When are we mostly likely to see severe weather in Michigan? - WNEM TV 5

When are we mostly likely to see severe weather in Michigan?

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This week is severe weather awareness week in Michigan. This past week we have talked about the difference between a watch and a warning and what to do when severe weather hits, but when is severe weather most likely to hit?

Severe weather season for Michigan runs from April to August with the peak of the season late in the summer.  Mid-June through mid-July is the time of the year most favorable for severe weather to develop in Michigan. It is historically when we see the most tornadoes and also the most damaging thunderstorms.


Instability, lift, moisture and wind shear are the four main ingredients needed for severe weather to develop.

Instability: When it is warm/ hot and humid outside the atmosphere becomes unstable. Instability favors warmer air as it is less dense and rises quicker.

Moisture: Dew point is related to how humid it is outside and is often the best indicator to how much moisture is in the atmosphere.  

Lift: Air that is forced upwards.

Wind Shear: This is more complicated. Imagine two parcels of air traveling in opposite directions rubbing against one another creating friction. This is wind shear.

In the summer it is warmer and more humid. Thunderstorms feed on instability and will use lifted moist, warm air to form.  June and July are also Michigan’s warmest months and typically more humid, making it the best time to see severe storms.

How often does severe weather occur?

Severe weather can happen any time of the year. The better chance is just when it’s warmer out. On average, Michigan will experience 15 tornadoes a year with the majority occurring May to August.

Genesee County ranks No. 1 in the counties most likely to get a tornado in Michigan. From 1950 to 2012 Genesee County has seen 41 tornadoes. Severe thunderstorms are more common.

Just because it is warmer in the summer doesn’t mean severe weather can’t happen in the dead of January. We had a severe thunderstorm that produced a tornado as late as December this past year. April is the start of severe weather season across the U.S. and that is why we are taking this week to remind everyone to be prepared for when severe weather hits. 

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