August Wraps up a Mild and Drier Summer

The preliminary statewide average August temperature was 73.5 degrees, 0.1 degree above the 1991–2020 average and tied for the 63rd coolest on record going back to 1895. The preliminary statewide average total August precipitation was 4.43 inches, 0.87 inches above the 1991–2020 average and the 29th wettest on record statewide.

Data are provisional and may change slightly over time.

Big August Heat, but Mild Weather Overall

The final month of climatological summer had mild temperatures overall, except for a very intense heat wave in the third week of August. Daily average temperature departures from Normal, IL show most August days were within 7 to 8 degrees of their normals, and more than half of August days were cooler than normal in the twin cities (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Daily August average temperature departures in Normal.

August average temperatures ranged from the low 70s in northern and central Illinois to the high 70s in southern Illinois, within 1 degree of normal statewide (Figure 2). Most parts of the state pushed into the mid- to upper 90s on August 24 and 25, and Chicago’s O’Hare airport recorded 100 degrees on August 24 for the first time in 11 years. The intense heat was followed by a fleeting taste of fall air, and many places saw nighttime temperatures dip into the high 40s, including 48 degrees at Marseilles. The warmest point in the state last month was Cahokia at 77.4 degrees, and the coolest point was Stockton at 69.7 degrees.

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

Overall, the preliminary statewide average August temperature was 73.5 degrees, 0.1 degrees above the 1991–2020 average and tied for the 63rd coolest on record going back to 1895.

Late Season Heat Wave

This summer will not go in the books as a particularly extreme season temperature-wise. Most parts of the state have seen near to slightly fewer than normal days with high temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, and early season drought helped nighttime low temperatures regularly drop out of the 70s. However, the largely mild weather was broken up by two intense heat waves, one in late July and the other this past month. A large upper-level ridge established over the central U.S. around August 20, bringing very warm air and high humidity from the southern U.S. and Gulf of Mexico. Daily high temperatures exceeded 95 to 100 degrees across most of the state on August 23 and 24 (Figure 3), and, combined with the humidity, pushed heat index values over 110 degrees statewide. Peoria set a new heat index record at 121 degrees, breaking its previous record from 1995.

The heat caused buckled roads in parts of central Illinois, stressed air conditioning units, and significantly increased energy demand across the Midwest. Both Champaign and Urbana schools were forced to close on August 24 due to malfunctioning HVAC systems and dangerously high temperatures inside some schools.

Figure 3. Map of high temperatures across Illinois on August 24.

Drought Relief for Some in August

July brought some better rain to parts of drought-stricken Illinois, yet moderate drought remained in more than half the state coming into August. A more active storm track last month helped bring in multiple systems that brought wetter weather to central and southern Illinois in August, helping to continue to relieve earlier drought conditions. Total August rainfall ranged from less than 2 inches in parts of northwest Illinois to over 10 inches in southeast Illinois (Figure 4). Most areas of the state south of Interstate 80 were 1 to 5 inches wetter than normal in August, while much of northern Illinois was 1 to 3 inches drier than normal.

Figure 4. Maps of (left) August total precipitation and (right) August precipitation departures from normal.

The dryness last month was most intense in northwest Illinois from the Quad Cities to the Wisconsin border. Freeport had its third driest August on record with only 0.80 inches–about 3 inches drier than normal–and the driest last month of summer since 1966. Meanwhile, Fairfield in southeast Illinois had its fourth wettest August on record with 8.11 inches.

Overall, the preliminary statewide average total August precipitation was 4.43 inches, 0.87 inches above the 1991–2020 average and the 29th wettest on record statewide.

Drought in Illinois

It’s safe to say that drought reached a peak in early July, and conditions across much of the state have improved since then. The August 29 U.S. Drought Monitor map has 16 percent of the state in at least moderate drought compared to over 50 percent on August 1 (Figure 5). The wetter weather in August helped improve crop and pasture conditions across the state, stabilize declining streams and pond levels, and promote ecological health in our natural lands. Despite the recovery, drought likely and significantly impacted crop yield potential this year, and its impact on tree health–especially in urban areas–will not be well known until next year. However, rain in July and August helped keep 2023 out of the same breath as the most severe drought years like 2012 and 1988. One exception to the wider drought improvement is in northwest Illinois, where drought conditions expanded in August. Crop impacts have been reported in this part of the state through August, and soils remain somewhat to very dry from the Quad Cities up to Rockford.  

Figure 5. The U.S. Drought Monitor maps as of (left) August 1 and (right) August 29.  

While drought has largely improved in Illinois, its impact to flow on the Midwest’s largest rivers remains. Dry conditions in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio Basins have led to concerns of low flow and navigation and ecology impacts along the Mississippi River. Forecasts indicate the Mississippi River at Memphis is likely to reach low stage in early September (Figure 6). Dry soils across the larger Midwest region will likely slow river stage recovery from any additional rain in early fall. Therefore, without a significant shift to wetter conditions and/or an errant tropical system moving into the region, low flow issues on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers are likely to continue or intensify into September.

Figure 6. Plot shows current and forecasted levels on the Mississippi River at Memphis.

Summer in Illinois

Climatological summer encompasses June, July, and August, and the season often brings more than its fair share of intense weather. This past season was on the mild side, temperature-wise, and was somewhat to much drier than normal. The abundance of gray in the maps in Figure 7 indicates average temperatures in all three summer months were mostly within 1 degree of normal across the state. While the Midwest was exposed to ephemeral heat in July and August, persistent extreme high temperatures stayed well south, making for one of the hottest summers on record in parts of Texas and New Mexico.

Figure 7. Maps show average temperature departures for June, July, August, and climatological summer.

The summer season began with a very dry June that kicked off drought concerns across the state. Wetter conditions in July and August helped reduce or eliminate drought in central and southern Illinois, but parts of northern Illinois remained dry in the latter part of the season. Summer precipitation totals ranged from 6 inches in parts of northwest Illinois to over 20 inches in parts of southeast Illinois. Most of the northwest part of the state was 4 to 8 inches drier than normal in summer, while much of southern Illinois was 2 to 10 inches wetter than normal (Figure 8).

This past season was the 13th driest summer on record in Moline with 6.89 inches, and the driest since 2012. It was also the 20th driest summer on record in Rockford with 7.63 inches, which is less than half of the summer total from last year. Three of the past four years have seen top 20 driest summers in Rockford. In contrast, this summer was one of the wettest in far southern Illinois, and it was the fifth wettest on record in Paducah, Kentucky with 18.90 inches.

Figure 8. Maps show (left) summer total precipitation and (right) summer precipitation departure from normal.

Overall, the preliminary statewide average summer temperature was 73.4 degrees, 0.4 degrees below the 1991–2020 average and tied for the 57th coolest on record going back to 1895. The preliminary statewide average total summer precipitation was 11.51 inches, 0.76 inches below the 1991–2020 average and the 69th driest on record statewide.


September brings in what is undoubtedly the best season in Illinois. However, outlooks for the month of September suggest we may need to wait a bit for more consistent fall weather, with higher odds of warmer and drier than normal weather for the first month of the season (Figure 9a). Meanwhile, guidance for climatological fall is less than confident, with equal chances of warmer, cooler, wetter, and drier than normal weather. 

Figure 9. Maps show (left) temperature and (right) precipitation outlooks for the month of September and the fall season (September-November).

25th Anniversary of the 1995 Chicago Heat Wave

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the July 1995 heat wave in Chicago, one of the worst weather-related disasters in Illinois history. The excessive heat and humidity, compounded by social and economic vulnerability, resulted in more than 700 deaths over a five day period.

The chart below shows the daily progression of maximum and minimum temperatures between July 1st and 20th in 1995. Daytime temperatures between July 10th and 16th reached 90 degrees, and over triple digits on the 13th and 14th. Minimum temperatures during this time period were in the 70s and, on two days, the low 80s. The combination of very hot days and very warm nights enhanced heat stress and reduced nighttime recovery. The multiple day duration of the heat wave was another important contributor to excess mortality.

Social and Environmental Factors Contributed to Heat Impacts

The heat wave was made worse by the urban heat island effect, which is caused by the high concentration of buildings and roads in urban areas. These surfaces tend to absorb more heat in the day and result in more heat in the atmosphere at night. Therefore, urban areas usually experience less cooling at night than nearby rural sites.

Deaths attributed to the 1995 heat wave were primarily among elderly, poorer Chicagoans, due to a number of social and economic factors such as lack of access to air conditioning and/or air conditioned cooling centers. In addition, death rates among non-hispanic black Chicagoans were 50% higher than those among non-hispanic white Chicagoans (Whitman et al. 1997), highlighting racial disparities in both risk and vulnerability to extreme heat. Other factors that contributed to the high number of deaths were an inadequate local heat wave warning system, power failures, and inadequate emergency services and hospital facilities.

Current Conditions

This summer so far has also been very warm, although without a heat wave as extreme as 1995. Daily average temperatures in Chicago have been consistently 5 to 10 degrees above normal since the beginning of June, and July 12th was the first day this month with a below normal daily average temperature. Maximum temperatures have mostly been in the mid-80s to low 90s for several weeks. Chicago O’Hare, for example, has experienced 16 days with a daily high temperature of 90 degrees or more since June 1st. This is about twice the to-date average frequency of 90 degree days, and fourth most on record at O’Hare.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center outlooks indicate strongly elevated chances of above normal temperatures across Illinois persisting for the next four weeks. Although temperatures are not expected to reach the peak levels of the 1995 heat wave, the persistence of our current heat, in combination with high humidity levels, can result in negative human health outcomes without proper precaution.

A Look Forward

According to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information Illinois Climate Summary (Frankson et al., 2017,, summer temperatures are projected to increase and likely to exceed historical record levels by the middle of the 21st century. The report states that future heat waves in Chicago are likely to be more intense with temperature increases due to climate change.

Figure shows observed and projected changes in near-surface air temperature for Illinois. Observed data re for 1900-2014. Projected changes for 2006-2100, under lower and higher greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. Taken from Frankson et al. (2017).

Given these projected changes, continued and further work is critical to decrease social vulnerability to extreme heat in Chicago, ensuring Chicagoans are resilient to extreme heat now and into the future.

Additional Reading

Changnon, S. A., K. E. Kunkel, and B. C. Reinke, 1996: Impacts and Responses to the 1995 Heat Wave: A Call to Action. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 77, No. 7, 1497-1506.

Kunkel, K. E., S. A. Changnon, B. C. Reinke, and R. W. Arritt, 1996: The July 1995 Heat Wave in the Midwest: A Climatic Perspective and Critical Weather Factors. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 77, No. 7, 1507-1518.


Frankson, R., K. Kunkel, S. Champion, B. Stewart, D. Easterling, B. Hall, and J.R. Angel, 2017: Illinois State Climate Summary. NOAA Technical Report NESDIS 149-IL, 4 pp.

Whitman, S., G. Good, E.R. Donoghue, N. Benbow, W. Shou, and S. Mou, 1997: Mortality in Chicago attributed to the July 1995 heat wave. American Journal of Public Health, 87, 1515-1518,

Warm, Dry December Concludes a Cold, Wet Year

December temperatures were well above the long-term average across the state, breaking dozens of local daily maximum and minimum temperature records. The preliminary statewide December average temperature was 35.2 degrees, about 5 degrees above the 1981-2010 normal and the 18th warmest on record. Preliminary data show December was drier than average for most of the state. The statewide average December precipitation total was 2.03 inches, 0.66 inches below the 30-year normal.

Data are provisional and may change slightly over time

Warm Weather

Temperatures during the first half of December were very close to average. This was followed by a brief period of well below average temperatures caused by cold air incursion from the north on the back of a strong upper atmosphere trough to our west. On December 20 the predominant wind direction changed to southwesterly, bringing warm, dry air into the region. Temperatures between December 20 and 29 ranged from 5 to 25 degrees above normal across the state. In total, 104 daily high maximum temperature records and 27 daily high minimum temperature records were broken over this time period, including a few dozen records on December 25. In fact, it was the warmest Christmas day at 68 stations across the state. As shown in the figure below, the daily average temperature in Decatur in Macon County on Christmas was nearly 20 degrees above the 30-year normal.

The station in Elgin (Kane County) broke its previous Christmas day high maximum record by 10 degrees. The highest temperature recorded in the state was 70 degrees on December 26 in Wayne County and again on December 29 in Pope County. The lowest temperature was -4 degrees on December 15 in Rock Island County.

A shift in the upper atmosphere and the passage of a cold front late in the month allowed temperatures to moderate. December average temperatures ranged from the low 30s in northern Illinois to the mid-40s in southern Illinois. Monthly average temperature departures ranged from 7 degrees above the long-term mean in northwestern Illinois to just over 1 degree above average in south-central Illinois.

The preliminary 2019 statewide average December temperature was 35.2 degrees, which was the 18th warmest December on record. December’s warm weather was an aberration in an otherwise colder than average 2019 in Illinois. Only three months this year–July, September, and December–exhibited a statewide average temperature above the 30-year normal.


December precipitation was below the long-term average for the entire state. Areas in far southern Illinois received 2 to 3 inches less than average in December, approximately 50 percent of normal December precipitation. The statewide average total December precipitation was 2.03 inches, approximately 0.66 inches below normal. This last month was the 50th driest December on record in Illinois and marked the second straight month of below average statewide precipitation. Preexisting wetness and reduced evaporative demand, typical for this time of the year, have prevented impacts from the prolonged dry conditions. Despite two straight months of well below average precipitation, streamflow and soil moisture were both near normal across the state.

Snowfall totals this last month ranged from less than a tenth of an inch in far southern Illinois to over 10 inches in south-central Illinois. A strong system came through in mid-December and brought several inches of snow to an area spanning the St. Louis Metro East to the Champaign-Urbana area. The highest 24-hour snowfall total was 5.6 inches in Lovington (Moultrie County) on December 17, although CoCoRaHS observers in Mascoutah in St. Clair County and Columbia in Monroe County both recorded 7.5 inches on December 17.

The December snowfall glut in south-central Illinois turned into snowfall deficits of 8 to 10 inches in northern Illinois. This last month was only the 10th December with 1 inch or less of snowfall in Stockton (Jo Daviess County). Despite the small snowfall totals this last month, the seasonal total snowfall was above average for most of the state between interstates 80 and 64. A broad area between Peoria and the St. Louis metro east received over 4 inches of above average snowfall, whereas the Chicagoland region has so far this season experienced a snowfall deficit of 4 to 6 inches.


Short-term 8-14-day outlooks from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center show strongly elevated odds of both above normal precipitation and above normal temperature.

Thirty-day outlooks show elevated odds of wetter and warmer than normal conditions to persist throughout January in southern Illinois. Outlooks for January through March and March through May continue to show elevated odds of above normal precipitation for the entire state.

October: Heat to Snow

We saw highly variable temperatures across the state this month, with record-breaking heat in the early part of October, and record-breaking cold in the latter part. The preliminary statewide October average temperature was 53.7 degrees, less than 1 degree below our 30-year normal. Temperatures were near normal in eastern Illinois, and between 2 and 6 degrees below normal across western Illinois. Preliminary data suggest October was considerably wetter than normal for the entire state. The statewide average October precipitation total was 5.20 inches, approximately 2 inches above the 30-year normal. The wet deviations were particularly large in the northern and southern reaches of the state.

Data are provisional and may change slightly over time

Temperature Variability

Record-breaking high temperatures persisted from September into early October. Average temperatures during the first four days of October were 10 to 14 degrees above normal in the southeast part of the state, and 3 to 8 degrees above normal for the northwest part (see map below). Maximum temperatures broke 90 degrees and minimum temperatures remained in the 70s for several days in southern Illinois. Stations in Saint Clair and White Counties reached 96 degrees on October 2.  Between October 1 and October 4, 46 daily high maximum temperature records and 73 daily high minimum temperature records were broken across Illinois, according to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). Additionally, 9 stations broke their all-time October high maximum temperature records, and 13 stations broke their all-time October high minimum temperature records. In one particularly extreme event, the October 1 nighttime minimum temperature at Kaskaskia Lock and Dam in Randolph County was 72 degrees, 10 degrees above the previous daily record and 2 degrees above the all-time October minimum temperature record at that station.

Seasonable temperatures ensued after the heat was broken toward the end of the first week of October. Temperatures from October 5 to October 27 were near normal in eastern Illinois and between 3 and 6 degrees below normal for western Illinois (see map below). Nearly all the state experienced the first fall frost event in the second week of October. Nighttime minimum temperatures dipped below 32 degrees as far south as Pope County and below 28 degrees in Warren and Jo Daviess Counties.

The heat wave that started the month was matched by a strong burst of cold air to close out the month. Temperatures between October 28 and October 31 were 8 to 16 degrees below normal. Similarly, 48 daily low maximum temperature records and 12 daily low minimum temperature records were broken across Illinois over the last four days of the month. Nighttime minimum temperatures dropped below 30 degrees as far south as Pulaski County. The lowest minimum temperature observed in October was 14 degrees in both Carroll and Lee Counties on Halloween night. Halloween was also the coldest on record for 51 stations across Illinois.

The temperature contrast between the start and end of this month may be best summarized in the graph below, which shows daily maximum and minimum temperatures at Springfield Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport this last month. There was a 57° difference between daily maximum temperatures on October 1st and October 31st in Springfield, both of which broke daily records. In fact, 10 Illinois COOP stations broke their daily high maximum temperature record on October 1st and their daily low maximum temperature record on October 31st.


October precipitation was above normal for virtually all of Illinois. The statewide total precipitation in October was 5.20 inches, approximately 2 inches more than the 30-year normal. Areas of far northern and southern Illinois received over 7 inches of rainfall in October. CoCoRaHS observers in New Lenox in Will County and Riverwoods in Lake County recorded over 12 inches of precipitation in October. Expressed as a percent of the long-term mean, areas of northeastern Illinois received more than 200 percent of mean October precipitation, and a broad swath of southern Illinois received over 150 percent of mean October precipitation (see maps below). Significant rainfall helped improve drought conditions in southern Illinois. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map – current as of October 29 – shows no drought in Illinois for the first time since early August.

The cool down that came at the end of this month brought a variety of precipitation, including snowfall and some snow accumulation in northern and western Illinois. Total snowfall accumulation over the last week of October ranged from over 8 inches in northwestern Illinois to just over a tenth of an inch as far south as Nokomis in Montgomery County. The highest October snowfall total, 8.5 inches, was in Orangeville in Stephenson County. Although late October is early for the first snowfall in Illinois, it is certainly precedented. The map below shows the date of the earliest recorded snowfall (> 0.1 inch) at COOP stations across the state.

Short- and Long-Term Outlooks

Short-term 8- to 14-day outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center show strongly elevated odds of below normal temperatures persisting into the first couple of weeks of November. Concurrently, probabilities are elevated for below normal precipitation out to 14 days, as drier weather is likely to prevail following the first winter storm of the season in Illinois.

Longer-term outlooks for November also show increased odds of below normal temperatures and increased odds of above below normal precipitation. Winter (December–February) outlooks show greater odds of a wetter than normal winter.