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.

June – Warmer and Wetter in Illinois, More to Follow

Summary: The statewide average temperature for June so far is 75.3 degrees, 4.4 degrees above normal. The statewide average precipitation for June is 3.61 inches, which is about 130% above normal. However, the precipitation is spread unevenly throughout the state. Above-normal temperatures are expected to continue for July.
Temperature: Both the average high and average low for June has been above normal (maps below). The average high ranged from the low 90s around St. Louis to the upper 80s in the southern two-thirds of Illinois. The average high ranged from the upper 70s to the low 80s in the northern third of the state. The average lows ranged from the upper 50s in northeast Illinois to the 60s for the rest of the state.


Precipitation: Precipitation was highly variable across Illinois, which is fairly typical for summer months (below). There are a few areas in pink with 10 to 15 inches. Areas in shades of orange and red have precipitation amounts of 4 to 10 inches, well above normal. The largest monthly total so far is Beecher City (Effingham County) with 11.22 inches. Meanwhile, rainfall has been less plentiful in western and southern Illinois with amounts of 2 inches or less. Continue reading “June – Warmer and Wetter in Illinois, More to Follow”

Outlook for Spring and Summer from NWS

The new outlooks for March, Spring, and Summer from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center are out.  You can click on any map to see the larger version.
Overview: The NWS says that La Nina conditions continued through January and into early February across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, as indicated by oceanic and atmospheric observations. The CPC/IRI consensus ENSO forecast indicates that La Nina conditions are expected to decay rapidly and transition to ENSO-neutral conditions during Spring. ENSO-neutral conditions are favored to persist through at least the summer.

March

Parts of Illinois shaded in blue have an increased chance of colder than normal conditions. This is part of a larger area of expected colder conditions that extend from the Midwest westward and is a classic La Nina signal for this region. Current climate conditions do not favor colder or warmer than normal conditions in the rest of Illinois. Current climate conditions do not favor wetter or drier than normal conditions in Illinois in March.

March-April-May

Continue reading “Outlook for Spring and Summer from NWS”