(WXYZ) - We're likely to end up with our sixth month in a row that's colder than average in metro Detroit, while more ice lingers on the Great Lakes than ever recorded this late in the season.
If you're guessing those two things are related, you're right. But what does that mean for our summer ahead? Will this summer be a bummer?
November 2013 brought us our first measurable snow of the season (1/2" on the 11th) and our first in a string of colder than average months.
Every month since has been on the cold side of normal, with January, February and March all far below average. For a good chunk of this April, we were running close to or even above average, but cool air has moved in and it looks like it will stick around, even deepening through month's end on Wednesday.
In fact, with a slow-moving low pressure area likely to bring us lots of clouds and cool showers, Tuesday and Wednesday's highs may not even make it out out of the 40s.
Mid-60s are our average highs at the end of this month. Here's your latest forecast: http://bit.ly/1f22aCX Those relatively cold days at the end of the month will be enough to drag our monthly average temperature below the normal line, though not by too much. And no, it wasn't your imagination; we did hit 80 degrees this last Monday, and I predict we'll hit that sultry benchmark again in May.
In the meantime, those Great Lakes that surround us are still 35% covered with ice as of yesterday http://coastwatch.glerl.noaa.gov/webdata/cwops/webdata/glsea2/glsea_cur.png , with Lake Superior more than 2/3 iced-over (67.8%).
I took advantage of our clear skies yesterday to snap a satellite picture of how that looked from space, which you can see at the top of this story. While clouds were still in the immediate Detroit area, most of the white you see in the water was ice.
Notice all the ice northeast of the Thumb in Lake Huron and up around Traverse City. There's more lingering, stubborn ice on the Great Lakes as of late April than has even been recorded since they started keeping track of these things back in 1973.
As I've mentioned before, that will serve to delay a lot of thing we enjoy, like ferries to Mackinac Island, comfortable boating on the lakes, and to an extent, spring and summer warm-ups. Even when the ice melts, the lakes will still be colder than average for weeks, if not months from now. So, when hot air does move into our area, it'll be a little like leaving the refrigerator door open during a heat wave; it may still be hot, but it takes the edge off.
If you long for the warm days of summer, don't despair. I went to work to find out the last time we had almost this much ice on the lakes.
I remembered 20 years ago, 1994, as a spring with lots of ice on the Great Lakes. So did the forecasters at the National Weather Services offices in Gaylord, Michigan. Here is their side-by-side comparison of 1994 with this year. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=623021221105812
There wasn't as much ice on the lakes in April 1994 as there is this year, but it's the closest historical comparison we have.
So what was our summer of 1994 like in Detroit? Temperature-wise, it was about as close to normal as you can get. May 1994 was a little cooler than average, but June and July were both warmer than average. We ended up with 13 days with highs of 90 or hotter that summer, which is close to average, with two June days in Detroit even peaking at 99 degrees. One year of comparison is far from a guarantee, but there's another reason not to ditch your summer clothes.
The long range forecasters at the Climate Prediction Center are watching a developing El Nino pattern, which is expected to influence our weather system steering currents this summer, fall and winter. As you can see here http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/long_range/seasonal.php?lead=2
the prediction for the summer months in Michigan is for equal chances of warmer or cooler than average temperatures.
As for rainfall, the current outlook leans toward a bit less wetness than is typical. By the way, if the El Nino continues as it's expected to into next winter, it would likely mean warmer than average temperatures for our winter months, which would make it MUCH warmer than the winter we just had.
I'd stick by the old advice not to plant anything sensitive to the cold until after Mother's Day, but if Mom wants warmer weather this summer, she's got a really good shot at it. But even with a receipt, no returns are accepted on the weather.