GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The “heat wave” of March 2012 is one of the epic weather oddities in West Michigan history. Average high temperatures were in the mid-40s and we had temperatures from the mid-70s to mid-80s for nine consecutive days.
I had March 20 off and I took my kayak to Gun Lake, paddling around the lake and then west swimming at the beach for a few minutes. I had a thermometer with me and got a water temperature at the beach of 64 degrees.
The warmest day was the 21st. The high temperature of 87 degrees was 40 degrees warmer than average. That was the highest above-average of any day in Grand Rapids history.
Another incredible oddity, one day Traverse City had a low temperature of 67 degrees. That was higher than the previous record high temperature for the date.
That month averaged 15.1 degrees warmer than normal. We had the earliest 80 degrees on March 14. There were nine record high temperatures that month and 10 record warm low temperatures.
There were five days that reached at least 80 degrees. In all of the other years in Grand Rapids’ history (records go back to the late 1800s), there have only been three other days when the temperature has reached 80 degrees.
The Heat Wave covered much of North America. The temperature reached 86 degrees at Lake Major, Nova Scotia in eastern Canada.
Forty-five of the 48 contiguous states were warmer than average in March 2012. Only Washington State was cooler than average. Twenty-three states had their warmest March ever.
While many people liked the early summertime weather, it was a disaster for the fruit industry. The warm air brought the blossoms out way too soon and they were hit by several frosts. The worst was a record-tying low temperature of 28 degrees on April 29.
According to Michigan State University, apricot bloom began on March 17, 2012. The trees were quickly in full bloom. Van Buren County has an average bloom of April 18. Peach bloom began and reached full bloom for many varieties on March 21, 2012. Van Buren County’s average bloom date is April 27. For plums, Japanese plums reached full bloom on March 19, 2012. The Van Buren County average bloom date is April 21.
Fortunately, since 2012, we’ve had a nice string of good years for Michigan fruit growers. There are benefits to keeping it cool at this time of year, including keeping the blossoms from coming out too soon and keeping the severe weather to our south in the warmer air (remember we had the EF-3 Dexter, Michigan, tornado on March 15, 2012).