Volcanoes and Climate in Illinois

When I give talks on climate and climate change, I often get questions about volcanoes and their impact on our climate. The Washington Post had a recent article on the subject, mentioning the famous eruption of Tambora in 1815, which in 1816 led to the year without a summer in the eastern US. It probably had impacts on Illinois but we had no widespread observations in place at the time.


The one I remember the best was Mount Pinatubo. The following summer after that eruption was exceptionally cool across the US and around the world.

Summer 1992 temperature departures from average for the lower 48 states. Shades of green indicate level of coolness. Click to enlarge.

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El Nino and the Midwest

NOAA has released a new 2-page fact sheet on El Niño and the Midwest (links below). Several people in the Midwest had input into this, including myself. El Niño typically results in warmer and drier than average winters. Confidence in these patterns is higher during stronger El Niño events.

Right now the NOAA Climate Prediction Center states that El Niño is favored to begin in the next 1-2 months and last into spring of 2015. The current thinking is that the odds are 2-in-3 in favor of it arriving and that the event will likely remain weak throughout its duration.

PDF version: EN-MW-Sep2014

Online version:

[scribd id=242836832 key=key-2ql4MIpJSjgpfv25L5Zd mode=scroll]

Wet August Wraps Up Cool, Wet Summer in Illinois

Highlights: The 12th wettest August in Illinois finishes out the 10th wettest summer on record. While August was slightly warmer than average, the summer was cooler than average. Here are the statistics.

August Statistics

The statewide average precipitation for August was 5.18 inches, 1.59 inches above average and the 12th wettest on record. The wettest area of the state was Cook County. The largest monthly total was from a CoCoRaHS site (IL-CK-100) in Cicero with 10.20 inches of precipitation.

This first map shows several areas across the state with amounts of 7 to 10 inches (oranges and reds), according to radar estimates. There were a few areas in the northwest and east-central Illinois with only 2 to 3 inches. The second map shows the departures from average, showing the many areas with 2 to 8 inches above average for the month.



Continue reading “Wet August Wraps Up Cool, Wet Summer in Illinois”

Tie for Coolest July on Record for Illinois

The statewide average temperature for July was 70.3 degrees in Illinois, which ties the record cool July of 70.3 degrees set back in 2009 and 5 degrees below average.

Below is the plot of July temperatures for Illinois since 1895. The green dots are the actual temperature for each year, while the red and blue shading indicate periods of warmer or cooler temperatures. July 1936 (82.8 degrees) is the warmest July on record, followed closely by July 2012 (81.8 degrees). In the bottom right hand corner, are July 2009 and 2014. So in six years, we have experienced the 2nd warmest and twice the coldest July on record.

As this plot indicates, the observed range in July monthly temperatures in Illinois is 12.5 degrees. On another note, the July 2014 average temperature is based on preliminary data so it is very likely that we will break the tie with 2009 as more data arrives.

Click to enlarge. Map produced by NOAA funded project http://www.southernclimate.org/products/trends.php

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Memorial Day Weekend Rains Push Illinois Records

More rain fell over Illinois over the Memorial Day weekend. The heaviest amounts were in the central part of the state and ranged from 2 to 6 inches (yellow to dark red in the map below).
Right now the statewide average rainfall for May stands at 5.03 inches, based on preliminary data. More rain is forecasted for today and much of this week. So this total is likely to increase as we go through the week. By contrast, Illinois received only 2.5 inches in May 2012.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

A Warm Fall for Illinois?

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released their latest monthly and seasonal outlooks today (Thursday). In the figure below, the outlook for October in Illinois is for an increased risk of above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation. The 3-month outlook for October-December in Illinois is for an increased risk of above-normal temperatures. Their precipitation outlook is neutral at this time.
That’s not the best news for drought recovery but it might make it easier on farmers for  fall harvest.
One factor that could come into play this winter is El Niño. In fact, the CPC says an El Niño event is likely to arrive some time in September, according to their latest advisory. However, in the last two winters the Arctic Oscillation has played a major role in our winter weather. Two winters ago it was in the negative phase and dumped lots of cold air into Illinois. Last winter it was in the positive phase and prevented a lot of cold air from reaching us. Unfortunately, we can only forecast the Arctic Oscillation out to 14 days.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center outlooks for October and October-December. Click to enlarge.

Drought Eases Slightly in Illinois

Drought eases slightly in Illinois thanks to the rainfall and cooler temperatures of the last few weeks. The US Drought Monitor for August 28 shows improvement in northeast Illinois, especially Cook County.
While not yet reflected in the Drought Monitor, August has been a better month than July with more rain and milder temperatures. I’ll post the end of the month stuff on Friday. In the meantime, here are the latest departures from normal for the month so far (second figure). Parts of western and central Illinois as well as much of Illinois north of Interstate 80 have been below normal, areas in east-central and southern Illinois received above-normal precipitation for the month.
Of course, the real game-changer is yet to come – Tropical Storm Isaac. More on that later.

US Drought Monitor status for Illinois. Click to enlarge.

August precipitation, departure from normal. Areas in green and blue are above-normal. Map courtesy of the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. Click to enlarge.

2nd Wettest June on Record

Illinois has experienced the 2nd wettest June on record, based on preliminary records through June 30. The statewide average rainfall was 7.8 inches, 3.7 inches above normal. The wettest June on record was 1902 with 8.37 inches. The rains over the weekend, especially north of I-80 and along I-70 caused this June to move up from fourth to second wettest June on record. Statewide records extend back to 1895. This number is provisional and may change slightly as more data comes in.
The larger rainfall totals occurred in the northern two-thirds of the state where amounts of 7 to 12 inches were common.  Meanwhile far southern Illinois remains closer to normal with amounts ranging from 3 to 6 inches.

Monitoring US and Global Climate Conditions

NOAA has an excellent website for monitoring global and U.S. conditions at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/climate-monitoring/index.php This site gives an overview of temperatures, precipitation, global hazards, tornadoes, wildfires, droughts, and other conditions for each month. The monthly reports are typically posted about a week or so after the end of the month. You can choose from the archive of past months/years as well.
Here is a screen shot of one of the many products available. This one is called the “U.S. Climate at a Glance” product. With this particular product you can generate national, regional, statewide maps as well as plots for key cities. Give it a try.

U.S. Climate at a Glance
Screenshot of U.S. Climate at a Glance product from NCDC showing April temperature departures.

Warmest April on Record for Illinois

Based on preliminary data, the statewide average temperature for Illinois in April was 58.4 degrees, 6.2 degrees above normal and the warmest April on record. This beats the old record of 58.2 degrees set in 1955. Official statewide average temperature records go back to 1895. The warm temperatures in April were not unique to Illinois – the entire Midwest was much above normal (see map below).
April rainfall was 3.5 inches, just 0.3 inches below normal. Areas in western Illinois around received the most precipitation, over 5 inches in some locations. A CoCoRaHS observer in Matherville (Mercer County) reported 6.50 inches for the month.

April temperature departures
Temperature departures for April across the Midwest (click to enlarge).

Midwest precipitation for April
Precipitation totals for April across the Midwest (click to enlarge).