An unsettled but seasonably warm weather pattern developed across the Great Lakes during early April with the development of a mostly west to east zonal jet stream flow pattern across North America.
For the preceding month of March, mean temperatures were colder than normal statewide, ranging from 3 degrees Fahrenheit below normal across the southeast corner of the state to more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit below normal across western sections of the Upper Peninsula. Much of the negative departure from normal resulted from unusually cold weather early in the month.
As of early April, seasonal base 50-degree Fahrenheit growing degree day totals (since March 1) generally ranged from several days to more than two calendar weeks behind normal, reflecting the colder-than-normal temperatures. As a result, the break of dormancy and early development of most overwintering crops has been slower than normal.
March precipitation totals ranged from less than 1.5 inches across central sections of upper Michigan to more than 3 inches across far southern sections of the state (a general range from 75 to 125 percent of normal).
With the official statistics now available, the winter of 2018-19 will go into the books as somewhat colder and wetter than normal on average, with some notable regional differences. Winter weather began early last November but was quickly replaced by a milder-than-normal period from early December into early January, which was generally followed an extended period of colder than normal conditions including at least two severe cold outbreaks during the second half of January.
Some cold injury has been observed in overwintering perennial crops due to the January cold wave conditions. Seasonal December through February mean temperatures varied by location across the state and region, ranging from just above normal in extreme southeastern sections of the state to more than 3 degrees below normal across the western Upper Peninsula.
Precipitation totals varied in a similar way, ranging from slightly below normal across southeastern sections to much above normal in the northwest. Seasonal snowfall totals (thus far) varied from below normal levels in the southern Lower Peninsula to above normal
Latest medium-range forecast guidance for April suggests typical springtime conditions across Michigan, with temperatures ranging from above- to below-normal levels every few days. Normal- to above-normal precipitation totals are also forecast, reflecting the recent upper air trend and active storm track across the region. Still, there will likely be several periods of warm, dry weather that may allow for some fieldwork opportunities.
Long-term Summer Outlook
Longer lead outlooks have been adjusted toward a warmer-than-normal scenario versus earlier outlooks. The new NOAA Climate Prediction Center outlook for April through June calls for normal- to above-normal mean temperatures and precipitation totals.
Further ahead, the outlooks for the upcoming summer through early fall all generally call for above-normal mean temperatures, especially for eastern sections of the state (normal or even cooler than normal temperatures are forecast in areas to our west across the central and western Corn Belt westward into the Great Plains).
Precipitation totals for the same time frame are forecast to remain in the equal odds/no direction scenario across northern and central sections of the state, increasing to above-normal levels across the south.