January is the month when we not only turn the page to a new year but turn the page to potential sunshine. During the month, the potential amount of daylight will increase by more than 50 minutes as the sun rises earlier and sets later. January also moves us away from our cloudiest month of December to our second cloudiest month. We usually observe 26% of possible sunshine. To help get you out of the winter doldrums just remember that both the potential and actual amount of sunshine increase.
Keep that sunshine in mind when I remind you that January is our second snowiest month with an average of 20.8”. It also happens to be our coldest month with an average temperature of 24.4°. There is some good news, as the coldest temperatures occur during the middle of the month with an average low of 18° and a high of 30°. By the end of the month the typical high temperature warms to 31°.
January is known large swings in temperature. The latest 30-year climatological normal database, from 1981 to 2010, has January with a difference of 85° between the record low of -22° and the record high 63°. December has the biggest swing with the 87° separating the two temperatures. Remember these aren’t the all-time records; that database spans more than 100 years.
This January the trend continues warm and wet, you can read more here: January outlook issued
See the slideshow on the top for more January weather statistics.
There are some interesting weather events for January and I’ll just highlight a few of them from the National Weather Service Archives. To see the complete list, subscribe to the Grand Rapids Weather examiner for a daily email of historical events.
January 6, 1999 – Heavy snow piles up on top of the snow dropped during the blizzard a few days earlier. Another 9 inches of snow at Muskegon brings the snow total on the ground to 30 inches, with snow drifts several feet high. This will be the snowiest January on record at Grand Rapids with 46.8 inches of snow and Lansing with 34.6 inches.
January 10, 1982 – Extreme arctic outbreak brings record cold temperatures and massive lake effect snow totals. Muskegon has their snowiest calendar day on record with 22 inches. This contributes to the all-time record monthly snowfall of 102.4 inches (8 and a half feet!) at Muskegon for January 1982.
January 12, 1912 – Muskegon sets their all-time record low for the month of January at 21 degrees below zero during their coldest month on record.
January 12, 2005 – Dense fog blanketed Lower Michigan. Numerous highway accidents near Lansing killed two people and damaged almost 200 vehicles. At least 37 people were injured. One pileup involved 50 vehicles and necessitated the closure of 12 miles of Interstate 96 between Okemos and Webberville.
January 13, 1952 – Dense fog with visibility near zero leads to a number of auto accidents across southwest Lower Michigan. The fog persists for three days from the 12th to the 14th.
January 13, 1979 – A massive storm dumps heavy snow across southern Lower Michigan. Temperatures in the teens and strong winds lead to heavy drifting of the powdery snow, causing travel to come to a halt. The snow, at times falling at more than an inch an hour, caused power outages due to broken tree limbs. Snow accumulations were up to 3 feet, causing some roofs to collapse. South Haven had 21 inches of new snow added to 24 inches already on the ground. Grand Rapids saw 13.5 inches of snow and 2 to 4 foot drifts with wind gusts between 25 and 35 miles an hour.
January 18, 1996 – A blizzard moving through the Dakotas pulls warm air up over Michigan. Record highs in the upper 50s and lower 60s are followed by a line of heavy rain and severe thunderstorms. At least one weak tornado is spawned by the squall line, which is quickly followed by a blast of arctic air and rain changing to snow. Rapids snowmelt and heavy rains, followed by a quick freeze, leads to many areas of ice jam flooding.
January 19, 1979 – A homeowner was killed when his garage roof collapsed due to the weight of the snow on it. Several other homeowners suffered injuries as roofs collapsed throughout southwest Michigan. There were more than 50 reported roof collapses by the end of February, with most of the collapses occurring in the second half of January. At one point the snow pack was measured as weighing more than 25 pounds per square foot.
January 22, 2005 – A blizzard drops a foot of snow across southern Lower Michigan with strong winds creating drifts up to 4 feet deep.
January 25, 1967 – Temperatures reach the 60s for the second day in a row across Lower Michigan. However, the spring-like weather is about to give way to one of the greatest snowstorms on record.
January 26, 1967 – Temperatures in the 20s are some 40 degrees colder than the day before, and heavy snow begins falling, piling up a foot or more along with increasing winds.
January 26, 1978 – A storm known as the Cleveland Superbomb moves north from the Gulf of Mexico and deepens explosively, becoming one of the worst blizzards in Midwest history. From one to two feet of snow falls across southern Lower Michigan, whipped into huge drifts by strong gusty winds. Several new records were set including a new record low sea level barometric pressure of 28.68 , observed at 6:00 AM. At least 9 deaths were attributed to the blizzard, most roads were impassable, roofs collapsed under the weight of the snow and the airport in Grand Rapids was closed from late on the 25th until the 27th. Governor Milliken declared a state of emergency and requested additional federal aid for snow removal.
January 27, 1967 – Chicago’s greatest snowstorm on record also extends into Lower Michigan, where Battle Creek records 28.6 inches of snow. The storm total at Lansing is 23 inches and 18 inches at Grand Rapids.
January 30, 2008 – Rain changes to snow as an arctic cold front brings a flash freeze to lower Michigan during the night of the 29th, leaving a sheet of ice on the roads. Temperatures fall from the upper 40s to the single numbers, with occasional blinding white-out conditions in falling and blowing snow. There were numerous traffic accidents and some roads were closed for a time. School and event cancellations were widespread, and there were also sporadic power outages.