Meteorological Winter Recap: 2018-2019

Winter Review:  December – February (2018-2019)

Although the first week of March 2019 does not give us the satisfaction that spring will be arriving in the near future, it does mark the end of the meteorological winter season, which runs from December – February.

Despite what felt like an eternity of below average temperatures, the season as a whole finished with temperatures relatively close to the long term average. Referring to the map below, which represents average temperature departures, a few localities in the west-central and northwest portions of the state saw temperature departures of 1°F or more below average.  On the opposite end, locations in southern Illinois experienced temperature departures of 1-2°F above average during the 2018-19 winter season.

Statewide temperatures averaged 29.9°F, 0.8° above the long term average.

Average temperature for the season ranged from the low 20s north, to around 40° toward extreme southern Illinois.  Large variations occurred with seasonal highs in the 70s and lows in the -30s. The maximum temperature of 71°F occurred on Dec. 1 at Kaskaskia Navigation Lock in Randolph County.  The lowest temperature of -38°F occurred on Jan. 31 at Mt. Carroll in Carroll County, setting a new state record minimum temperature.

The last two days of January brought widespread cold weather to Illinois.  Many locations experienced some of the coldest weather that has been seen in decades allowing numerous daily and station record lows to be broken.  This event produced statewide temperature departures of 20 to 30° below average.

To gain additional perspective on this event, the updated map below displays the minimum temperature recording at stations throughout Illinois with at least 20 years of data.  The color of the station plot represents the month of occurrence, and temperatures in bold represent new records that were set in 2019 (click the map for a larger PDF version).

Precipitation was abundant throughout the state this winter season (see map below), this allowed the entire state to remain free of any abnormally dry, or drought designations during this period. Above average precipitation occurred every month during the season. Generally precipitation totals across Illinois ranged from 5 to nearly 15 inches, with counties south of I-70 experiencing the most precipitation.

Most remarkable was the 21.18 inches of precipitation reported at Smithland Lock and Dam on the lower Ohio River.  Overall, both southern and northwest Illinois received over 150% of their average winter precipitation, with several localities approaching 200% (see map below).

Statewide seasonal precipitation averaged 9.67 inches, which is 2.85 inches above the long-term average, ranking as the 6th wettest winter season on record for the state (with records going back to 1895-96).

The total accumulated snowfall map shows that snowfall occurred statewide this winter, with the heaviest accumulations centered in northwestern Illinois, and counties along the Illinois/Wisconsin border. Totals ranged from 1 to 10 inches in southern Illinois, 10 to 20 inches in central Illinois, and 20 to over 40 inches in northern Illinois.