In order to understand the reason for the intensity of the storms, an analysis of the conditions during the time period surrounding the thunderstorms was performed. Surface observations and radiosonde soundings were examined, as well as observations and model data at the 850, 500, and 250 mb levels. Storm reports from the Storm Prediction Center and National Climatic Data Center were reviewed to provide a comprehensive look at the specific severe weather events that impacted the Mid-Michigan area. A low pressure area over northern Michigan with a trailing cold front and strong wind shear was responsible for bringing together the right ingredients for this severe event.
A brief review of the number of occurrences of past severe winter convective thunderstorms was also made, in order to highlight the unique nature of the January 2008 thunderstorms.