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.

Fall and Winter Forecast for Illinois

Summary: The NWS Climate Prediction Center has issued their forecasts for September, September-November (Fall), and December-February (Winter). Illinois has an increased chance of being warmer than normal this fall, and wetter than normal this winter.
According to the Climate Prediction Center, the main factors in the forecast are the recent warming trends and the expected La Niña. While the conditions in the Pacific are in the neutral stage between El Niño and La Niña, there is a 55-60 percent chance of a weak La Niña during fall and winter.

Fall

The September forecast (top row) has Illinois and the Midwest with equal chances of being above, below, and near-normal on both temperature and precipitation. I call this a neutral forecast since there are no indications that we will be significantly cooler, warmer, wetter, or drier.
The September-November forecast (bottom row) has Illinois and the US with an increased chance of being warmer than normal. They are neutral on the precipitation forecast.
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Winter

Continue reading “Fall and Winter Forecast for Illinois”

Forecast for October, Fall, and Winter – Warmer Than Average

The NWS Climate Prediction Center released their latest outlook for October and beyond. It looks like the warm-than-average weather is expected to continue for the next several months. The primary driver in the forecast is the ongoing El Niño in the Pacific Ocean basin.

October

Illinois has an increased chance of above-average temperatures for October. There is not much to report on precipitation in Illinois. We are between drier-than-average conditions to our northeast and wetter-than-average conditions to our southwest.

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October-December

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Latest Seasonal Forecasts for Illinois – A Mild Winter?

The NWS Climate Prediction Center released their latest seasonal forecasts today. Here are the results for Illinois. The biggest news is that Illinois has an increased chance of above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation for the winter months of December, January, and February. This forecast is based largely on the developing El Niño in the Pacific Ocean.

While the forecast of a milder winter may sound appealing, I would not leave the winter coat in the closet and throw away the snow shovel just yet. Two things to consider are: 1) this is not a 100% guarantee, other factors come into play in determining our winter weather, and 2) even a mild winter can contain short periods of intense cold and abundant snowfall.

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More on the seasonal forecast

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How February and This Winter Stacked Up in Illinois

Here are the time series plots of the statewide average temperature for February and winter (December-January-February) from 1895 to present (source: NOAA NCDC).

February

In the first plot, I have a red box around the temperature for 2014 and 2015. The only other time that we had a pair of extremely cold Februarys was 1978 and 1979. All the other cold Februarys were one-off events. According to NCDC, the statewide average temperature for February 2015 in Illinois was 19.5 degrees and the 9th coldest on record. Last February was nearly identical at 19.4 degrees.

plot1Winter

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Last Below Zero Weather of the Season? I Hope.

Here are the lows this morning, courtesy of the National Weather Service office in Lincoln. Areas in blue were below zero. Champaign-Urbana reached -9 degrees, breaking the old record of 4 degrees set in 1899.

min_temp_small

Of course, widespread snow cover (map below), clear skies, and calm winds were contributing factors in the hopefully last round of below-zero weather this season. nsm_depth_2015030605_Midwest

24 HOUR MINIMUM TEMPERATURE DATA IN DEGREES FAHRENHEIT,
FOR ILLINOIS AND THE SURROUNDING STATES, INCLUDING
24-HR DATA THROUGH 7 AM, FRIDAY MARCH 6, 2015.

 
  ILLINOIS 

    DANVILLE AIRPORT                      -10
    ELIZABETH                             -10
    FREEPORT                              -10
    MCHENRY                               -10
    ROCHELLE AIRPORT                      -10
    CHAMPAIGN WILLARD AIRPORT              -9
    DECATUR AIRPORT                        -9
    SIDELL 5NW                             -9
    STERLING AIRPORT                       -9
    PAW PAW 2NW                            -7
    WATSEKA                                -7
    MATTOON AIRPORT                        -6
    OGDEN                                  -6
    PANA SEWAGE PLANT                      -6
    PAXTON 2WSW                            -6
    ALTONA                                 -5
    AURORA AIRPORT                         -5
    DIXON                                  -5
    DWIGHT                                 -5
    LINCOLN NWS                            -5
    NEOGA 4NW                              -5
    ROBINSON WTYE                          -5
    ROCHELLE                               -5
    ROCKFORD AIRPORT                       -5
    ROSICLARE                              -5
    WAUKEGAN AIRPORT                       -5
    BARRINGTON 3SW                         -4
    EFFINGHAM 3SW                          -4
    KEWANEE                                -4
    PARIS SEWAGE PLANT                     -4
    RAMSEY                                 -4
    SULLIVAN 3S                            -4
    MONMOUTH                               -3
    MUNDELEIN 4WSW                         -3
    TUSCOLA                                -3
    BROOKPORT DAM                          -2
    CARBONDALE AIRPORT                     -2
    CHICAGO DUPAGE AIRPORT                 -2
    COAL CITY 4NNW                         -2
    KANKAKEE                               -2
    LACON AIRPORT                          -2
    PRAIRIE CITY 2S                        -2
    GRAND CHAIN DAM                        -1
    MINONK                                 -1
    MORRIS                                 -1
    MT VERNON                              -1
    OLNEY 2S                               -1
    BLOOMINGTON 5W                          0
    CHICAGO OHARE AIRPORT                   0
    GALESBURG                               0
    MOLINE AIRPORT                          0
    OTTAWA 5SW                              0
    SMITHLAND LOCK AND DAM                  0
    SPRINGFIELD CAPITAL AIRPORT             0
    WINDSOR SEWAGE PLANT                    0
    ELGIN                                   1
    JOLIET LOCK AND DAM                     1
    LAWRENCEVILLE-VINCENNES AIRPORT         1
    MACOMB AIRPORT                          1
    PERRY                                   1
    SPRINGFIELD NE                          1
    AURORA                                  2
    CASEY                                   2
    CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDENS                 2
    GLADSTONE LOCK AND DAM 18               2
    JACKSONVILLE                            2
    NEW BOSTON LOCK AND DAM 17              2
    NORMAL 4NE                              2
    PARK FOREST                             2
    WINCHESTER                              2
    GRIGGSVILLE                             3
    PEORIA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT            3
    RUSHVILLE 4NE                           3
    WHEATON                                 3
    CHICAGO WHEELING AIRPORT                4
    JERSEYVILLE 2SW                         4
    PITTSFIELD                              5
    BENTLEY                                 6
    CHICAGO MIDWAY AIRPORT                  6
    NASHVILLE                               7
    QUINCY AIRPORT                          7
    QUINCY LOCK AND DAM 21                  8
    KASKASKIA LOCKS                        10
    CAHOKIA AIRPORT                        14

Winter Finishes Cold and Snowy in Illinois

The statewide average temperature for the three winter months of December, January, and February in Illinois was 26.1 degrees, 7.5 degrees below average. While cold, it was not nearly as cold as last winter’s 21.7 degrees. This winter ranks as the 30th coldest on record.

winterThis winter started off mild with an average December temperature of 33.9 degrees, 4 degrees above average.  The average temperature in January was 25.7 degrees, only 0.7 degrees below average, and the average in February was 18.6 degrees, 12.3 degrees below average. See figure to the left, click to enlarge. Last winter, all three months were well below average.

Snowfall

Snowfall was above average for the winter from December through February. Most of that fell in February. December was snow-free for most of the state except in the far west. Snowfall was common in January but below average except for a band across northern Illinois. Major snows occurred in February to bring up the winter snowfall totals across the state. Above-average snowfall occurred across northern and western Illinois as well as far southern Illinois. The maps below show the observed amounts and departure from average.

map2map3

Precipitation

map1The average precipitation for December-February was 4.97 inches, 1.85 inches below average. In fact, most of the Midwest received below-average precipitation this winter (figure left). Precipitation is a measure of both rainfall and the water content of any snow. While we received above-average snowfall, the water content of that snow was not always great. In a typical year we can get rain in winter, but not so much this winter. This kind of precipitation deficit would be a concern during the growing season. However, in winter the water demand is low.

February On Track To Be Among The Coldest on Record for Illinois

image004February 2015 is on track to being one of the coldest February’s on record for Illinois. Data through February 24 puts the statewide average at 19.4° F. This is 11.5°F below average and slightly colder than last February’s 19.4°F. Before February, this was shaping up to be a mild winter with near to above-average temperatures (see graph to the left, click to enlarge).

At this point, February 2015 is ranked as the 8th coldest on record, edging out 2014 (see table below). The NWS forecasts show that temperatures for the rest of February will be 15 to 20 degrees below average. Therefore it is possible that it could move up the ranks. I will post more on this at the end of the month.

Ten Coldest February’s in  Illinois

  1. 1978 (16.9°)
  2. 1936 (17.2°)
  3. 1979 (17.4°)
  4. 1905 (17.6°)
  5. 1895 (17.7°)
  6. 1899 (18.0°)
  7. 1902 (19.2°)
  8. 2015 (19.4°) ** as of February 24
  9. 2014 (19.5°)
  10. 1914 (20.6°)

Statewide records go back to 1895.

Drought Monitor Says Abnormally Dry – Should We be Worried?

The US Drought Monitor introduced their D0 “abnormally dry” category across northern and western Illinois (first map). Should we be worried? We have been running about 2 to 4 inches below average on precipitation this winter (second map) – that’s both rainfall and the water content of any snow. The good news is that the demand for water is very low in winter. Therefore, the impacts on soil moisture, stream flows, and lake levels so far have been minimal.

20150127_IL_trd
Click to enlarge. http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

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Quiet Winter for Snowfall across central US

Snowfall across the central US has been slightly below average so far this winter and stands in stark contrast to last winter. However, the impact on soil moisture, rivers, and streams has been minimal.

Here is an example of snowfall differences. At Chicago O’Hare airport the snowfall total for this winter through January 14 is 13.7 inches. Last year through this date it was 35.0 inches and the 1981-2010 average is 14.2 inches.

In the first map are the snowfall departures for this winter. All the areas in tan or beige are up to 10 inches below average. That includes almost all of Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, and Kentucky, as well as large portions of the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. Areas in green are above average and include a small area in far southern Illinois and another around Moline. Snowfall is above average across upper Wisconsin and the Michigan UP.  Continue reading “Quiet Winter for Snowfall across central US”