Southeast Michigan winter forecast: more snow but not as cold

The history books will have a lot to say about 2020 and most of them won't be great. But there is one thing, at least in the World of Weather, that will be remembered fondly - the record-breaking November heatwave.  

November 7-10 brought us daily heat records and the high temp on November 9th of 77 degrees was the hottest it's ever been this late in the year! Crazy! But you know that it can't last and winter is coming.

Thankfully November 2020 won't be too bad, meaning winter starts slow around here. If you remember last year we had a different kind of record on November 11, 2019, with 8.5 inches of snow falling, the most ever for a November day. It was a brutal beginning to the season and one that I do not see happening this year.

Whatever happens this winter - make sure you're prepared with the FOX 2 Weather app. It's free to all iPhone, iPad, and Android users.


In fact, when you break down "normal" winter numbers around Metro Detroit, November isn't one to typically worry about. December through February are our key months and we average nearly double-digit snowfall totals each month. 

Over the entire year, our total snowfall averages about 43 to 44 inches. This year, I see a little more than that.

When forecasters attempt to prognosticate for months out we need to look at large global weather patterns, specifically El Nino or La Nina (or in some years, neither). Oftentimes this helps us gain a decent blueprint for what the season will bring, but not always. For example, last year. 

The winter of 2019-2020 was considered a Neutral El Nino pattern and we were expecting above-average snowfall (in fact the last time we had a neutral pattern was in 2013-14 when we had record amounts of snow).  

However, the season was, actually, not all that bad!  December of 2019 saw barely any snow at all and even though we had 15 inches in February, the season as a whole was pretty easy.


Back to this year. With La Nina forming, our eyes turn to the west, and high pressure that typically builds in during this pattern. 

When that happens the jet stream will "kink" and allow cold air to rush down over the northern states, specifically the Dakotas and northern Minnesota. The weakened jet stream is more susceptible to fast-flying blasts of cold air into Wisconsin, over Lake Michigan, and into Michigan

We are expecting that to happen this year. 


When it comes to snowfall though, it's a different story. La Nina patterns tend to increase our precipitation, whether that's rain or snow. 

If the previously mentioned cold air blasts coincide with moisture spilling in, we are looking at some heavy snow events (we call these Alberta Clippers) of 4 inches or more. Therefore, the Weather Authority is bracing for a season with snowfall totals above our yearly average of 43 inches.


Overall, our Michigan Winter Forecast will include temperatures that do not deviate from the norm too much. However, the norms are still chilly!

That said, our battles with The Polar Vortex will not be as frequent this year and we don't anticipate many back-to-back days of negative teens (as we did in January 2019). 

We'll call it kind of a "Classic" Winter temperature-wise.


While long-range forecasting comes with its challenges, I have been really digging into the data and models to get a feel for the next 4 to 6 weeks. 

Our November heatwave is over and the remainder of the month will fall back to high temps between 45-55 degrees with no major snowmakers to end this month (unlike last year). 

Data is indicating that December too won't be too frigid (at least to start) while January and February should open the door to the Winter cold.


While we expect above-average snow, we won't be alone - the Northwest will also likely see a wet and snowy winter.

The West Coast will be milder and dry (especially in Southern California), while the South will have it easy with dry and warm spells while the East Coast will be a mixed bag of rain and wet snow. 

The Great Plains should expect their typical blast of cold air and heavy Mountain snow, while the Great Lakes and Midwest as a whole will see more precipitation with cold air turning that into snow.

No matter what you know The Weather Authority will be here for you. Just download the FOX 2 Weather app for FREE. 

Current conditions, interactive radar map, and daily/hourly forecasts are just a click away. The radar is fully integrated with GPS functionality, meaning you can personalize and track weather all over the world. Just set what weather conditions you want to see on the radar and you're done!

The FOX 2 Weather app is available for free to all iPhoneiPad and Android users.