Climate: Record heat wave fuels rare March tornadoes

A file image of a tornado from the NOAA image library.

More severe weather possible across the plains this weekend

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Record-breaking late winter warmth fueled an unusual spell of severe weather in Michigan this week, with May-like temperatures prevailing across the Midwest and the East during the start of March.

So far in March, more than 1,000 high temperature records have been set, and the average temperature for the month in Detroit is running about 11 degrees above normal, according to

When the tornado hit on March 15, temps had climbed well into the 70s across some parts of Michigan, more than 20 degrees above normal for the date. The warm, moist air helped develop thunderstorms capable of spawning tornadoes.

Several tornadoes struck the area, including one near Columbiaville that damaged trees and power lines along a mile-long path. Farther south, another tornado near Dexter damaged more than 100 homes with more than a dozen severely damaged. Scores of trees and power lines were toppled in the tornado’s path.

“A tornado near Detroit is about as rare of an event as you can get in March,” according to meteorologist Henry Margusity. There have only been 10 other tornadoes recorded in Michigan before April 1, with records dating back to 1950.

The typical peak in tornado occurrence for Michigan is May into June when warmer, more humid air arrives farther north across the U.S.

According to, more than 1,200 record high temperatures were set during the past week across the U.S., and nearly 6,000 record highs have been recorded since the beginning of 2012.

From March 8-14, 2012, the total number of records is 1,226, according to the National Climatic Data Center. On Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2012 alone, 423 records were set.

From the beginning of the year (Jan. 1-March 12, 2012), there has been a total of 5,618 record highs. In comparison, Jan. 1-March 31, 2011, there were only 2,800 record highs recorded.

“The jet stream has been flung all the way north across central and eastern Canada,” Sosnowski said, explaining why warmth has been so widespread this March.

“At least two-thirds of the nation could wind up with above-normal temperatures (this spring),” said Paul Pastelok, a long-range AccuWeather forecaster.



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