Parts of West Michigan Drying Out, For Now

Posted at 10:01 AM, Jun 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-03 10:01:57-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (June 3, 2014) — Despite a winter that featured the second-highest snowfall on record in West Michigan, and a spring of high river levels and flooding around parts of the area, climate records show that precipitation is now back below average for the region.

The National Weather Service keeps totals of monthly, seasonal, and annual precipitation for climate sites like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Holland, Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek.  But because they reset at arbitrary points on the calendar, they aren’t necessarily an accurate depiction of recent precipitation.

So, I went back through records to the start of 2013 and calculated running 30- and 60-day total precipitation for Grand Rapids, comparing those numbers to average.

First, we should recognize that dry weather has, on average, been relatively rare over the last few years.  2008, 2011, and 2013 are three of the six wettest years out of the last 50 in Grand Rapids.  Only during the hot, dry summer of 2012 have we recently been in anything truly resembling drought conditions.

Starting with early 2013, precipitation ran near or above average through early April, followed by the rains that triggered near-record flooding along the Grand River.  This image shows the extreme rainfall during the month of April:

April 2013 Precipitation Compared to Normal

It took until nearly August for the 60-day rainfall total to fall back below average, bottoming out in September and early October.  This image represents September rainfall compared to normal:

September 2013 Precipitation Compared to Normal

Rain in the fall brought us back above average, then our snowy winter held us near or above average into the spring.  That’s where the story changes, depending on what part of West Michigan you call home.

In April 2014, heavy rain created flooding along the Muskegon River — yet from Grand Rapids to the south, weather remained much drier:

April 2014 Precipitation Compared to Average

As the current 60-day analysis shows, northern sections of the region are starting to come back into line with normal conditions; but, from Grand Rapids to the south, things are drying out considerably:

Precipitation Compared to Average over the Last 60 Days

As of June 1, here were the precipitation totals for the spring season (March, April, and May) and the year at various locations:

Grand Rapids: 7.47″ Season (-2.23″);  13.27 Year (-0.31″)

Muskegon: 8.17″ Season (-0.24″); 13.30″ Year (+1.03″)

Kalamazoo: 5.89″ Season (-3.31″); 8.42″ Year (-4.02″)

Holland: 5.57″ Season (-3.13″); 9.53″ Year (-3.06″)

Battle Creek: 6.43″ Season (-2.05″); 7.96″ Year (-3.52″)

Wednesday’s forecast appears it may help even out some of this imbalance, with the heaviest rain forecast for the southern half of the region. Check out the 7 Day Forecast on the Weather page.