Fall Of 2008


By: William R Deedler, Weather Historian NWS Detroit/Pontiac Mi



Early autumn of 2008 started out extremely wet across over Southeast Lower Michigan with the combination of tropical moisture and a slow moving frontal system. Days of heavy rain led to the sixth wettest September on record at Detroit with 5.99 inches, third wettest on record at Flint with 8.64" of rain and with lesser intense rains at Saginaw, 4.55" fell. The worst of the rains came on the 13-14th when a slow moving cold front encountered a tropical plume of moisture laden air left over from tropical storms Lowell and Ike. Rainfall, periodically falling in torrential downpours, occurred much of the 13-14th. Officially at Detroit Metro airport, 2.97" fell on the 13th which blew away the archaic record rainfall for the date of 2.72" established over a century ago in 1892! The rainfall for the 13-14th came in at 3.78" at Detroit Metro, while here at the NWS in White Lake we received 4.75" in the two days! In a roughly 52 hour time span, from 3pm Friday until 7pm Sunday, numerous locations in Southeast Lower Michigan recorded several inches of rain. Some of the highest totals were found across the west and northern suburbs of Detroit. Rainfalls ranged mainly from five to six inches across that region.


In October weather quieted down, temperatures cooled off and all in all, it was a fairly pleasant month. Though a bit on the cool side, the month still contained its share of warm days. The cold snaps that affected vegetation were at the month`s opening...and again during the third and fourth week. Frost and freezes became more widespread with each successive, autumnal chilly blast. The warmest time of the month came during its second week /8th-15th/when readings topped out around the 80 degree mark! The high hit 81 degrees at Saginaw on the both the 12-13th, while at Flint, readings rose to 80 both days and Detroit for a change was the “cool” spot with 79 on the 12th.

Indian summer weather graced the landscape in time for Halloween and continued, for the most part, through the first week of November. The beautiful Indian summer weather peaked temperatures into the lower 70s by the 4th and 5th. While no record highs were set at Detroit, both Flint and Saginaw sneaked out a record high on the 4th with 72 degrees at Flint and 71 at Saginaw. The second half of the month did a complete reversal with much colder weather and frequent snows.  Nearly all the days from the 16th on, averaged below normal. Especially cold was the period from the 17th to 23rd, where temperatures averaged in the mid 20s to around 30, or about 11 degrees below normal. The coldest morning was on the 23rd when readings fell well down in the teens with a few locations even bottoming near 10. Temperatures moderated somewhat by Thanksgiving and after, when highs rose closer to normal. All in all, after November’s warm start, the month finished colder than average at all locations (and that was almost exclusively due to the second half). Some heavy rains fell around the 3rd of the month but other than that, the big story of the month was the frequent snows that accompanied the colder weather during the second half.  Snow events occurred right into Thanksgiving weekend which held the best (most snow) event.  Before that, however, another system pushed through on the 24-25th ( just before Thanksgiving) with generally one to four inches across the entire region with the lightest falling south of an Ann Arbor to a Detroit line to the Ohio border, where negligible amounts were reported.  The highest snow measured in this event was around Flint area, north into Saginaw and portions of the thumb where three to five inches accumulated. If that snow wasn`t enough, our Thanksgiving weekend /Sun/ major storm brought several more inches of snow. Most areas saw three to five inches from the storm. Highest amounts (including Dec 1) were;  8.6"at Marlette for the top spot, 7.0"at Chesaning and Ortonville  with 6.3”.  Snowfalls for the month came in well above normal throughout much of East-Central and portions of Southeast Lower Michigan. Highest snows could be found around the Flint area, north across the Saginaw Valley and Thumb Region. Officially at Flint, 9.2" fell and this was about two and half times /5.7"/ above the normal /3.5/. It made it the eighth Snowiest November on record at Flint. The snowfall of 8.8" at Saginaw was 5.0" above the 3.8" normal and made it the 11th snowiest November on record.




    LOCATION               SEPTEMBER                OCTOBER                NOVEMBER      FALL/(FALL’07)                     



66.3 / +2.4

50.6 / -1.3

39.0 / -1.7

52.0 / -0.2  (55.2) 


62.7 / +2.0

49.2 / -1.5

37.3 / -0.8

49.7 /+0.4  (52.9)


62.1 / +2.1

47.7 / -1.5

37.8 / -0.2


49.2 / -0.2 (52.6)   


 The map below depicts the areas of around normal in Southeast Michigan to come up with the normal temp for all.     




The big difference between the Fall of ’08 and Fall of ’07 was the warmth experienced last fall, especially in October. While this fall was pleasant enough, it was not nearly as warm as last fall. Look at the differences in this fall’s average temperatures with last falls (in parenthesis). The average temperatures were better than three degrees warmer last fall.  When combining the three main climate stations, Southeast Michigan averaged right on normal with 50.3 this fall. This matched our temperature outlook well with a normal temperature average but by way of quite variable temperatures.


 2008 Outlook:


Indications are temperatures this fall will be quite variable (even more than usual) but in the end, temperatures should average near normal.


Projecting precipitation amounts proved a bit more problematic due to the infiltration of tropical moisture the first half of September. Our analogue years were projecting normal to below precipitation. Which would have fine for the overall trend as most of the fall was drier than normal.


Fall 2008 Outlook:

Precipitation over the area is projected to average around normal to below.


Take out the first few weeks of September, and the autumn would have been notably drier.  Even leaving the first two weeks in at Saginaw and it was still dry with below normal precipitation. But alas, even though better than three quarters of the season averaged below normal all areas, it was NOT dry at Detroit and Flint for totals.  Early September’s heavy rains made the Fall of ’08 the 6th wettest fall at Flint since 1942 and the 20th wettest at Detroit.




   LOCATION                    SEPTEMBER           OCTOBER             NOVEMBER                   FALL 



5.99  / +2.72

1.15  / - 1.08

 3.31  / 0.65



8.64  / +4.88

1.26  /  -1.08

 2.10  / -0.55



4.55  / +0.60

2.26 /  - 0.23

 1.47  / -1.18



The precipitation map below depicts the wet and dry areas across the upper Midwest and Lakes Region. Note the heavier precipitation again extended from the Midwest east northeast into the southern Great Lakes. If this pattern looks familiar it should, since it has been pretty much the trend since last winter!







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