Cool, Warm, Wet, Dry, and a Derecho: A Wild August Ends Climatological Summer

August was slightly cooler and much drier than average across Illinois. The preliminary statewide average August temperature was 72.7 degrees, 0.9 degrees below the 30-year normal and the 45th coolest on record. Preliminary statewide average total precipitation for August was 2.01 inches, 1.58 inches below than the 30-year normal and the 15th driest on record.

Data are provisional and may change slightly over time

August Temperatures

Following the warmer than average months of June and July, August began much cooler than average. The below average temperatures persisted through the third week of the month in response to a persistent atmospheric trough over the central U.S. The map below shows temperatures were between 1 and 4 degrees below average through the first three weeks of August.

Between August 1 and 21, 43 daily low maximum temperature and 6 daily low minimum temperature records were broken across the state. This included a 70-degree high temperature in Salem in Marion County, which broke the previous record by 10 degrees.

As the ridge in the western U.S. broke down in the third week of August, heat spread east, and Illinois temperatures switched to considerably above average. As the map below shows, temperatures in the week of August 22 were 1 to 10 degrees above average with the highest departures in northern Illinois.

During this fourth week of August, 10 daily high maximum temperature and 6 daily high minimum temperature records were broken. Mount Carroll in Carroll County broke or tied their daily high maximum temperature records on three consecutive days between August 25 and 27. Most stations observed daily high temperatures in the 90s this week, including five consecutive 90+-degree days in Rockford. This was the longest such streak in Rockford in August since 2011. The station at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport observed 10 days with a high temperature at or above 90 degrees last month. This is tied for the sixth most 90+-degree days at O’Hare, going back to 1959, and the most since 2012. The climatological average August frequency of 90+-degree days at O’Hare is 4. This is compared to the station in Carbondale that typically experiences 11 90+-degree days in August, but only observed 4 this last month.

Although the fourth week of August was unusually warm in northern Illinois, temperatures were closer to average in southern Illinois. The plot below shows daily temperature departures in Rosiclare in Hardin County. The southeast Illinois climate division, containing Rosiclare, experienced its eighth coolest August on record.

The statewide August temperature was 72.7 degrees, nearly 1 degree below the 30-year normal. The maps below show that average temperatures were in the mid- to high 70s across the state last month, very close to the long-term average in northern Illinois, and between 1 and 4 degrees below average in southern Illinois.

The maps below show the climatological summer (June–August) 2020 maximum, average, and minimum temperature departures from average. June and July this year were both in the top 30 warmest months on record, resulting in an overall warmer than average summer in northern Illinois. However, the cooler August pushed summer temperatures within a degree of the long-term average in most of southern and south-central Illinois.

August Derecho

August was not without its fair share of severe weather. On August 10, a strong mesoscale convective system moved across the Upper Midwest. The system intensified in the eastern Dakotas and caused a derecho–a widespread, long-lived windstorm–that impacted areas of Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. A derecho is characterized by strong straight-line winds that can exceed 75 mph and often affect areas between 250 and 500 miles. Dr. Marshall Shepherd at the University of Georgia provides an excellent description in his piece in Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/marshallshepherd/2020/08/10/what-is-a-derecho/#44cb250c3b8e.

The derecho on August 10 produced observed winds exceeding 100 mph and estimated (from damage) wind gusts up to 140 mph across east-central Iowa. Based on initial reports, the derecho damaged between 6 and 10 million acres of crops across Iowa and northern Illinois. In addition, the winds caused significant damage and destruction in residential and urban areas. The city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa was hit particularly hard. The local newspaper reported estimates of over 20,000 trees downed in Cedar Rapids alone (https://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/derecho-by-the-digits-numbers-help-tell-the-story-of-the-storm-20200830), causing hundreds of thousands to lose power and remain without power for several days. The storm also resulted in four fatalities, three in Iowa and one in Indiana.

Along with the derecho, the storm produced 15 confirmed tornadoes in the Chicagoland area. The figure below is from the Chicago National Weather Service, showing the tracks of these tornadoes, including a couple that moved through the city of Chicago.

More research is necessary to better understand the environment that produces a derecho, and the corresponding warning of these events and risks they pose. One paper by Guastini and Bosart in Monthly Weather Review (https://journals.ametsoc.org/mwr/article/144/4/1363/72372) found northern Illinois experiences a derecho once every two years. However, not all derecho events are as large, long-lived, and intense as the event earlier last month.

Southern Illinois Remains Wet

Statewide August total precipitation was 2.01 inches, 1.58 inches below the 30-year normal and the 15th driest on record. However, like the varying temperatures, the southern and northern halves of the state experienced two very different August precipitation patterns. The maps below show August total precipitation and departures from average across the state. August totals ranged from less than a quarter of an inch in northwest Illinois to over 8 inches in southwest Illinois. In general, the northern half of the state experienced 1 to 4 inches below average, while most of southern Illinois experienced a 1 to 3 inches above average rainfall last month.

We can contrast the two halves of the state by comparing total rainfall in the Quad Cites with that in the St. Louis Metro East. The station at the Quad Cities Airport in Moline observed just 0.15 inches of total rain in August, which was less than half the previous low August total record of 0.35 inches in 1971 (see plot below).

As the Quad Cities experienced their driest August on record, the station at the SIU Research Farm in Belleville observed their wettest at over 10 inches of total rainfall last month. Of particular note was a strong thunderstorm that moved through the St. Louis area on August 12, producing heavy rainfall for the Metro East area. The station at Scott Air Force Base near Belleville recorded 5.36 inches in only three hours from this storm. The heavy rain produced flash flooding across the area, including multiple hangars on the base that were flooded. According to new estimates from the Illinois State Water Survey’s Bulletin 75 (https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/106653), this was approximately a 125-year rainfall event.

Northern Illinois Drought

July was slightly drier than average across most of northern Illinois. The first week of August was somewhat wet across the state; however, for most areas of northern and central Illinois, more rain fell in the first week of August than in the last three weeks of the month. The rainfall deficit was somewhat offset by below average temperatures during the first few weeks of the month. However, as heat began to set in and the northern half of the state experienced multiple, consecutive 90-degree days, the lack of moisture became quite apparent.

The plot below shows the daily accumulated difference between precipitation and reference evapotranspiration–an indicator of atmospheric evaporative demand–at the Illinois Climate Network Monmouth station. Looking at dry conditions through this lens provides a water balance perspective. The Monmouth record shows a positive water balance at the beginning of the month due to precipitation. However, the subsequent lack of rainfall after August 5 results in a negative water balance that is accelerated in the final weeks of the month. The station in Monmouth ended the month with an over 4-inch moisture deficit.  

In response to pervasive dry conditions in northern Illinois, most of the area is considered abnormally dry in the August 25 edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor (below). There are also pockets of moderate drought in western and northeast Illinois in response to agricultural and ecological impacts of the dryness.

Climatological summer (June–August) precipitation patterns are like those in August, with contrasting conditions in northern and southern Illinois. The northern half of the state finished summer with between 1 and 4 inches below average precipitation, while southern Illinois was 1 to 6 inches wetter than average this last season. The official summer season rankings will be released later this month, but it is worth mentioning that statewide total summer precipitation has only been below the 30-year normal 3 out of the last 10 years (2017, 2013, and 2012).

Outlooks

The late August heat will likely be replaced by cooler than average conditions throughout September. The Climate Prediction Center’s 8- to 14-day outlook and 1-month outlook both indicate strongly elevated odds of below normal temperatures.

Precipitation outlooks are mixed. The 8- to 14-day outlook indicates weakly elevated odds of wetter than normal conditions in the eastern half of the state to start September, with near normal precipitation elsewhere. The one-month September outlook indicates weakly elevated odds of drier than normal conditions in northern Illinois, but equal odds of above and below normal precipitation elsewhere.

Cooler weather in September will help to temper ongoing drought in northern and central Illinois. However, September is one of the drier months in Illinois, and given the outlooks, it is unlikely that dry conditions will be completely alleviated.

September Heat, Flooding, & Drought

This past month was tied for the 4th warmest September for Illinois (state average temperatures back to 1895), and the warmest September since 1933. Precipitation varied tremendously from north to south across the state.

Preliminary data suggest that September was tied for the 4th warmest on record for Illinois. The preliminary average statewide September temperature was 71.3 degrees, which is 4.9 degrees above the long-term average. Monthly temperatures ranged from 2 to 4 degrees warmer than normal in northeast Illinois to over 6 degrees warmer than normal in southwest Illinois. The preliminary average statewide precipitation was 5.34 inches, which is 1.9 inches above the long-term September average. However, the data also show large differences in September precipitation totals across the state, with northern Illinois receiving much more than average precipitation, and southern Illinois receiving much less than average.

Data are provisional and may change slightly over time. 

Precipitation, Flooding, & Drought

September precipitation totals reveal a strong north-to-south gradient. Areas of northern and north-central Illinois received in excess of 12 inches of rainfall in September, while areas of southeast Illinois received less than 0.25 inches over the same time period (see maps below). Expressed as a percent of normal September precipitation, these totals ranged from 300 percent of normal in northern Illinois to less than 5 percent of normal in southeast Illinois. Locally, a station near Stockton (Jo Daviess County) observed 16.62 inches in September (nearly 13 inches more than normal), while the station at Smithland Lock & Dam (Pope County) recorded only 0.02 inches (3.5 inches less than normal).

August 2019 was the first months since September 2018 during which the U.S. Drought Monitor identified drought in the state. In September, dryness in east-central Illinois persisted but did not intensify. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map (September 24) shows a pocket of moderate drought covering parts of Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion counties (see map below). Concurrently, below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures in the southern part of the state produced dryness in September. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor depicts abnormally dry conditions for most of Illinois south of I-64, and a pocket of moderate drought from Pope and Hardin counties in the southeast to Perry and Franklin counties in south-central Illinois. Conditions in southern Illinois have shown some signals of a flash drought, which is a rapidly intensifying drought event, often provoked by existing precipitation deficit combined with intense heat.

Reports from Illinois Farm Bureau CropWatchers regarding drought in east-central and southern Illinois are mixed. Some report the dryness and heat have helped late-planted crops reach maturity, while at the same time possibly sacrificing yield. The recent National Weather Service 7-day precipitation forecast calls for 1 to 4 inches of rain in the northern half of the state, with 7-day forecasted totals less than 0.5 inches in southern Illinois (see map below).

In contrast to the ongoing drought in southern and east-central Illinois, September was abnormally wet for most of northern and north-central Illinois. Persistent, heavy rains led to flooding impacts in parts of northern Illinois, including the closure of several state parks and significant flooding along the Fox and Des Plaines Rivers, among others. Areas in northern and north-central Illinois received in excess of 12 inches of rainfall in September. In most parts of Peoria, Woodford, Marshall, and Livingston Counties, most of the rainfall totals came in a 24-hour period between September 27 and 28. This event created dangerous flash flooding from Peoria into the southwest Chicago suburbs.

The COOP station in Minonk, Illinois (Woodford County) recorded 9.09 inches of rainfall over that 24-hour period, although that likely fell over a less than 12-hour window. This total approached the 24-hour, 500-year storm total of 9.53 inches and surpassed the 12-hour, 500-year storm total of 8.29 inches. A 500-year storm total refers to a precipitation accumulation over a given time period (e.g., 12, 24, 48 hours, etc.) and has a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in a given year. Impressively, the 9.09-inch total in Minonk broke, and nearly doubled, the all-time 24-hour precipitation total record at that station, which was just over 5 inches (data going back to 1895). Images of flooded fields in Woodford and Marshall Counties suggest this most recent heavy precipitation event may delay harvest.

Temperature

 

The September temperature was much more consistent across the state than precipitation, as the entire state experienced above normal temperatures this month (see maps below). Apart from the last full week in September, most of the state has been under the influence of a large high-pressure system this month, centered to our southeast. This system has allowed warm air to intrude from the south/southwest, generating warmer than normal conditions for this time of the year. In fact, the statewide September average temperature was 71.3 degrees, tying it for the 4th warmest September on record in Illinois (back to 1895). September average temperatures across the state ranged from 65 degrees in Jo Daviess County to 78 degrees in Lawrence County. The lowest minimum temperature reported in Illinois in September was 45 degrees in Jo Daviess County on September 5, and the highest maximum temperature reported in Illinois was 97 degrees in both Alexander and Pope Counties on September 16. Well over 100 local daily climate records were broken in Illinois in September, most of which were high daily minimum temperature records. This is attributed to several very warm nights, including the night of September 22, when the nighttime minimum temperature remained above 70 degrees as far north as Elizabeth (Jo Daviess County) and Freeport (Stephenson County). On the night of September 10, the station in Rock Island reported a nighttime minimum temperature of 77 degrees, besting the previous daily record by 3 degrees.

Short-term temperature forecasts call for continued above average temperatures for the first few days of October and then a regression to cooler, more seasonal conditions. Longer term Climate Forecast System (CFS) forecasts from the National Centers for Environmental Protection show probabilities of a 32-degree freeze in Illinois remain below 30 percent into the third week of October. The map below shows the probability of a daily minimum temperature below 32 degrees between October 14th and October 21st.

October 2019 Outlook

 

Looking into October, the 8 to14-day outlook from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) shows elevated probabilities of above normal temperatures and elevated probabilities of above normal precipitation across the state.

The CPC monthly outlook for October still shows elevated probabilities for below normal temperatures across the northern half of the state, with equal chances (above normal, normal, below normal precipitation) for all but the very northwest corner of Illinois (see maps below).

 

Unequal August Precipitation Leads to Drought in Illinois

August 2019 will be remembered for remarkable differences in monthly precipitation totals across Illinois, as well as the first appearance of drought in the state since September 2018.

It would be inappropriate to summarize August 2019 precipitation across the state using only one adjective. Preliminary data suggest that August was drier than average across much of the state north of I-72 and south of I-64, while much wetter than average conditions prevailed between the two interstates. The preliminary average statewide precipitation was 4.21 inches, which is 0.61 inches below the long-term August average. The preliminary average statewide August temperature was 72.8 degrees, which is 0.7 degrees below the long-term average.

Data are provisional and may change slightly over time

Precipitation & Drought

July 2019 was the first month since November 2018 that ended with below average statewide precipitation. Dryness in the northwest and east-central parts of the state that began in July persisted in August.

Areas in the south-central part of the state, particularly in the western extent of the St. Louis metro east, have received precipitation totals in August between 5 inches and 8 inches above normal, with a station near Patoka (Marion County) reporting the highest August rainfall total of 14.19 inches. Most areas of the state north of I-72 and south of I-64, in contrast, received below normal rainfall in August, in some cases up to 4 inches below normal. The driest area in August covered parts of Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion counties in east-central Illinois, where precipitation totals were less than 50 percent of their August normal (see maps below).

 

The continued dry conditions from July to August led the U.S. Drought Monitor to identify moderate drought (D1) in northwest and east-central Illinois in their August 13 map. This was the first time the Drought Monitor identified drought in Illinois since September 2018, which represents the largest number of consecutive, drought-free weeks (48) since the Drought Monitor began 20 years ago. The latest Drought Monitor map, from August 29, shows moderate drought persistence in northwest and east-central Illinois (see figure below).

The combination of late planting, due to flooding, and multi-week drought has stressed crops and farmers across central Illinois. Reports from Illinois Farm Bureau CropWatchers discuss corn dropping ears and beans dropping leaves in parts of Champaign County. The recent National Weather Service precipitation forecast calls for between 0.75 inches and 2 inches over the next 7 days for most of the northern half of the state, with little to no precipitation in southern Illinois.

Temperature

Much of the state experienced near normal to slightly below normal temperatures in August. A strong cold front in the early part of the month and the last week of the month resulted in cooler conditions, with minimum temperatures ranging from the high 40s to high 50s across the state. This was particularly the case for the northwest quadrant of Illinois. However, all of the state experienced August temperatures within 2 degrees of the long-term August mean (see maps below). August average temperatures ranged from 79 degrees in Pulaski County to 68 degrees in Jo Davies County. The lowest minimum temperature reported in Illinois in August was 48 degrees in DeKalb County on August 2nd, and the highest maximum temperature reported in Illinois was 98 degrees in Pulaski County on August 20th.

September 2019 Outlook

Looking into September, the monthly outlook from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issued on August 31 shows slightly elevated probabilities of below normal temperatures across the northern half of the state, with equal chances of above normal, normal, and below normal temperatures in the southern half.

September precipitation probabilities slightly favor above normal precipitation in the northwest corner of the state, but are equal (above normal, normal, below normal) for the rest of Illinois (see maps below).

September 2019 Temperature Outlook

September 2019 Precipitation Outlook

July 2019: Prolonged stretch of abnormally wet weather comes to an end, along with notable hot and humid conditions.

July 2019 signaled the end of a persistent and historic stretch of abnormally wet conditions across Illinois, along with several notable periods of significantly above average temperatures.

Preliminary data suggest that July 2019 concluded drier than average, with temperatures above the long-term average. The preliminary average statewide July temperature was 77.3°F, which is 1.9°F above the long-term average. The preliminary average statewide precipitation was 3.23 inches, which is 0.85 inches below the long-term average.

Data are provisional and may change slightly over time

Precipitation

After seven consecutive months of above average statewide precipitation, July 2019 marked the end of the historic wet streak with below average statewide precipitation for the first time since November 2018. Despite the overall below average designation, July precipitation across Illinois was not evenly distributed.

Many in southern and northeastern portions of the state experienced near to above average precipitation totals in July, with a station near Highland (Madison County) reporting the highest monthly rainfall total of 9.02 inches. In contrast, large regions of western and central Illinois saw below average rainfall. In fact, multiple localities near the Quad Cities and along the Mississippi River, as well as smaller regions in east-central Illinois received only 10 to 25% of average monthly precipitation (see maps below).

Dating back to June 1, these same regions have reported precipitation departures of around 2 to 4+ inches below the long-term average. This extended stretch of dry conditions prompted the August 1 map from the U.S Drought Monitor (using data through July 30) to continue to highlight areas of abnormally dry conditions across the western and central portions of the state.

Illinois Precipitation Departures Map
Midwest Regional Climate Center (MRCC), accessed 8/1/2019

Illinois Drought Map
U.S Drought Monitor (UDSM) Illinois, accessed 8/1/2019

Interactive July 2019 Climate Station Precipitation Map

Temperature

Despite an overall seasonable and pleasant ending, the first weeks of July brought several extended periods of heat and humidity to Illinois. Most notable was the heat wave that impacted the region from July 18 through July 21, in which every county in Illinois was under an Excessive Heat Warning at some point during the weekend. Throughout this event, daily maximum station temperatures soared into the 90s, with dew points in the mid- to upper 70s. This resulted in heat indices over 100 for many and approached 110 or higher in some localities. Daily temperature departures of 8 to 10+ degrees above average were common across the northern half of the state (see map below).

Illinois July Heatwave Map

Overnight low temperatures during this event did not bring much, if any, relief from the heat. With a daily minimum temperature of only 80 degrees on July 19, Rockford (Winnebago County) set a new all-time record-high minimum temperature. Records for Rockford extend back to 1905.

Looking at July as a whole, the average station temperatures varied from the mid-70s to the low 80s, and monthly temperature departures of 1 to 4 degrees above the long-term average were common for the northern two-thirds of Illinois (see maps below). The highest temperature reading in the state of 98 degrees occurred at two stations, Flora (Clay County) on July 11, and Palestine (Crawford County) on July 21. The lowest minimum temperature of 51 degrees also occurred at two stations, one near Champaign (Champaign County) on July 23, and at a station near Paxton (Ford County) on July 25.

Illinois July Average Temperatures

Ilinois July Temperatuer Departures

Interactive July 2019 Climate Station Temperature Map

August 2019 Outlook

For the remainder of August, the monthly outlook from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issued on July 31 favors probabilities for below average temperatures across Illinois and most of the upper Midwest. The outlook also favors near equal chances for below, near, or above average precipitation.

CPC August 2019 Temperature Outlook
August 2019 Temperature Outlook

CPC August 2019 Precipitation Outlook
August 2019 Precipitation Outlook