Does the chilly fall weather we've had mean an unusually cold or snowy Michigan winter is ahead?

Unlike our blistering hot and record-setting summer, the last month or so has featured a lot more cooler-than-average days than the other way around. Yesterday's heavy frost across much of southeast Michigan was also earlier than we normally see the growing season end.

But the jet stream pattern that has brought us this cool weather is forecast to start breaking down in the next few days.  Instead of upper-level winds driving cold air from Canada right into the eastern US, they will shift to a mostly west-to-east pattern, which usually brings warmer than normal weather to Michigan. 

This pattern shift will first be felt by us this coming weekend, when temperatures will be much warmer than they were last weekend.  But longer range models show this warmer jet stream flow persisting for a lot of the next two weeks at least.  So don't be in too big a hurry to get out your heavy jackets and gloves.

Also, as far as past history, a cold start to the fall season doesn't necessarily mean a cold winter is ahead.  In looking back over our records, 1974 stuck out to me.  FYI, I was already interested in weather by then, but I do NOT remember this specifically. 

There were three low temperature records set that month, including a remarkable 24 degrees on October 3, which is by far the earliest we'd ever gotten so cold so early, either before or since. But the winter that followed that shivering early fall actually ended up being warmer than average in southeast Michigan.  It was actually the 13th warmest winter in Flint and Saginaw.

Early cold snaps really tell us very little about what the winter will bring, even if squirrels do go crazy gathering nuts.

We look instead to the temperatures of ocean currents to help predict long range weather.  As of now, it looks like a weak El Nino (sorry but I have no tilde on my keyboard) early in the winter may very well fade later on, meaning odds favor a warmer than average first part of winter (at least December) before a return to closer to average temperatures for the back half of winter. 

As for amounts of rain and snow, total precipitation may end up close to average, but snowfall may be a bit less than the average of 43" around here.

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