Spring starts in Metro Detroit: Here's the weather outlook

By Paul Gross - Meteorologist

Spring officially began at 5:58 p.m. Wednesday…that’s the moment that the sun moved directly over the equator on its track from over the southern hemisphere to over the northern hemisphere.  

That’s called the vernal equinox, and there are actually several really cool science aspects behind it that you probably never knew…you can read about them in this article.

So, everybody’s now asking:  what kind of spring will we have?  Before getting to that answer, let’s look at what is happening historically to Detroit springs. Take a look at this:

Yes, since 1970, our springs have been getting warmer!  You see lots of ups and downs on the graph…that’s natural variability.  But the longer term trend is decidedly upward in response to our planet’s overall warming climate.

So what about this spring?  Well, the El Niño that developed in the Pacific Ocean this winter ended up being a very weak one, with little impact on the overall jet stream pattern over North America.  Were this a more impactful El Niño, then we’d likely have a milder spring.  But this El Niño just isn’t doing the job, so other atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns have become bigger players.  

All expectations are for this weak El Niño to persist at least through spring but, again, there’s a lot of uncertainty about its impacts.  

With that being said, here’s the Climate Prediction Center’s outlook for temperatures from March through May:

Obviously, we’re right on the edge of the eastern U.S. above average temperature expectation, but also on the edge of the central U.S. “could go either way” area.

As for precipitation, here’s the Climate Prediction Center’s outlook:

As you can see, the south is favored for higher than average precipitation (which is a typical El Niño pattern), while our area is in that “could go either way” area.

Perhaps this article has been interesting, but not terribly helpful.  

Still, there’s one thing to remember:  these outlooks are for the entire 90-day period of meteorological spring (March 1st through May 31st).  During those 90-days there will be warm and cold periods, as well as wet and dry.  

As of now, however, there is nothing in the meteorological guidance that suggests a strong signal that we’ll go deeply one way or the other.  And that’s certainly worth knowing.  Happy Spring!

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