The preliminary statewide average October temperature was 53.1 degrees, 1.6 degrees below the 1991–2020 average and tied for the 40th coolest on record going back to 1895. The preliminary statewide average total October precipitation was 2.30 inches, 0.61 inches below the 1991–2020 average and tied for 52nd driest on record statewide.
Data are provisional and may change slightly over time.
Mild October Temperatures
October 2021 was the fifth warmest on record in Illinois. The unusually warm and rainy weather last year put a damper on both harvest and fall festivities. October this year though did not disappoint fall lovers. October followed September’s lead and brought mostly mild temperatures across the state. As the temperature departures from Aurora in Figure 1 show, 16 of the first 21 days in October were cooler than normal, and many were 5 to 15 degrees below normal. Only the third week of the month had temperatures more than 10 degrees above normal. Average October high temperatures ranged from the low to high 60s, with lows in the 40s and low 50s. The result was very pleasant weather across the entire month, which, along with dry conditions, permitted a relatively quick harvest and plentiful opportunities to enjoy fall festivities.
Cool October nights brought regular frost across the state, and an earlier than normal first fall freeze. For example, Du Quoin recorded its first fall 32-degree freeze on October 9, about 10 days earlier than the 1991–2020 average. Most places saw nighttime temperatures dip below the hard freeze mark of 28 degrees later in the month, including a 20-degree low in Monmouth and a 22-degree low in Carbondale.
October average temperatures ranged from the upper 40s in northern Illinois to the mid-50s in southern Illinois, between 1 and 4 degrees below normal (Figure 2). The warmest place in the state last month was Olmsted in Pulaski County with an average October temperature of 58.9 degrees. The coolest place in the state was Elizabeth in Jo Daviess County with an average October temperature of 49.2 degrees.
Daily high maximum temperature records were broken last month at 8 stations, and daily high minimum temperature records were broken at 1 station. Daily low minimum temperature records were also broken at 17 stations. Cairo tied its all-time October low minimum temperature record with a 25-degree low on October 19.
Overall, the preliminary statewide average October temperature was 53.1 degrees, 1.6 degrees below the 1991–2020 average and tied for the 40th coolest on record going back to 1895.
Continued Dryness Causes Issues
September was drier than normal in most places around the state, and the dryness persisted into the first two-thirds of October (Figure 3). Most areas picked up less than 1 inch of total precipitation between October 1 and 21, 1 to 3 inches less than normal over the time period.
The dryness in southern Illinois was part of a larger pattern for the Ohio and Lower Mississippi River basins. In fact, the entire Lower Ohio valley, from Louisville to Cairo, only picked up 0.60 inches of total rainfall on average between September 1 and October 21. The exceedingly dry conditions contributed to very low flows and navigation issues along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Extremely dry soils particularly in southern Illinois also increased the risk of fire and forced multiple counties to impose burn bans for most of the month. Despite the bans, several wildfires and field fires broke out in southern and central Illinois in October, including a fire that burned at least 115 acres in Jefferson County. One benefit of the persistently dry conditions was that it aided a relatively smooth harvest. On the other hand, low flow and navigation issues along the Mississippi River from the dry weather has contributed to higher transportation costs and grain storage issues.
The last week of the month brought wetter weather statewide, including a few places that picked up 3 to 4 inches in a single week. October total precipitation ranged from over 4 inches in southwest Illinois to less than 1.5 inches in far northwest Illinois (Figure 4). The Interstate 55 corridor between St. Louis and Chicago was the only part of the state near to slightly wetter than normal, whereas northwest and southern Illinois were 1 to 3 inches drier than normal last month.
Overall, the preliminary statewide average total October precipitation was 2.30 inches, 0.61 inches below the 1991–2020 average and tied for 52nd driest on record statewide.
Climate Prediction Center outlooks for November mostly point to equal chances of warmer/cooler and wetter/drier than normal conditions (Figure 5). However, as we continue into our third consecutive La Niña cool season, outlooks are increasingly taking a very La Niña-esque appearance. Namely, much of Illinois is leaning toward wetter than normal conditions from December through February (Figure 6). A wetter winter would be beneficial in reducing the soil moisture deficits and improving streamflow as we move into spring.