Lake Influence Has Been Minimal This November

Posted at 6:12 PM, Nov 17, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-17 18:16:14-05

Anyone that has lived around West Michigan for a reasonable amount of time knows how common it is to see extensive cloudiness socked in across the area in November. It’s the time of year where colder air moving across the relatively warmer waters of Lake Michigan generate lake clouds and sometimes lake precipitation. We’ve really only had about four days (this November)filled with mainly cloudy skies, while most of the other days were partly cloudy to partly sunny, or just plain sunny. Either way, it’s unusual.  I can remember coming from a television station across the lake in Madison, Wisconsin almost 12 years ago, where without any lake influence, we had plenty of sun through the year. But here, November and December are typically some fairly gray months.

If we check the climate book for Grand Rapids the past several years, at least half of November 2011 was shrouded in clouds with some light amounts of snow reported already by mid-month. We had a little more sunshine in 2010 with only trace amounts of snow reported through November. Remember…the average amount of snowfall in GR for November is about 6.6″. Only about eight days were mainly cloudy in November 2009, while that number was more like 13 in 2008. We should also note that Lake Michigan water temperatures are generally in the upper 40s right now. Remember, the best lake-effect snow tends to occur early in the season when the greatest difference between the air and water temperature typically exist. That said, without any arctic outbreaks of air on the horizon over the next several days (at least through Thanksgiving weekend), lake-effect precipitation and clouds are unlikely. So what’s in store the remainder of this winter?

There was speculation that another El Nino could be shaping up this winter…where warmer waters over the equatorial regions of the Pacific Ocean tend to force a change in our upper level jetstream that can influence our weather. You weather gurus can click herefor more information on this. The El Nino watch has now been discontinued, and in fact, we are expecting a pretty “standard” winter with equal chances of below/above normal precipitation and temperatures the next three months. Click herefor the one month temperature outlook. Click here for the one month precipitation outlook. You can get the three-month temperature outlook here. And here is the three-month precipitation outlook. All of this data is from the National Weather Service and their specialized branch called the Climate Prediction Center.

As a meteorologist, I don’t believe our winter will be that harsh. I think a couple of decent snowfalls, colder temps than last year (which was very mild), and probably snowfall BELOW our Grand Rapids normal of about 76″. We’ll see how it shakes out! For the short-term, you can get the complete West Michigan forecast at

By the way, the attached photo was submitted by one of our regular contributors by the name of Charles Russell. It clearly shows the low-level fog that has been greeting most of the past several mornings. When the air temperature drops to the dew point temperature, the air becomes fully saturated with 100 percent relative humidity. That produces fog! The photo was taken Saturday, November 17 in Greenville. You can also post your photos on our FOX Facebook page, or email directly to us at Have a great week!