February typically pulls West Michigan out of the cold and snowy month of January and toward a warmer and drier month. February is the driest month of the year with only 1.79 inches of liquid precipitation. The average snowfall decreases, as spring approaches, down to 14.8 inches for the month.
Actual and potential sunshine both increase for February. We gain more than an hour of daylight during the month and even the percent of possible sunshine increases. In February we typically see 34% of possible sunshine.
Temperatures climb out of the deepest part of winter as spring approaches. The typical high temperature warms from 31 degrees at the beginning of February to 38 degrees by the end of the month. Overnight low temperatures take a similar rise going from 18 degrees to 23 degrees.
Looking at the historical records, the year 1899 stands out as exceptionally cold. The top six record coldest February low temperatures were all in 1899 with readings between minus 20 degrees and minus 24 degrees. As you might expect the “high” temperatures were exceptionally cold as well. The year 1899 observed 5 of the top 7 coldest maximum readings. That month some of the coldest high temperatures ranged from a frigid minus 6 degrees to a positive 2 degrees.
The mild January is likely to continue into February. See the attached slideshow for more February weather statistics.
There are some interesting weather events for February. I’ll just highlight a few of them from the National Weather Service archives. To see the complete list, subscribe to the Grand Rapids Weather examiner for a daily email of historical events.
Feb. 3, 2007, a blizzard conditions prevail across southwest Lower Michigan as an arctic blast of frigid air moving over Lake Michigan produces thundersnow and whiteout conditions. Grand Rapids sets a record for snowfall for any February day with 11.3 inches.
Feb. 4, 1838, an ice jam on the Grand River causes flooding of much of Grand Rapids during early February. Several people had to be rescued from flooded neighborhoods at the fur trading post.
Feb. 6, 1895, Lower Michigan is in the midst of a week long siege of arctic air. High temperatures struggle through the single numbers while morning lows fall well below zero. Lansing falls to 14 degrees below zero on this date after lows of 24 degrees below zero on Feb. 4, and 20 degrees below zero on Feb. 5. Grand Rapids hits 9 degrees below zero after falling to 16 degrees below zero on Feb. 5.
Feb. 6, 1938, the weight of ice and water carried away the west side of the Rouge river dam at Childsdale. The Souffrow bridge near North Belmont was closed to traffic as its footing had been swept away by the river. Several houses along the east bank of the Grand River were flooded.
Feb. 7, 1899, the greatest arctic outbreak in United States history begins a period of extreme cold in Michigan. Grand Rapids hits 15 degrees below zero. During the next week, temperatures will fall to all time record lows across the state and much of the continental U.S.
Feb. 10, 1899, Grand Rapids has its coldest day on record with a high of 6 degrees below zero and a low of 21 degrees below zero. Muskegon had set their record for all-time coldest high temperature on the Feb 9, with a high of 5 degrees below zero.
Feb. 20, 1951, ice jam flooding along the Grand River in Portland damages several buildings. It also forces the evacuation of some neighborhoods near the river.
Feb. 21, 1986, Lake Michigan water levels are near record highs. Coastal flooding and erosion is a concern during winter storms along the shore.
Feb. 26, 2000, record warm weather continues during a week long spell of balmy weather across Lower Michigan. The temperature hits 66 degrees at Muskegon for a record high. The low temperature at Grand Rapids is 53 degrees, setting a record for the warmest low temperature for the month of February.