Mild October Had a Chilly End

The preliminary statewide average October temperature was 56.7 degrees, 1.9 degrees above the 1991–2020 average and tied for the 31st warmest on record going back to 1895. The preliminary statewide total October precipitation was 3.46 inches, 0.20 inches above the 1991–2020 average and the 41st wettest on record.

Data are provisional and may change slightly over time.

Mild October Temperatures with Some Extremes Thrown In

For my money, October is the best weather month of the year. The summer heat mellows out and mixes with the first real shots of chilly air. We had both summer- and winter-like weather last month, but a little more of the former than the latter. As the daily temperature departures from normal in Mt. Vernon show, most October days had above average temperatures, including a few days in the final week of the month that were 15 to 20 degrees above normal (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Daily October average temperature departures in Mt. Vernon.

October average temperatures ranged from the low 50s in northern Illinois to the low 60s in southern Illinois, between 1 and 2 degrees above normal in most places (Figure 2). Most of the state saw high temperatures in the upper 80s or low 90s in early October, including 94 in Quincy and 90 in Hoopeston. The brief taste of winter in the last few days of the month brought widespread low temperatures in the low 20s, including 21 degrees in Mt. Vernon and 23 in Bloomington.

The warm periods last month broke 31 daily high maximum temperature records and an incredible 66 daily high minimum temperature records. Aledo in Mercer County broke its all-time October high temperature records last month with a high temperature of 93 degrees on October 3. The cold end to the month broke 18 daily low maximum temperature records and 37 daily low minimum temperature records. 

Figure 2. Maps of (left) October average temperature and (right) October average temperature departures from normal.

Overall, the preliminary statewide average October temperature was 56.7 degrees, 1.9 degrees above the 1991–2020 average and tied for the 31st warmest on record going back to 1895.

Dry Start and Wet End to October

The month-end precipitation totals across the state do not tell the entire story of October precipitation. The first two-thirds of the month were somewhat to very dry across the state, as most places were 1 to 2 inches drier than normal through October 24. More active weather brought multiple rounds of rain–and some snow–to Illinois, raising month-end totals near or above the 30-year normals. As Figure 3 shows, Peoria picked up more rain in the last 7 days of October than in the first 24 days, and the month ended just slightly wetter than normal in Peoria. The dry start to the month was ideal for fall harvest, while the wetter end of the month helped improve dry conditions that prevailed in August and September.

Figure 3. Plot of October daily precipitation accumulation in Peoria (shaded area) versus the normal daily accumulation (black line).

October precipitation ranged from nearly 6 inches in northeast Illinois to less than 2.5 inches in the St. Louis Metro East. Most of the state north of Interstate 70 was 1 to 2 inches wetter than normal, while areas farther south were just slightly drier, up to 2 inches drier than normal (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Maps show (left) October total precipitation and (right) October precipitation departure from average.

Last month wasn’t an extremely wet or extremely dry month anywhere in the state; however, the wetter conditions in the northern half of the state helped reduce drought extent from 23 percent of the state on October 3 to 7 percent on October 31. Small areas of western and southern Illinois remain in moderate drought due to longer-term precipitation deficits. For example, the first 10 months of the year have had the third lowest precipitation total in Quincy with 20.17 inches, around 10 inches below average. While topsoil moisture in western Illinois has improved from the wetter end of October, deeper layer moisture and water table levels remain less than ideal because of the long-term dryness.

Overall, the preliminary statewide total October precipitation was 3.46 inches, 0.20 inches above the 1991–2020 average and the 41st wettest on record.

A Spooky, Winter-y Halloween

Like all the horror film characters who inevitably run back into the haunted house, mild October temperatures lulled all of us into a false sense of security. The intense cold, wind, and for some folks, snow on Halloween was more shocking than the sound of a revving chainsaw. Halloween nighttime temperatures dipped into the low 20s and high teens across much of the state, including 18-degree lows in Monmouth and Rochelle (Figure 5). The daytime high temperatures on Halloween were the coldest on record in several spots across the state, including at Chicago’s Midway airport (37 degrees) and Mt. Vernon (43 degrees). The low temperatures on Halloween night also set records in many places, including in Kankakee (24 degrees) and Olney (22 degrees). In fact, this year was the coldest Halloween in Olney since observations began there in 1896.

Halloween snow in northern and central Illinois is not necessarily a rarity but happens once every 4 to 6 years. Measurable snow, with totals exceeding 0.1 inches, was recorded in much of the state north of Interstate 74, with totals as high as 1.5 inches in Mundelein and 0.9 inches at O’Hare (Figure 5). For reference, the average first measurable snow comes in the third or fourth week of November for most of northern and central Illinois, so this year’s event came about two to three weeks early. It’s important to note that an early snowfall does not mean we will necessarily have a very snowy winter… but this State Climatologist can hope.

Figure 5. Maps of (left) nighttime low temperatures and (right) total snowfall on Halloween. Maps are from the Lincoln National Weather Service Office:


November doesn’t get the love it deserves, because it is so often associated with cloudy, blustery weather. But November typically gives us a great mix of pleasant and not-so-pleasant weather and portends the beautiful winter season in Illinois. The latest Climate Prediction Center outlooks lean into El Niño with higher chances of below normal November precipitation. November temperature outlooks are more mixed, with equal chances of warmer and colder weather this month (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Maps of (left) temperature and (right) precipitation outlooks for November.

Meanwhile, NOAA leans even more heavily into El Niño for climatological winter (December–February) outlooks (Figure 7). The outlooks show highest chances of above normal temperatures in winter, with mostly equal chances of above or below normal precipitation.

Figure 7. Maps of (left) temperature and (right) precipitation outlooks for winter (December–February).

Drought Impacts Continue into Fall

Drought re-intensified in Illinois at the end of the growing season and has increased the fire and blowing dust risk as we approach harvest. River levels have also dropped near or below low stage, increasing concerns of issues with navigation.

Working off Early August Rains

The drought peaked in early July for much of Illinois, as more active, stormy weather was present most of that month and in the first two weeks of August. Most of Illinois was 1 to 8 inches wetter than normal between mid-July and mid-August, dramatically improving soil moisture, crop conditions, and streamflow. However, drier weather has dominated since mid-August, and most of central and northern Illinois have been 1 to 4 inches drier than normal between mid-August and mid-September (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Map shows 30-day total precipitation departure from normal from mid-August to mid-September.

Soil moisture down to 20 inches has been depleted once again because of the below normal rainfall. The combination of dryness and late August heat has also sped up crop senescence and possibly affected some yields in the driest parts of the state. Meanwhile, crops in areas of the state that had been wetter in early August, such as parts of central and southern Illinois, have been relying on the remaining soil moisture.

Water table levels have also dropped across the northern two-thirds of the state as soil moisture is used. Water table levels at the State Water Survey’s WARM station in Freeport dropped more than 1 foot between August 1 and September 1 (Figure 2), and current water table depths are 1.5 feet deeper than this time last year.

Figure 2. Water table depth from the surface between August 1, 2022 and September 1, 2023 at the State Water Survey’s WARM station in Freeport.

Low River Levels Across the Midwest

Drought usually affects the flow and level of small streams and creeks first, then the tributaries of our larger rivers. When dry conditions persist for weeks to months we can see low flow along our larger rivers like the Illinois, Rock, and Kaskaskia. When those drought conditions cover most of the Midwest region, we can see low flow along the region’s largest rivers like the Mississippi and Ohio. Persistently dry conditions this summer have caused concerns of low flow conditions along the Mississippi River, like the issues we saw last fall. As of September 15, the Mississippi at Memphis was 4 feet below low stage and forecasted to approach record low values by late September. The big river hit a record low of -10.81 feet on October 21, 2022, so it is concerning that we are approaching these low values a full month ahead of last year.

The problem of big river low flow is not as easily fixed as soil moisture drought. Most rain over the next few weeks would be soaked up by the soil to replenish soil moisture and groundwater, reducing runoff to the big rivers and their tributaries. Therefore, the Midwest region will need prolonged wetter conditions over the next several weeks to help reduce or avoid the impacts of low flow on our rivers.

Where are We Headed?

The September 12 edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor has over 20% of Illinois and nearly half of the Midwest region in at least moderate drought (Figure 3). Most of the worst drought issues are in the western Midwest, while the eastern corn belt remains mostly drought-free.

Figure 3. US Drought Monitor current as of September 12.

Next week looks to be very dry across most of the region, including the Ohio Valley region that often contributes significantly to the flow of the Ohio and lower Mississippi Rivers (Figure 4). Beyond that, outlooks show the best chances of warmer conditions returning for the last full week of September, but also possibly better chances of near to wetter than normal conditions in the Midwest.

Figure 4. 7-day precipitation forecast across the Midwest for the period September 15 to September 22.

Fire and Dust Risk

We are still a few weeks from harvest in full swing, but more combines are out of the shed–and some in the field–across southern and central Illinois. Recent dry weather has quickly dried corn and beans, and combined with low humidity and dry topsoil, has increased field and grass fires across the Midwest. Extra precautions should be taken ahead of, during, and after harvest to ensure everyone stays safe considering the enhanced fire risk. You can find more information on farm fire safety here:

Additionally, the dry crop and topsoil increase the chances of blowing dust on dry and windy days. Folks should consider weather conditions and the potential dust created when harvesting. We want to avoid dangerous blowing dust situations like what we saw this spring. 

Illinois First Fall Freeze Climatology

Due to significant planting delays across most of the Midwest this year, I have heard many concerns about an early fall freeze and its potential effects on immature crops. Most plants experience damage from a hard freeze or “killing freeze”, which is typically designated by a daily minimum air temperature at or below 28°F. Even in normal growing seasons, an early fall freeze can cause considerable impacts and yield losses for crops. Delayed planting, as was the case this season, increases the risk of freeze damage because crops are less mature going into our normal fall freeze time.

The maps and summary below show first fall freeze dates across Illinois using temperature observations over the period 1979 to 2018. The maps show the earliest and latest fall freeze dates over this 40-year period, as well as the median date, which represents the middle value in the range of dates. The median is preferred over the mean or average, as it is less sensitive to very early or very late freeze dates. Also shown are the 10th (1 in 10 years) and 90th (9 in 10 years) fall freeze dates. All station temperature data were provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center (; the shaded areas between stations on the map were interpolated and do not represent actual observations.

The earliest fall freeze dates over the past 40 years range from late September in northwest and central Illinois, to early October in southern and eastern Illinois. An early freeze anomaly can be seen at the Mt. Carroll station (Carroll County), which experienced a minimum temperature of 27°F on September 7, 1988. Interestingly, the observed all-season Illinois minimum temperature record was broken earlier this year at the Mt. Carroll station (-38°F).

Tenth percentile first fall freeze dates (i.e., 1 in 10 years) range from early October in northwest and central Illinois to mid- to late October in southern and eastern Illinois.

Median first fall freeze dates range from mid- to late October in northwest and central Illinois to late October/early November in southern and northeastern Illinois. Approximately half the years between 1979 and 2018 experienced the first fall freeze before the median dates. Also, the median dates map clearly shows the effects of the developed Chicagoland area on nighttime minimum temperatures. The median first fall freeze date at Chicago Midway is 10 to 15 days later than in some of the collar counties.

Ninetieth percentile first fall freeze dates (i.e., 9 in 10 years) range from early November in northwest and central Illinois to mid- to late November in southern Illinois. Based on the 40-year climatology, one could say that there is a 90% chance that the first fall freeze on any given year will occur on or before the dates in the 90th percentile map.

Finally, the latest first fall freeze dates across the state range from mid- to late November in northwest Illinois to early to mid-December in southern Illinois.

Note that air temperatures can vary considerably on smaller or micro-scales. For example, plants near heated buildings or other development can be spared when minimum temperatures dip below the 28°F threshold in the countryside. More information and useful freeze products are provided by the Midwestern Regional Climate Center as part of their Vegetation Impact Program (  Higher quality, full-page maps can be accessed by clicking the following links:

10th_Percentile 90th_Percentile Earliest Latest Median

Widespread, heavy rains possible over next week in Illinois

As of April 25, the statewide average precipitation for Illinois is 2.8 inches, which is 94% of normal. However, we have several opportunities for widespread rains this week and into the weekend, according to the NWS precipitation forecast.
The first round of rain on Wednesday and Thursday has potential rainfall amounts of 1 to 2 inches across most of Illinois, along with the chance for severe weather. Continue reading “Widespread, heavy rains possible over next week in Illinois”