West Michigan climate ‘normals’ wetter, warmer — and snowier

Weather News

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Climatologically speaking, “normal” will look a little different this year. 

Every decade, the National Centers for Environmental Information releases new U.S Climate Normals. Those figures are based off 30 years of data, including climate variables like temperatures, precipitation and snowfall. This helps give a baseline of the most recent climate information. 

For the past decade, the climatological averages used by meteorologists have been based off data from 1981 to 2010. With 2020 behind us, scientists were able to compute a new set of normals using the data from 1991 to 2020. 

Much of the country saw a warming trend from 1981 to 2010 to 1991 to 2020. The northern Great Plains region was one of the only areas in the United States that saw a cooling trend. 

More precipitation than the climate period prior was also observed across most of the U.S. Drier conditions were observed in the Southwest part of the country, while the Northeast, Midwest, and northern Great Plains region saw more precipitation. 

In West Michigan, our new climate normals are wetter and warmer. 

When it comes to winter, there are some interesting differences between the old and new climate period. Using the most recent climate data, Grand Rapids now has a higher average annual snowfall. Temperatures over the winter are warmer on average and the average amount of precipitation is now higher. 

The average annual snowfall in Grand Rapids jumped from 74.9 inches during the 1981 to 2010 climate period to 77.6 inches in the 1991 to 2020 period. That’s an increase of 2.7 inches. 

Not all climate sites in Michigan will have a higher average annual snowfall beginning this year. The average annual snowfall in Lansing was previously 51.1 inches and it’s now 50.2 inches. Muskegon also saw a decrease in average annual snow totals, from 93.7 inches to 87.2 inches.

Winter temperatures have warmed up from the last climate period to the current one. Using the months of meteorological winter (December, January, and February), the average temperature in Grand Rapids was 33.1 degrees from 1981 to 2010. It warmed up .5 degrees to 33.6 degrees in the 1991 to 2020 climate period. December had the largest increase in temperature, warming 1.3 degrees with data from the past decade. 

More precipitation has also become normal in West Michigan. The average precipitation through meteorological winter was 6.38 inches in the old 30-year period, and it has now increased to 7.12 inches. This means meteorological winter now has .74 inches more precipitation. 

Data will continue to be collected and in a decade, we’ll have a new set of climate variables that are considered normal.

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