2016-2017 West Michigan Winter Outlook

What does winter have in store for west Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - November is here, and thoughts of snow and preparing for the winter season are on your mind. So, how brutal or tame will the winter months be for West Michigan?

Chief Meteorologist George Lessens has compiled the 2016-2017 winter outlook, and winter lovers, the upcoming months look more promising than last year. 

Let's first take a look at average winter data and how last year compared.

On average, Grand Rapids has a winter temperature of 26.8°F and a snowfall of 74.9" (based on the 30-year average from 1981-2010).

Last year, the average temperature was 31.5° (the 7th warmest winter on record!) and the average snowfall was 61.1". 

The reason for the warmer, less snowy winter? El Niño. 

El Niño is the warming of a a band ocean water in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific, which typically causes a milder winter in the Midwest, and is just one of the many factors that can influence the climate throughout a long-term forecast.

This year, several factors like the Arctic Oscillation, Arctic sea ice, and La Niña.

Let's start with the Arctic Oscillation, which is currently causing colder temperatures and more snow cover in Siberia.

This snow cover paired with below-normal Arctic sea ice will create an area of high pressure over Siberia, leading to a weaker Polar Vortex. When the Polar Vortex is weak, it can easily be lobbed farther south by the jet stream, into eastern North America. That spells cold temperatures and snow for us!

Lastly, a weak La Niña is expected this winter, which is the opposite of last year's El Niño pattern, and traditionally means a cooler winter. 


Weighing all these factors together, here are the numbers George has come up with for Grand Rapids:

  • Slightly colder than average temperatures (25.6°F, or 1.2°F cooler than average)
  • Above average snowfall (85", or 10" more than average)

For the 13 On Target forecast, head here.

(© 2016 WZZM)


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