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1992 - Michigan's Year Without A Summer


mjwise
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Hello all,

As someone who has lived in the Midwest for all of my life, I have always found the summer of 1992 to be fascinating to look back on, even though my own memories of it, being only 9 at the time, are very hazy. It was the coldest summer in the last 100 years in Detroit (and in much of the Midwest/Great Lakes) by a fair margin over most of its competitors. So I decided to post here some pieces of that summer as well as I've been able to given the sources that are now available online. I hope you enjoy the trip back! Where were you (if you were around!) and do you remember that summer? My sources here all focus on the experience in southeast Michigan at DTW, but really all of the midwest experienced this to some extent.

 

Fair warning - this is a LONG post with lots of graphics! Mods, if this is not the best place for this kind of post, please feel free to move.

 

May 1992:

 

May was a pleasant month and near average but pretty dry, although a warmup into the mid-80's occurred around mid-month. Here's a WDIV newscast near the height of the warmth and dry weather with a somewhat long-haired Chuck Gaidica:

 

(sorry, embedding is disabled on this one)

 

A cooldown was on the horizon, as Chuck Gaidica's forecast indicated, but he overshot the highs post-front, which is a pattern of sorts for how this summer turned out.

 

wdiv52292.jpg


The actual highs for the days shown turned out to be 50, 57, 55, and 66, so the ensuing pool of cold air behind the front ended up packing more of a punch than anticipated.

 

 

 

June 1992:

 

June was very uneventful and average for the first two weeks, and then an amazing cold front and ensuing Arctic high blew into town right around the official start of summer. It spawned 15 SVRs and 6 TOR warnings from DTX on 6/17-6/18. The summer never recovered from this front, which bottomed out heights at 558 dm on 6/21 in SE michigan.  Here's the weather channel coverage someone kindly uploaded, although it's mostly of it before it reached SE Michigan:

 

 

We haven't seen a June cold front like this come through the Midwest with as much cold air behind it basically since this one. DTW reached one of its only two 90+ temps this summer on 6/17 - and then had a low of 42 by 6/21!

 

From this.... (6/17-6/18)

 

61892hilo.jpg

 

To this...

 

62092hiloam.jpg

 

Yes, that's a map from LATE JUNE.

 

Precipitation remained fairly below normal as in May, but that would soon be corrected...

 

 

 

July 1992:

 

 

This is the amazing wheels-came-off-the-bus month at DTW. There were no 90-degree days, at all. Not even CLOSE to there being one - no cheater 89's like we're used to. Heck, not even any 85's. The high for the month of July at DTW was 82 degrees - we barely even managed to reach an average high during the month!

 

This was actually one of July's "hottest" days in 1992:

 

weatherchannel71492221p.jpg

 

Link to original video with red screen Tornado Watch:

 

There was a single tornado warning in Monroe County from this watch.

 

And, as dry as May and June had been, it basically rained constantly in July, and  in quantity to boot. This was a very typical frontal setup for much of July from 7/15/92:

 

71592fronts.jpg

 

Front after front passed through or set up camp very close to SE MI repeatedly during July, especially the middle of it, usually with some decent dynamics. It rained over 3.8 inches at DTW from 7/11 to 7/17 - and it rained each and every day in that span.

 

Surprisingly, the presentation at 850mb on the daily weather maps itself wasn't inordinately troughy or at least not as troughy as you'd think given the very cool temperatures. There was actually quite a bit of zonal flow from the looks of the daily weather maps for the entire month. REALLY zonal, and very active flow. As in, there was frontal passage and/or a stationary front camped on our doorstep on 7/2-7/4, 7/8-7/18 (!), 7/20, 7/23-7/24, 7/26, and 7/29-7/31.  There was absolutely no opportunity for even minor shortwave ridging to set up shop. Even the warm fronts that preceded the cold fronts had basically no ridging to support them. There was measurable rain on 23 of the 31 days that month at DTW.

 

By the end of the month, July had basically cried uncle:

 

weatherchannel73092347p.jpg

 

Yes, it  really was 61 degrees at 3:47 in the afternoon on 7/30/92! The high that day was all of 64 degrees (a high minimum record - and more in keeping with an average day in early October). Oh, and even this forecast for 7/31/92 was optimistic - it did rain (again - bringing the month's total to a little over 6 inches) but the hi on 7/31 was just 68, not 75.

 

Temperatures made a minor rebound in August with a single 90+ day, but it was still a below average month as far as temperature went. All in all a pretty amazing summer and one that I could only hope to see again in my lifetime:

 

 

 

July 1992:

 

ncdcjuly1992.gif

ncdcjuly1992precip.gif

 

 

 

 

 

Other sources:

 

The summer that wasn't, by the always informative William Deedler

 

The addictive NOAA daily weather maps collection

 

The even more addictive IEM/VTEC warning products collection/archive (although it does not have any text or radar data back to 1992)

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There was another similar summer, although not quite as cold, which was 2009. 

 

1992's summer was a rare constellation of near record cool and being very wet. 2009 (and 2004 to a lesser extent) were both fairly cool, but they seemed to get there more with persistent troughs at 850mb which held down the precip as well. 1992's summer, July especially, held down temps just with really active zonal flow as far as I can tell, apart from the crazy trough in late June. It didn't get too cool at night for the most part - there was just no traction to warm up during the day because of the constant energy rotating through the midwest. Those sorts of synoptic systems are just rare by the time July rolls around here - usually you're very dependent on convective action for precip in July. But July 1992 had systems producing heavy stratiform rain lined up one right after another. There was little in the way of severe convective events that entire month. Very odd.

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Great throwbacks mj! I was 9, so memories are kind of vague...but I DO remember it was the first summer in the new house and my parents were excited we had central AC (used room ACs in the old house) and the previous summer had been so hot....yet we barely used it at all. Julys hottest temp was 83F at DTW. Yes, that was the HOTTEST temp ALL of JULY! That is something that had never happened in any previous JJA month I record I believe. My sisters 1st birthday was July 18th and pics from her party (not sure of the actual date of party) show a billowy overcast sky (no rain though), extremely lush green grass, and people wearing light jackets in the middle of the day.

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Summer of my dreams.

 

It was Chicago's 4th coolest in recorded history (since 1873).

 

66.6º in 1875

66.9º in 1915

67.0º in 1884

67.1º in 1992

67.2º in 1891

 

3rd coolest in recorded history for Indianapolis (since 1871).

 

69.9º in 1927

70.0º in 1915

70.3º in 1992

70.4º in 1950

70.8º in 1958

 

Was also the 8th wettest summer for Indianapolis (17.28").

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You can thank Pinatubo for that one.

 

I agree with Harry on last summer. Last summer made me want to move.... really far north. I had flashbacks of the Middle East from late June into July.

This. I believe Pinatubo resulted in a number of weather anomolies in the early 90s. Some believe that the snowy winters of 1992-93 and 1993-94 were also partly a result of the volcano, although the effects of volcanoes, I gather, are generally felt most in the summer months.

 

There's an interesting book called "Volcano weather" that was published in 1983 which describes 1816, the true year of no summer. Interestingly, that book was written asa result of a volcano that had occurred in Mexico in the spring of 1982, with the author opining that the chilly summer of 1982 was partly a result of this.

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You can thank Pinatubo for that one.

 

I agree with Harry on last summer. Last summer made me want to move.... really far north. I had flashbacks of the Middle East from late June into July.

 

I pretty much consider Saint Louis "The South", way too hot for me.

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Summer of my dreams.

It was Chicago's 4th coolest in recorded history (since 1873).

66.6º in 1875

66.9º in 1915

67.0º in 1884

67.1º in 1992

67.2º in 1891

3rd coolest in recorded history for Indianapolis (since 1871).

69.9º in 1927

70.0º in 1915

70.3º in 1992

70.4º in 1950

70.8º in 1958

Was also the 8th wettest summer for Indianapolis (17.28").

Come on, even you would be whining about 30s in late June. :P

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