Here are two highlights for today:
U.S. Drought Monitor
After some concerns of dryness over the last several months in parts of Illinois, the conditions across Illinois were much wetter in the last two weeks. Rainfall totals were especially heavy south of Interstate 72 and ranged from 3 to 8 inches or more (see map below).
The U.S. Drought Monitor has removed all areas of drought in Illinois and greatly reduced the region of “abnormally dry” conditions.
Climate Prediction Center El Niño Forecast
The NOAA Climate Prediction Center issued a new El Niño Watch today, saying …
While ENSO-neutral is favored for Northern Hemisphere spring, the chances of El Niño increase during the remainder of the year, exceeding 50% by summer.
This reflects a slightly stronger chance of El Niño arriving this summer than mentioned in their post a month ago. However, they caution that there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the timing and strength of the El Niño and recognize that the skill in forecasting El Niño this early in spring is low. This is a less certain forecast than the one issued by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology earlier this week, indicating that there was a greater than 70 percent of an El Niño event by June.
If you are interested in daily and monthly weather records, there are a few excellent web sites that can help.
NOAA National Climatic Data Center
The NCDC site http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/records/ allows you to look at daily, monthly, and all-time records for sites in a selected state. Records include temperature (highest high, lowest low, etc.), precipitation, and snowfall. The report for March is especially interesting with 352 broken records and 52 tied records for sites in Illinois as of March 27. See the link to the PDF below:
Report from NCDC on record highs set in March 2012
The folks at weatherunderground.com has a similar page as the NCDC site with slightly different interface and output at http://www.wunderground.com/climate/extremes.asp.
Based on preliminary reports, six people were killed in Harrisburg (southeastern Illinois), when a tornado struck late last night. The NWS is surveying the damage today. I will post more information when it becomes available.
Update 9:30 pm, March 1. I have updated the numbers below to reflect the addition of 2011 data.
Update 8:30 am, March 1. The Paducah NWS office has released a preliminary report on the tornado outbreak in southern Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky.
Update 3:45 pm, February 29. According to a news conference aired on WSIL-TV, the NWS has identified this as an EF-4 tornado with wind speeds up to 170 mph. Wind speeds are estimated from the level of devastation at the scene in Harrisburg. EF-4 tornadoes are relatively rare in Illinois. Out of
2244 2322 tornadoes reported in Illinois between 1950 and 2010 2011, only 40 were in this category. However, they are very deadly. Of the 203 deaths related from tornadoes between 1950- 20102011, 100 of these came from EF-4 tornadoes. That is 49 percent of the data with an average rate of 2.5 deaths per EF-4 event.
Tornadoes are more common in spring and summer, but they can occur in February. A total of
29 39 tornadoes occurred in February from 1950 to 2010 2011, causing 6 deaths and 28 serious injuries. We have a complete analysis of Illinois tornadoes here, including plots and maps. As the map below shows, many of our February tornadoes occur in the southern part of the state.