October climate in Northern Michigan is generally what many would picture when imagining a classic fall day. High temperatures drop into the 50s with lows beginning to dip into the 40s and upper 30s. You probably notice your days getting shorter throughout the month as well, because we lose about one hour and a half of sunlight by the end of October. This loss does come with an upside though, because it causes leaves to begin changing. October usually brings peak color season, with the best views usually occurring around the 3rd week of the month.
This October was above average for temperatures, with the first week of the month bringing in summer-like heat and record highs for many. Temperatures were in the mid-to-upper 80s for several spots during this period. It is worth noting that Sault Ste. Marie broke its MONTHLY high temperature record on October 2nd and October 3rd at 83 degrees for both days, with the original record being set in 1938 at 81 degrees. Alpena, Gaylord, and Traverse City also broke records setting daily high record temperature records in those areas on October 2nd and October 3rd.
Alpena – October 2nd: 85 (broke 84 record from 1922), October 3rd: 87 (broke 84 record from 2005)
Gaylord – October 2nd: 84 (broke 82 record from 1971), October 3rd: 85 (broke 84 record from 1971)
Traverse City – October 3rd: 88 (broke 87 record from 1922)
After a scorching start to October we fell back in to a pattern of more seasonable highs in the low 60s to 50s, however overnight lows remained mild in the 40s. Many also saw little or no frost until after the 20th which marked the arrival of a cooler and drier air mass. Another system made its way into the area on the 24th bringing unseasonably warm highs with many seeing 60s and 70s during this period. After this warm up, a strong cold front made its way through on the 27th bringing with it the first true cold airmass of the season.
Overall the record breaking highs and mild lows we saw caused October of 2023 to be much warmer than average.
Despite the warmer than average conditions, precipitation hovered right around normal for October with several rounds of rain taking over the month. The 6th-10th saw an outburst of lake effect rain for the usual locations thanks to cool air and warm Great Lakes water temperatures. After those few days there was a lull in precipitation with just the occasional spat of drizzle or light rain. So, even though the middle of the month was gray and damp the rainfall we received did not add up to much. October 24th was when many saw the next round of appreciable rain with several rounds of rain and even some thunderstorms moving through for several days.
The end of October also featured the first snowflakes of the season, with some even seeing the snow add up. A few spots saw historic accumulations, with Sault Ste. Marie setting a daily high record on October 30th at 4.1″ of snowfall. The Soo also set a daily high record for the highest snow depth on Halloween with 4″ of snow on the ground. Overall there was not a definitive trend as far as snow went, with many seeing well below average and some seeing well above normal.
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