cold of air, at least partly cloudy conditions will prevail. The more sun of course, the warmer the temperatures will rise through the 30s.  Dress for an outdoor hockey game!

Look for updates if needed as these projected weather patterns evolve.

Making weather fun while we all learn,
Bill Deedler -SEMI_WeatherHistorian

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