How unpredictable is Michigan's weather, really?


DETROIT – Don't like the weather in Michigan? Wait five minutes.

It's a popular saying in Michigan during all four seasons, especially the weeks that offer rain, snow and a random 70 degree day.

How does Michigan's crazy weather compare to the rest of the country? Buckle your seat belts - you may be in for a surprise.

FiveThirtyEight published an in-depth look at how predicable weather is around the country by comparing daily weather patterns against long-term averages.

Statistics that were evaluated were temperature (high, lows, daily mean), precipitation (rainfall, snowfall, any presence or absence of precipitation) and severe weather (wind speed, humidity, cloud cover, actual severe storm).

Overall, the data found that most of Michigan, while less predictable than a sizable amount of the country, is more predictable than several states - with one small exception.

Where does Michigan rank for unpredictable weather?

According to FiveThirtyEight, Rapid City, South Dakota is the city that endures the most unpredictable weather.

The city that has the third-most unpredictable weather city? Houghton, Michigan (Upper Peninsula).

While most of Michigan is average for predictability, Houghton stands on its own as a weather enigma.

The presence of lakes or oceans can contribute to weather problems — for instance, the huge amounts of lake-effect snow in Houghton, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (about twice as much as in notoriously snowy Buffalo, New York). But water usually does more to regulate temperatures and severe weather.

When looking at cities within the 50 most populous metro areas for unpredictable weather, Detroit does not rank in the top 10:

  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Oklahoma City
  • Minneapolis
  • Cincinnati
  • Indianapolis
  • St. Louis
  • Birmingham, Alabama
  • Boston
  • Milwaukee
  • Dallas

What about precipitation?

When it comes to unpredictable precipitation, Houghton, Michigan is unbeatable.

"Nothing tops Houghton, which gets about twice as much snow as any other city we evaluated and can also be reasonably rainy in the summer," FiveThirtyEight writes.

The Northeast and Midwest has the highest unpredictability with precipitation, while the West Coast has the most predictable.

What about severe weather?

Michigan moves to the predictable side when it comes to severe weather. Without oceans, but protected by the Great Lakes, Michigan is just so predictable with severe storms.

Rapid City, South Dakota, Great Falls, Montana, pretty much all of Kansas and Nebraska are among the most unpredictable for severe weather.

So, overall, where do we stand?

When FiveThirtyEight factors in all of their data, Houghton, Michigan, ranks third overall for most unpredictable weather in the country. 

But if you don't live in the western Upper Peninsula, you're probably doing okay.

Grand Rapids ranked 66th, Detroit ranked 76th and Traverse City ranked 86th for unpredictable weather.

So, perhaps "wait five minutes" is a bit of a stretch, but we're going to keep saying it anyway.

Check out the full FiveThirtyEight article here.

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