GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — I was out with my son the other day to get some ice cream and we heard thunder.
I commented to my son that I couldn’t recall the last time that I heard thunder. Bill Steffen and I also had a similar discussion. We both reflected that it was the longest stretch without a thunderstorm during spring that we could recall.
Here’s a photo from Andy Schut of a Tuesday thunderstorm near Gerald R. Ford International Airport. You can see the thunderstorm anvil overspreading a cumulus congestus cloud.
Before Tuesday, that last time Grand Rapids residents heard thunder was May 1. That’s 37 consecutive days without a thunderstorm.
Let’s break down how unusual this has been. Storm Team 8 meteorologist Ellen Bacca looked up a few fascinating lightning stats below.
The photo above shows one of the main ingredients that thunderstorms like, warm moisture-laden air.
Storm Team 8 meteorologist Ellen Bacca was also curious about the lack of storms around here and came up with this summary of lightning data:
In other words, we’ve seen 75% less lightning so far this year.
This makes sense considering the lack of thunderstorms. So far this year (through June 8), Grand Rapids has received five thunderstorms.
Now wrap your mind around this stat, which probably won’t be repeated in your lifetime: Between April 11 through June 7, 58 days, Grand Rapids recorded one lowly thunderstorm.
So I decided to do some simple math. An average thunderstorm typically lasts about an hour. If you take that number and divide it by the total number of hours so far this year (3,816) you come up with 0.1 %. Another words, the sky has been thunderstorm free 99.9% of the time.
As you might imagine, the thunderstorm drought has translated to a minimal amount of severe weather this year as well.
You have to look hard to find severe weather this year: There have been only two reports of severe weather across southwestern Lower Michigan and five total for Lower Michigan so far.
The Upper Peninsula has received nearly five times more reports than the Lower Peninsula, if you include the few severe reports that occurred June 9.
The tornado count has been down as well. The tiny EF-0 tornado in southern Kent County April 10 is the only one that has occurred in Lower Michigan since 2019. The tornado count is down nationally, as well.
The black line represents the number of tornadoes (over-count from SPC calculated in) through June 7, which is below the 25th percentile. There hasn’t been a single tornado reported in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin so far this year.
Though this week’s pattern has been conducive to thunderstorms, the setup — with a weak wind shear environment — usually doesn’t lead to much severe weather. According to the latest 8- to 14-day precipitation outlook through June 22, it appears the severe weather drought will continue.
Here’s a look at the U.S. severe weather probabilities for June 10 from the Storm Prediction Center.
Eventually, Storm Team 8 will have to dust off the cobwebs of the severe weather tools, as we’ve never made through an entire summer without severe weather.