December is the month when winter typically kicks into high gear for West Michigan. The Winter Solstice is on December 21st at 12:11 PM. This is when we have the least amount of potential daylight; only 9 hours of sunshine are possible. I say “potential” because December is our cloudiest month with only 20% of possible sunshine.
The temperatures continue to fall with an average high of 40° on the first and only 32° by the end of the month. The low temperatures take a similar slide going from 28° down to 20°.
December is the snowiest month with an average of 21.9”. In the last decade Grand Rapids has seen some very snowy Decembers. Four of the top five snowiest are in the last few years. The snowiest on record was back in 2000 with 59.2”. Here are the others that round out the top five:
2. 54.6” in 2008
3. 53.9” in 2001
4. 51.3” in 1951
5. 35.4” in 2009
The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) expects overall cold and wet conditions for the Northern Plains in December. The first half of December may be cool and wet for Michigan as the outlooks for December 6-10 and December 8-14 indicate. In spite of that, the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) forecast for the entire month of December specifies that there are no clear climate signals relating to precipitation or temperature, so the forecast is for an equal chance of above, below, and near normal conditions.
See the slideshow on the top of the page for more December statistics.
There are some interesting weather events for December and I’ll just highlight a few of them from the National Weather Service Archives. To see the complete list, you can click here to ‘Subscribe’ to the Grand Rapids Weather examiner for a daily email of historical events.
December 5, 2001 – This is one of the warmest December days on record in Lower Michigan. Grand Rapids and Lansing set record highs of 69 degrees. Holland and Flint both hit 70 degrees.
December 11, 1995 – A spell of frigid weather continues with high temperatures of only 10 degrees at Grand Rapids and 11 degrees at Muskegon.
December 17, 1963 – Lake effect snow buries Muskegon with a three day total of 34 inches of snow from the 16th to the 18th. This will be the snowiest December in Muskegon history with a grand total of 82.6 inches for the month.
December 18, 1884 – Temperatures plunge well below zero during a three day cold wave. Lansing records an all time December low of 25 below zero.
December 19, 1983 – A massive area of arctic high pressure dominates the weather across much of North America during an historic cold wave. Grand Rapids falls to 18 degrees below zero, setting their all-time December record low.
December 19, 2008 – A record 10.2 inches of snow fell at Grand Rapids during one of the snowiest months on record in southwest Lower Michigan. Some of the impressive monthly snow totals are: 88.7 inches at Hart in Oceana County, 68.6 inches at Muskegon and 54.6 inches at Grand Rapids. 2008 is also the snowiest calendar year on record at Hart, with over 200 inches and at Grand Rapids with 140.7 inches for the year.
December 21, 1989 – It is one of the coldest December days in history across Lower Michigan. The high temperature at Muskegon and Grand Rapids is only 5 above zero, the lowest maximum temperature ever recorded in the month of December at both sites.
December 22, 2000 – A long siege of arctic air and lake effect snow continues across Lower Michigan. The high temperature at Lansing is only 9 degrees with lake effect snow showers swirling. It will be the coldest December of the 20th century at Lansing.
December 24, 1993 – A Christmas Eve snowstorm drops from 3 to 8 inches of snow across Lower Michigan and ushers in several weeks of severe winter weather.
December 25, 1982 – Southerly winds push temperatures into the 60s during the warmest Christmas on record for Lower Michigan. The unusual warmth is punctuated by scattered thunderstorms.
December 25, 1983 – Only one year after the warmest Christmas on record, southwest Lower Michigan is setting record lows with temperatures plunging below zero as a long siege of arctic air dominates the last half of the month.
December 29, 1984 – Temperatures reach record highs for the second day in a row at Grand Rapids and Lansing. Amazingly, the record high of 65 degrees at Grand Rapids is set just after midnight. A cold front moves through in the morning and temperatures fall into the 30s during the afternoon.