Michigan has a continental type of climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb) in its major northern part, with warm, short summers and icy winters. The minor southern part falls under the hot-summer subtype (Köppen Dfa). Lake Michigan and Wisconsin in the southwest to the northwest, Lake Superior and Lake Huron in the north to northeast, Lake Erie in the southeast, and Ohio and Indiana in the south form the borders of the state. Michigan lies in the Midwest and Great Lakes region of the United States. The latitude, altitude, and proximity to the Great Lakes influence the climate of Michigan to a large extent.
Michigan, the Great Lakes State, is home to the longest freshwater coastline in the world, with four great lakes, and over 11,000 small lakes in its tow. The state consists of an Upper and a Lower Peninsula, with different versions of a continental climate, joined by the Straits of Mackinac. The topography consists of flatlands and gently rolling hills in the eastern half of the Upper Peninsula, while the western tablelands rise to 480 meters. The Lower Peninsula ranges from level terrain in the southeast to rolling hills in the southwest, with tablelands in the north. The average elevation of Michigan is 270 meters, and Mount Arvon is the highest point at 603 meters.
Lakes and dominant westerly winds affect the seasons in Michigan. Summer days see a lake breeze due to prevailing winds near the shores of the lake that extend inland for a few miles. A reverse land breeze occurs during the nights. Summer temperatures scale the peak of 85°F (29.4°C) in July. However, temperatures rarely cross 90°F (32.2°C) in the north and average only 14 days in the south. Winters are cold and snowy, with even day temperatures below freezing in many parts for days together. Night temperatures below 0°F (-17.8°C) are typical in the northern parts of the Upper Peninsula in the cold season. Spring transitions from cold to mild weather, with ample rainfall. Fall skies are the cloudiest of the year due to the passage of cold air over the warm lake waters.
The average annual precipitation is 31" (787.4mm) in Michigan, with 60% of the rainfall in the growing season. Thunderstorms are the primary source of summer rainfall, while winters see light, steady rain. Snowfall records in the range of 150" (3810mm) to 180" (4572mm) annually in a small section of the western parts of both the peninsulas. The rest of the state registers between 40" (1016mm) to 120" (3048mm) of snow in the year. Hail is common in the spring season in the state, while its frequency is high in the autumn season in the northwestern part of the Lower Peninsula. Michigan sees 160 to 180 days with less than 80% cloud cover, and 2100 to 2200 hours of annual sunshine.
Mio recorded the highest ever temperature of 112°F (44.4°C) on July 13, 1936, in Michigan, while Vanderbilt recorded the coldest temperature of -51°F (-46.1°C) on February 9, 1934.
The best time to visit Michigan
The best time to visit Michigan is from late spring in May to mid-autumn in October. The days are warm in the spring and fall, and the bright sunshine of summer is a great time to enjoy recreational boating on the lakes. Early spring is cold and snowy in many parts, while late fall is chilly. Every 5 miles have a lake in Michigan, and there is no area in the state that is more than 85 miles distant from one of the Great Lakes. The microclimates of the Great Lakes region bring pleasant temperatures during the summer. Mid-October is the time of the peak fall foliage.
The worst time to visit Michigan
The worst time to visit Michigan is the severely cold winter season from December to February. The northern highlands of the Upper Peninsula and areas near Lake Superior see snowfall in excess of 150" (3810mm). Snowstorms affect normal life and damage life and property. The cold months have short days, and the sunshine limits to a few hours daily. Strong gales blow during the winter days to exacerbate the cold effect. The snow cover is persistent, and frost freezes the soil underneath the ground. Snow lovers enjoy the white landscape and the flurry of activities in winter.
Michigan is prone to thunderstorms, tornadoes, floods, and blizzards. Thunderstorms occur for 30 days on average in the year. Severe thunderstorms occur in the southern portion of Michigan. Tornadoes are common in the extreme south, with an annual average of 17 in the state. Southern Michigan observed a series of tornadoes on April 11, 1965, with $51 million in damages. Occasional floods occur during early spring due to heavy rain and the melting of snow. Wind storms and blizzards are infrequent but cause severe damage. Snowstorms deposit massive amounts of snow and stall normal life, with significant power outages and impassable roads.
Weather in January
January is the coldest and snowiest month of the year in Michigan and the most challenging part of winter. The temperatures drop below 0°F (-17.8°C) and even touch -20°F (-28.9°C) in the northern highlands. Wind chill increases the impact of the cold exponentially as every additional mile of wind speed is equivalent to a few degrees drop in temperature. Lansing, the capital in the Lower Peninsula, registers temperatures in the 17°F (-8.3°C) to 30°F (-1.1°C) zone. Snowfall records between 12" (304.8mm) to 30" (762mm) across the state and the numbers cross 50" (1270mm) in the Great Lakes region and the north. Dog sledding over the wintry wilderness is a popular activity. The frozen lakes offer opportunities to drill a hole for ice fishing and catch a prized fish. Harness up and climb the majestic icefalls at the peak of the winter. Drive carefully, as there is a significant chance to come across moose ambling across the icy roads. January is the time for the warmest winter coats amid snowstorms in Michigan.
Weather in February
February is scarily cold in the majority of Michigan with short days and long nights. The average high temperatures statewide are in the cold 26°F (-3.3°C) to 35°F (1.7°C) range, while the average low temperatures are in the frigid zone of 3°F (-16.1°C) to 21°F (-6.1°C). Frankfort, in the north, has average temperatures in the 19°F (-7.2°C) to 31°F (-0.6°C) in February compared to Ann Arbor in the southeast between 20°F (-6.7°C) to 35°F (1.7°C). Snowfall is to the tune of 10" (254mm) to 30" (762mm) statewide, but the precipitation is light and steady. The daily sunshine of 5 hours and gloomy skies deter outdoor activities. The cold air hurts the nose and the lungs. Hit the gently rolling slopes skiing, tubing, or snowboarding. Winter is the perfect time to explore the wooded backcountry with miles of snowmobiling trails. Snowshoeing paths and biking trails cover the white landscape. The heavy snow keeps the trails closed in the state parks. Snowblowers and snowplows get plenty of work in February in Michigan.
Weather in March
March is cold and damp in Michigan, with a gradual transition to the spring season. Drizzles are frequent during the day, and the majority of the state sees rainfall to the tune of 2" (50.8mm) to 3" (76.2mm). The sunshine is weak during the days of early spring, with frequent cold fronts from the Arctic. The average high temperatures are in the range of a mild 35°F (1.7°C) to 46°F (7.8°C), while the nights are below freezing between 10°F (-12.2°C) to 28°F (-2.2°C). Green shoots are in patches, but fresh snow keeps the ground white. The weather is cold enough to wear layers of clothing during the early days of spring. Rain jackets keep the dampness and rain at bay but not the 6" (152.4mm) to 20" (508mm) of snow. The time is perfect to view the millions of stars in the clear night skies in the unpolluted environment of the north. Expect an occasional ice storm in the northern parts that brings an unusual amount of snow in March in Michigan.
Weather in April
April shows the first signs of warmth in the spring of Michigan and brings greenery to the landscape. The average high temperatures are in the warm zone of 46°F (7.8°C) to 60°F (15.6°C), and the average low temperatures are between a cold 25°F (-3.9°C) to 38°F (3.3°C). Detroit in the southeast averages between 39°F (3.9°C) to 59°F (15°C), while Benton Harbor in the west is between 38°F (3.3°C) to 68°F (20°C). The rainfall ranges from 2" (50.8mm) in the south to 8" (203.2mm) in the Upper Peninsula, as fresh snow keeps the roads slippery. The sunshine improves significantly, but the sun is yet to reach its peak intensity. The regions near the Great Lakes are slightly warmer than the rest of the state. Spring is an ideal time for boating, kayaking, biking, and hiking with thousands of lakes in the state. Michigan rivers are shallow and calm to enjoy rafting in the mild weather. The waterfalls roar gracefully with the melting of snow and heavy rainfall in spring in April in Michigan.
Weather in May
May brings bright sunshine to Michigan as the cold and windy conditions abate significantly. The warm days and comfortable nights receive daily sunshine of 6.5 hours. The average daily temperatures are in the pleasant 58°F (14.4°C) to 71°F (21.7°C) range, while the nights are in the mild zone of 36°F (2.2°C) to 48°. Rain picks up in intensity with 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) in the state as the snow starts to melt away. The soil is free of frost, and the thawing of the snow brings abundant freshwater. The air is sweet and fresh, with flowers blossoming in the wild. Wild turkeys and ducks provide plenty of opportunities for hunters with clear skies in the background. Late spring sees abundant trout in the Au Sable River that races through the heart of the wilderness in Eastern Michigan. The dunes along the lake shores are a fantastic sight in the warm spring conditions. Expect the weather to warm with each passing day in May in Michigan.
Weather in June
June begins the beautiful summer season in Michigan with bright sunshine amid blue skies at the helm. The long days see 8 hours of sunlight and the rainfall averages 3" (76.2mm) to 5" (127mm) in the month. The average high temperatures are in the pleasant range of 67°F (19.4°C) to 80°F (26.7°C), while the nights are comfortable between the 45°F (7.2°C) to 58°F (14.4°C) range. Temperatures reach 90°F (32.2°C) in the southeast but rarely stay high for long. The conditions are ideal for boating and fishing in the vast number of lakes. Summer is the chance to visit the state and national parks of Mackinac Island and Isle Royale. The pristine sunshine offers ample time to paddle on the waterways or relax on a boat on one of the many lakes. Thunderstorms are occasional and bring the majority of the summer rainfall. Carry a rain jacket in the vicinity of the lakes. Do not waste a single blissful day in June in Michigan.
Weather in July
July is usually the hottest month of the year in Michigan, with at least ten sunny days that bring 9 hours of intense sunshine. The average high temperatures are in the hot 76°F (24.4°C) to 85°F (29.4°C) range, while nights are comfortable in the 50°F (10°C) to 64°F (17.8°C) zone. Temperatures briefly reach 95°F (35°C) in the southeast, with an increase in humidity. Grand Rapids in the western Michigan averages between 62°F (16.7°C) to 83°F (28.3°C), Ludington in the north is between 59°F (15°C) to 79°F (26.1°C). Camping grounds are full near the lakes as well as the mountains with tourists and locals who gather in peak numbers. The conditions are the best for buggy riding on the dunes near the lakes. Hike the mountains and stay in the lodges while making the most of the warm conditions of summer. Keep an eye on the weather for sudden thunderstorms. Sweatshirts are suitable for the summer. Rarely does Michigan weather allows wearing a single layer of clothing as in July.
Weather in August
August is delectably warm in Michigan with long days and dry conditions across the state. The average temperatures in the state are in the zone of 50°F (10°C) to 82°F (27.8°C), with 7 hours of daily sunshine. The precipitation is to the tune of 3" (76.2mm) to 4" (101.6mm), and mostly in the form of thunderstorms and occasional showers. The growing season is at a high with frost-free soil, moderate rainfall, and temperate conditions. Light summer clothing is suitable during the day, but cover the lower body during the evenings. The fishing season is in full swing, and the hunting season is at its peak in the temperate weather. There is rarely a lovely time as August to set sail on one of the schooners and get away from the city lights. Bike an urban trail on a fine Sunday morning for an experience of nature in the city. August is a highly desirable time to visit Michigan, but be prepared to spend more on accommodations.
Weather in September
September starts the wonderful fall season in Michigan with warm temperatures and steady rain. The average high temperatures are in the 65°F (18.3°C) to 76°F (24.4°C) range, while the average low temperatures are in the mild 43°F (6.1°C) to 55°F (12.8°C) zone. Saginaw in the southeast averages between 51°F (10.6°C) to 74°F (23.3°C), while Gaylord in the north is between 48°F (8.9°C) to 68°F (20°C). September sees steady rainfall between 4" (101.6mm) to 6" (152.4mm) amid partly cloudy skies. The autumn gives space to the remaining population with the dispersal of the summer crowds. Hike on the North Country Trail with the breezy wind in the face and nature at its best. Collect varieties of apples from a local orchard or visit one of the many pumpkin patches that spring in the fall season. The leaves turn color by the third week of September in the northern parts and progress steadily towards the south. September provides calm weather to visit the islands in the lakes of Michigan.
Weather in October
October is the period of peak fall foliage in the countryside of Michigan that brings the glory of the wilderness into the limelight. The average high temperatures are in the comfortable 56°F (13.3°C) to 63°F (17.2°C) range, but the nights are cold with average low temperatures in the 32°F (0°C) to 44°F (6.7°C) zone. The daily sunshine lasts between 5 to 6 hours in the majority of the state, with 12 to 15 wet days in the month. The skies are cloudy, especially in the Great Lakes region, due to the mixing of contrasting air masses. The first cold waves hit in the Upper Peninsula by the mid of the fall season as the foliage reaches its peak. Evenings are breezy, while nights tend to be cold. Warm clothing is beneficiary in the evenings, while the days are still mild to remain. The harvest season is on its last legs with the invasion of frost on the lands. October is the last month of fair weather in Michigan.
Weather in November
November is a transitional period from warm to cold weather in the late fall season in Michigan. The fall foliage is beyond its peak as trees start to show bare limbs by mid-November. The average high temperatures are in the mild 36°F (2.2°C) to 50°F (10°C) range, while nights drop below freezing. November sees the first snowfall in Michigan, as Houghton and Iron Mountain in the Upper Peninsula receive more than 22" (558.8mm) of snow. The short days hardly receive 3 hours of daily sunshine as cloudy skies rule the roost. The hunting season is in its last lap, as is the fishing season with the challenging cold conditions. A colorful forest walk and warm chocolate by a roaring fire in a cozy inn is a dream come true for many. Expect the cold to increase rapidly and dress in layers after sunset. November ends the tourist season in Michigan, with only a few remaining to enjoy the snowy activities of winter.
Weather in December
December is the beginning of the freezing winter in Michigan, with abundant snowfall and dark skies. The short days miss the sunlight dearly, with a few entirely devoid of sunshine. The average high temperatures are in the 24°F (-4.4°C) to 37°F (2.8°C) range, while the average low temperatures are in the cold 9°F (-12.8°C) to 25°F (-3.9°C) range across the state. The howling wind sweeps the land as temperatures drop below 0°F (-17.8°C). Northern highlands are the coldest with average low temperatures in Ironwood at 9°F (-12.8°C) and Escanaba at 13°F (-10.6°C). Rainfall is light and steady, but snowfall is heavy in the range of 30" (762mm) to 50" (1270mm) in the Upper Peninsula. Christmas is white in the majority of the Upper Peninsula and the north and central parts of the Lower Peninsula. Lake effect snow registers in vast quantities near the lake shores, particularly in the proximity of Lake Superior. Winter coats, caps, gloves, and long boots are the order of the day in December in Michigan.