Cool Fall Temperatures Continued in October

October was much cooler and slightly drier than average across Illinois. The preliminary statewide average October temperature was 51.8 degrees, 2.6 degrees below the 30-year normal, and tied for the 19th coolest on record. Preliminary statewide average total precipitation for August was 3.03 inches, 0.21 inches less than the 30-year normal, and the 54th wettest on record.

Data are provisional and may change slightly over time

October Temperatures

Cool weather persisted from the end of September to the first week of October across the state. As the plot below of daily temperature departures from normal in Moline shows, the second week of October was 5 to 10 degrees warmer than average across the state. However, this was followed by a predominantly cooler than average second half of the month.

Eleven daily high maximum temperature records and eight daily high minimum temperature records were broken last month. Concurrently, 66 daily low maximum temperature records and 19 daily low minimum temperature records fell in October. The cool, cloudy day of October 27 broke the month’s low maximum temperature records at seven locations in Illinois. This included the 34-degree high in Kewanee in Henry County, which broke the previous October low maximum temperature record of 36 degrees, set just last year on Halloween.

The maps below show October average temperatures and their departure from the long-term average. October average temperatures ranged from the high 40s in northwest Illinois to the high 50s in southern Illinois, between 2 and 5 degrees below average. The preliminary statewide average October temperature was 51.8 degrees, 2.6 degrees below the 30-year normal and tied for the 19th coolest on record. This follows the cooler than normal months of August and September statewide.

Harvest Fires

The combination of high temperatures, very low humidity, and strong winds created a significant fire risk during the second week of October. The plot below shows a daily mean surface vapor pressure deficit, a measure of atmospheric humidity, at Springfield between January 1 and October 18 of this year (red line) compared to all previous years (gray shaded area). A vapor pressure deficit has been linked to wildfire risk, with higher vapor pressure deficit values indicating a higher risk of wildfire outbreak.

The very high values of vapor pressure deficit in Springfield, near record values on October 14, indicated a warm, dry atmosphere. Existing drought and crops drying down in fields provided ample, dry fuel for wildfire potential. Indeed, several small- to medium-sized field fires broke out across central and south-central Illinois during the second week of October.

First Snow of the Season

The map below shows the climatological earliest first measurable snowfall on record at stations across the state. The dates range from early to mid-October in northern Illinois to mid-November in southern Illinois.

The map below shows the climatological earliest first measurable snowfall on record at stations across the state. The dates range from early to mid-October in northern Illinois to mid-November in southern Illinois.

A Wet End to the Month in Southern Illinois

The first half of October was very dry for the southern half of the state, continuing a very dry September. However, around the middle of the month the atmosphere moved into a pattern more conducive to bringing precipitation into southern Illinois. Areas that received less than a tenth of an inch of rainfall in previous weeks saw widespread 4- to 9-inch precipitation totals during the final two weeks of October.

Belleville, for example, recorded its third wettest October with a total of 7.38 inches, following its wettest August and its second wettest July on record. At the end of October, Belleville was only 4 inches away from its wettest year on record, which was 2008 with 56.83 inches of rain.

Drought Continues in Central Illinois

In contrast to the wet end of October in southern Illinois, much of central Illinois ended yet another month with below average precipitation. The maps below show 30- and 180-day precipitation deficits across the state. Most of central and western Illinois received between 1 and 3 inches below average precipitation in October, adding to existing precipitation deficits from dry months in August and September.

Total six-month precipitation deficits in central Illinois exceed 7 inches in Fulton and Mason Counties and 8 inches in parts of Logan and Macon Counties. At Mount Pulaski in Logan County, for example, the June 1 to November 1 precipitation deficit of 8.47 inches is the third largest on record, smaller only than 1988 and 1893. However, it should be noted that Mount Pulaski and the surrounding areas of Logan and Macon Counties received more precipitation in the first four months of this year than in all of 1988. Therefore, drought conditions, although severe, are not nearly to the extent of those in 1988.

The most recent, October 27th version of the U.S. Drought Monitor showed continued widespread moderate drought across central Illinois in response to the rainfall deficits and below normal soil moisture and streamflow.

Outlooks

Pleasant weather is in store for the state during the first week of November. However, the Climate Prediction Center’s 8- to 14-day outlooks indicate an imminent pattern change in the second week of November, with odds moving back to below average temperatures, especially to the northwest, and above average precipitation statewide.

The most recent one-month outlooks for the entire month of November continue to show a strong La Niña influence, with elevated odds of warmer than normal conditions throughout the central U.S. and drier than normal weather in the south.

Finally, the three-month outlooks for climatological winter, December–February, show equal chances of warmer or colder than normal conditions in Illinois. However, the odds increase for wetter than normal conditions later in winter.

A Cool Start to Fall

September was slightly cooler and wetter than average across Illinois. The preliminary statewide average September temperature was 65.4 degrees, 0.8 degrees below the 30-year normal, and tied for the 45th coolest on record. Preliminary statewide average total precipitation for August was 3.39 inches, 0.16 inches more than the 30-year normal, and the 58th wettest on record.

Data are provisional and may change slightly over time

September Temperatures

A cold front moved through the Midwest in late August, bringing Illinois its first real taste of fall air. Below average temperatures remained in place for most of September, resulting in an overall statewide average temperature of 65.4 degrees, 0.8 degrees below the 30-year normal.

The maps below show September average temperatures and their departure from the long-term average. September temperatures ranged from the low 60s in northern Illinois to the low 70s in far southern Illinois. All but the very northeastern corner of the state was cooler than average, including parts of Putman and LaSalle Counties, which were nearly 3 degrees below the long-term September average temperature.

September Temperatures

A cold front moved through the Midwest in late August, bringing Illinois its first real taste of fall air. Below average temperatures remained in place for most of September, resulting in an overall statewide average temperature of 65.4 degrees, 0.8 degrees below the 30-year normal.

The maps below show September average temperatures and their departure from the long-term average. September temperatures ranged from the low 60s in northern Illinois to the low 70s in far southern Illinois. All but the very northeastern corner of the state was cooler than average, including parts of Putman and LaSalle Counties, which were nearly 3 degrees below the long-term September average temperature.

Although temperature departures were largest in northern Illinois, the southern half of the state experienced unusually cold weather during the third week of September. The map below shows observed minimum temperatures on September 20. The station in Cairo in Alexander County observed 37 degrees that morning, which broke the all-time September minimum temperature record in Cairo set in 1989.

Western U.S. Wildfire Smoke

On several otherwise cloud-free days last month, the sky over Illinois appeared an odd milky-white color. This was caused by smoke from wildfires in the western U.S. that had moved across the country. The figure below shows a satellite estimate of vertically integrated smoke across the U.S. on September 17. Areas with relatively high smoke content in the atmosphere are shown in red and pink. Although the smoke created an eerie appearance in the sky, it did not pose a health risk to Illinoisans. The smoke though did likely, although modestly, suppress our daytime high temperatures last month as it reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the surface and heating the afternoon air.

Southern Illinois’ Turn for Drought

September statewide total precipitation was 3.39 inches, approximately 0.16 inches above the long-term average. However, much like the previous three months, large precipitation gradients created rainfall winners and losers. The maps below show total September precipitation and September precipitation percent of normal.

Total September rainfall ranged from over 9 inches in northwest Illinois to less than a half inch in eastern Illinois. Most areas of northern Illinois experienced between 125 percent and 300 percent of normal September precipitation, while areas of southern Illinois experienced between 10 percent and 90 percent of normal.

On one end of the extreme, the station at the Quad Cities airport in Moline experienced its 10th wettest September with a total of 6.25 inches. This followed the driest August on record in Moline, with only 0.15 inches of total August precipitation. This is contrasted by the station in Paris in Edgar County, which observed only 0.34 inches of total precipitation in September, making it the third driest September on record in Paris. This came after the second wettest July on record in Paris, with over 10 inches of precipitation.

However, Belleville in St. Clair County wins the prize of most variable rainfall over the past few months with the second wettest July on record, followed by the wettest August on record, followed by the seventh driest September on record.

The rainfall in northern Illinois was welcome, and alleviated drought conditions that had persisted there since early August. However, the very dry conditions in central and southern Illinois resulted in an expansion of moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions in the most recent, October 1 edition of the U.S. Drought Monitor (map below).

Outlooks

The first few days of October have continued the cool weather in September. However, outlooks from 6 to 10 days out to 3 months are indicating the highest odds for warmer than normal conditions.

The 8- to 14-day outlooks below indicate strongly elevated odds of warmer and drier than normal conditions in the second week of October across the state. Although this will not help alleviate ongoing drought in central and southern Illinois, it will help crop dry down as we enter the peak harvest season.

Looking farther out, the week three to four outlooks are similar with warmer and drier than normal conditions prevailing for the latter part of October.

As we begin to look toward climatological winter, the three-month outlooks for November, December, and January are still tilted toward warmer than normal conditions. Precipitation outlooks for the same three-month period show an equal chance of wetter and drier than normal weather. 

Warm, Wet, and Active Spring

March was warmer and wetter than average across the state, continuing the pattern from winter. The preliminary statewide average March temperature was 43.5 degrees, 2.20 degrees above the 30-year normal and the 28th warmest on record going back to 1895. Preliminary statewide average total March precipitation was 3.96 inches, 1 inch wetter than the 30-year normal and tied for the 34th wettest on record.

Data are provisional and may change slightly over time

Persistent Warmth in March

Much like the first two months of 2020, March temperatures were consistently above the long-term average.

The first two months of the climatological winter season were much warmer than average, with very few cold air incursions. The plot below shows the March daily average temperature as a departure from average in Rockford. Since the start of 2020, over 70 percent of days in Rockford have been warmer than the long-term average. This has caused 2-inch and 4-inch soil temperatures to generally remain above freezing over this time, according to observations from the Illinois Climate Network (https://www.isws.illinois.edu/warm/soil/).

Average temperatures in March ranged from the high 30s in northern Illinois to the low 50s in southern Illinois. Temperatures ranged between 1 and 5 degrees above the long-term average. The statewide average March temperature was 43.5 degrees, which is 2.20 degrees above the 30-year normal and tied for the 28th warmest on record. March marked the fourth consecutive month with statewide average temperatures above the 30-year normal. By comparison, the first three months of 2019 were all 1 to 3 degrees below the 30-year normal, considerably cooler than 2020 so far.

The warm weather in March resulted in three daily high maximum temperature records and seven daily high minimum temperature records being broken across the state. The few cold, cloudy days we had in March also resulted in six daily low maximum temperature records and one daily low minimum temperature record being broken across the state. The long-running station in Carbondale was only 1 degree away from its all-time March high minimum temperature record on March 28, thanks to a strong mid-latitude warm sector bringing warm air from the south. Multiple stations in southern Illinois recorded daily maximum temperatures at or over 80 degrees during the last week in March. At one of these stations, Fairfield in Wayne County, this was two weeks before the average first 80-degree day based on the long-term record.

The highest temperature recorded in the state in March was 81 degrees in Alexander, Pope, and Hardin Counties, while the lowest temperature was 8 degrees in Jo Daviess, Knox, and Whiteside Counties.

Storms Bring Heavy Rain to Northern and Southern Illinois

Frequent precipitation persisted from February into March for the southern part of the state. Most areas south of Interstate 64 received over 6 inches of total precipitation in March, and some areas received over 8 inches. This represents between 150 percent and 200 percent of normal March precipitation in southern Illinois (see map below). Most stations in southern Illinois received 50 percent or more of their total March precipitation in one 24-hour period between March 20 and 21, thanks to a series of storms that tracked across the region.

One-day precipitation totals reached 4.50 inches in Clay County, which set the all-time March one-day precipitation record at the station in Clay City and broke the previous record by over three-quarters of an inch. Other large one-day totals from the March 20 storms included 3.85 inches in Mt. Vernon in Jefferson County and 3.55 inches in Olney in Richland County. With these one-day totals subtracted, March 2020 was very close to March 2019 total precipitation in southern Illinois; however, because of this event, most areas in southeast Illinois received between 1.5 and 2.5 times the amount of March 2019 precipitation this month.

Although March precipitation totals in northern Illinois were not as generous as those in the south, northern Illinois was not averse to very large one-day precipitation totals. A series of storms that moved through on March 28 generated between 3 and 4 inches of precipitation in a less than 24-hour period for a stretch of Illinois between the Quad Cities and the western suburbs. One CoCoRaHS observer in Prophetstown in Whiteside County recorded 5.34 inches on this day. Unfortunately, the heaviest precipitation missed the longer-term COOP stations in the region, but the storm did manage to break the all-time March one-day precipitation total in DeKalb.

Total March precipitation ranged from over 8 inches in far southern and southeast Illinois to just over 2 inches in central Illinois. These totals ranged from over 200 percent of average March precipitation in southeastern and northern Illinois to just over 75 percent of average March precipitation in western Illinois. Most of central Illinois received between 75 percent and 125 percent of average March precipitation. This combined with above average temperatures allowed soils to dry a bit across central and western Illinois.

Last month was the wettest March on record at Rock Island Lock & Dam 15, with 6.17 inches recorded. The wettest place in the state last month was Clay City with 8.31 inches.

Overall, the preliminary statewide average total March precipitation was 3.96 inches, exactly 1 inch more than the 30-year normal and the 34th wettest on record. Although the March average does not reflect the 5- to 6-inch differences in precipitation between central and northern/southern Illinois.

Most of the northern half of the state experienced measurable snowfall last month. March totals ranged from around 6 inches in northeast Illinois to just over one-tenth of an inch along the Interstate 70 corridor. A winter storm on March 22 and 23 accounted for the vast majority of snowfall in the northern part of the state, with one-day totals exceeding 6 inches in Grundy County. Morris in Grundy County was the snowiest point in the state in March, with just over 7 inches of total snowfall.

March total snowfall departures mimic the spatial patterns for the entire winter season. Most areas of western, northwest, and west-central Illinois had totals within 5 inches of the long-term average, whereas most counties south of Interstate 70 as well as counties in the Chicagoland metro area have experienced 5 to 10 inches below average snowfall since the first snow of the season.

Severe Weather

Illinois experiences severe weather and storms in all calendar months, but March often begins the unofficial severe weather season. This last month we had numerous severe weather and storm reports, ranging from snowstorms to large hail and a few tornadoes. Trained spotters reported 2-inch hail in both Williamson and Vermilion Counties last month, with many more reports of 1.5- to 1.75-inch hail across southern and central Illinois. The AWOS station in Hyde Park in Cook County recorded a 61 mph non-thunderstorm wind gust on March 29. Finally, multiple tornadoes were reported in Illinois last month in southern and west-central Illinois, including three tornadoes between Peoria and the Quad Cities on March 28. One of these, an EF-1 tornado, developed just a quarter mile east of the Peoria International Airport, according to the Lincoln National Weather Service https://www.weather.gov/ilx/032820Tornadoes).

 Outlooks

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

Longer-term 30-day outlooks are similar to the 8-14 day outlooks, with continued elevated chances of warmer and wetter conditions across the state for April.

Heavy precipitation in northwest and southern Illinois, combined with continual snowmelt in the Upper Midwest has continued the threat of flooding along most major rivers in Illinois. Currently, gauges along the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, and Wabash Rivers are at or above minor flood stage, with nine gauges in moderate flooding, according to the National Weather Service River Forecast Center.

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.

Precipitation

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.

Outlooks

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.