Metro Detroit weather: From -15° to 51° in just five days

Wind chill warning continues until Thursday


DETROIT – Yes, you read that headline right.  

We’ll get to the warm part of it in a moment but, first, our bitter cold Arctic blast has now turned deadly, as two people in the metro area have been found dead outside.  

Temperatures this afternoon never rose above zero (-18 degrees Celsius), but this day will not go down as the sixth day in recorded Detroit weather history with a high temperature below zero, because our temperature was zero at midnight, and that will be today’s official high temperature.  

Yes, this sounds like a technicality, but the highest and lowest temperature that occur on a calendar day are that day’s high and low…no matter what time they occur.  It has always been this way, and always will be.  

So where does this rank in terms of Detroit’s all-time coldest days?  Well, that statistic for any given day is the day’s high temperature plus its low temperature, divided by two. It’s called the daily mean temperature:

  • -12    1/19/1994
  • -10    1/21/1984
  • -10    12/22/1872
  • -8    1/17/1982
  • -8    2/9/1899

*The 1872 record used to be official but, when the original paper records from that year were lost, that day’s record-setting temps (which also had Detroit’s coldest temperature ever, -24 degrees / -31 degrees Celsius), were decertified.  

We’re going to try and research that day and bring proof to the National Weather Service, and get that record recertified!

The bigger story today, however, has been the wind, gusting over 30 mph at times, which kept wind chills between -30 and -35 degrees (-34 to -37 degrees Celsius).  

This is dangerous cold: frostbite can develop in less than ten minutes.  

That’s why schools were closed, mail delivery was suspended, and other activities were cancelled, such as this evening’s performance of The Phantom of the Opera at the Detroit Opera House.

Skies tonight will be mostly clear and this, combined with the wind diminishing to the 10-15 mph range, and a fresh snowpack, will allow temperatures to absolutely crater.  


Thursday forecast

Depending upon where you are in the area, lows by dawn Thursday will range from -10 to -20 degrees (-23 to -29 degrees Celsius), with wind chills of -35 to -40 degrees (-37 to -40).

If you missed it a couple of days ago, remember that -40 degrees is a magic temperature: that’s the only temperature where it is exactly the same on both the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales!

Mostly sunny on Thursday, with highs around 2 (-17 degrees Celsius), but a southwest wind at 10-20 mph keeping wind chills around -15 degrees (-26 degrees Celsius) in the afternoon.

Thursday’s sunrise is at 7:48 a.m., and Thursday’s sunset is at 5:46 p.m.  Notice the days getting longer?  And by the way, speaking of encouraging statistics, our average high today is 32 degrees (0 degrees Celsius) but, on Saturday, it rises to 33 degrees.  

That starts the upward trend in our average highs!  It’ll be slow at first, but start picking up as next month progresses…by the end of February, our average high will be 39 degrees (4 degrees Celsius)!


Increasing clouds Thursday night, with some light snow developing…especially south of 8 Mile.

Friday forecast

Temperatures rising to around 2 degrees (-17 degrees Celsius) by dawn Friday.

Light snow first thing Friday morning (south of 8 Mile) will end quickly, with at least partial sunshine developing during the afternoon.  Highs in the mid to upper teens (-8 degrees Celsius) will feel like a heat wave…until you see what’s coming after that!

Partly cloudy Friday night, with lows around 8 degrees (-13 degrees Celsius).

Saturday and Sunday

Increasing clouds on Saturday, with a light rain or snow shower possible later in the day.  Highs in the mid to upper 30s (3 degrees Celsius).

Light rain and snow showers are possible Saturday night, with lows near freezing (0 degrees Celsius), so watch for possible icy areas first thing Sunday morning.

Any showers we get on Sunday will be of the rain variety, as highs soar into the mid 40s (8 degrees Celsius).



Rain showers are likely on Monday, with highs in the low 50s (10 degrees Celsius)!

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