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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s the time of year when the decorations at stores slowly start flipping from Halloween to Christmas and the trees can’t seem to keep as many of their leaves.

Winter is right around the corner, and the past decade has dealt West Michigan some doozies.

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Most winters pack a decent punch here in the Mitten due to our latitude and the fact that we have Lake Michigan just upstream to throw us clouds and snow. 

No two winters are ever exactly the same in West Michigan. Still, the data and records allow us to figure out “average” numbers to show us what we usually see each year.

  • Grand Rapids usually sees about 74.9 inches of snow each season. The most Grand Rapids has seen was 116 inches in 2013-2014. The least is 47.6 inches in 1986-1987.
  • Muskegon usually sees about 90.6 inches of snow each season. The highest amount was 148.2 inches in 2008-2009. The least was 51.2 inches back in 2001-2002.
  • Battle Creek usually sees 57.8 inches of snow. The most it saw was 97.5 inches in 2006-2007. The least was 31.2 inches in 1990-1991.
  • Big Rapids usually sees 62.4 inches of snow. The most was 101.6 inches in 2013-2014. The least was 37.6 inches in 1994-1995.
  • Ionia usually sees 52.8 inches of snow. The most it saw was 74.2 inches in 2007-2008. The least was 31.4 inches in 2011-2012.
  • Lansing usually sees 50.9 inches of snow. The most was 73.7 in 2004-2005. The least was 30.2 inches in 2012-2013.
  • Jackson usually sees 37.6  inches of snow. The most was 67.2 inches in 1996-1997. The least was 17.7 inches in 1986-1987.

This year’s forecast is going to be finicky. There aren’t any big, clear, strong signals that will steer our days towards warmer or colder. Instead, we will watch several small influences impact our weather. 


Meteorologists and climatologists look at dozens of factors when determining what an upcoming winter will hold. 


Each year the snow in Siberia stacks up at a different rate. The more the snow stacks up early in the year, the faster the air over the poles can become bitterly cold. Early Siberian snowpack, or a lot of it, usually links to a cooler than average winter season for West Michigan.


This fluctuation between pressure and temperature over the Arctic Ocean controls the latitude of the Polar Jet Stream from day to day and week to week. When the Polar Jet Stream sinks well below West Michigan, we can see big blasts of cold air. 


 A La Nina or El Nino phase of ENSO, the El Nino Southern Oscillation, can influence an entire winter season, unlike the Arctic Oscillation, which can influence how a few days or weeks will shake out. This teleconnection pattern is derived from ocean temperatures and pressure differences from near the equator between Australia and South America. Changes in the water temperature there can have big impacts on our Jet Stream’s over-all location. An El Nino year usually gives us warmer weather and a La Nina typically gives West Michigan cooler, snowier winters. 


Water temperatures that are warmer than usual or colder than usual can also influence our jet stream. A warm pool of water south of Alaska can create a dip in the jet stream down stream over the US. 

These are just a handful of factors. There are many more. The delicate balance between them will come together like a recipe to cook up whatever winter awaits us for 2018-2019.



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