Cold In Alaska

While Illinois enjoys a relatively mild winter, things are far different in Alaska. A colleague alerted me to these reports coming out of Alaska. I don’t know which is more impressive: the nighttime lows or the daytime highs.

REGIONAL TEMPERATURE AND PRECIPITATION ROUNDUP
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FAIRBANKS AK
958 PM AKST SUN JAN 29 2012

 ALL VALUES ARE FOR 18 HOURS BETWEEN 3AM AND 9PM ALASKA
 LOCAL TIME TODAY
:
 SNOWFALL AND SNOW DEPTH DATA AVAILABLE ONLY AT AUGMENTED
 SITES
 PRECIPITATION DATA RELIABLE DURING THE WINTER ONLY AT
 AUGMENTED SITES
.B PAFG 0129 Z DH18/TXL/TNL/PPL/SF/SD
:
: ID           STATION            HI    LO    PCPN   SNOW SNOW
:                                                    FALL DEPTH
PAFA  : FAIRBANKS AIRPORT      : -38 / -51 /  0.01 /     /
PAEI  : EIELSON AFB            : -36 / -52 /    T  /     /
PANN  : NENANA                 : -26 / -54 /  0.00 /     /
PAMH  : MINCHUMINA             : -33 / -53 /       /     /
PAIN  : DENALI PARK            : -24 / -49 /       /     /
PABI  : DELTA JUNCTION         : -21 / -50 /  0.00 /     /
PAOR  : NORTHWAY AIRPORT       : -27 / -48 /    T  /     /   15
PAEG  : EAGLE                  :     /     /  0.00 /     /
PFYU  : FORT YUKON             : -51 / -62 /       /     /
PARC  : ARCTIC VILLAGE         : -42 / -54 /       /     /
PABT  : BETTLES                : -37 / -59 /  0.00 /     /   32
PAHL  : HUSLIA                 : -45 / -60 /       /     /
PAGA  : GALENA                 : -49 / -59 /    T  /     /
PAKV  : KALTAG                 : -44 / -56 /    T  /     /
PAMC  : MCGRATH                : -24 / -49 /  0.00 /     /   35
PAFS  : NIKOLAI                : -26 / -49 /    T  /     /
PANV  : ANVIK                  : -24 / -27 /       /     /
PAHC  : HOLY CROSS             : -25 / -30 /       /     /
:
PABR  : BARROW AIRPORT         : -19 / -24 /    T  /     /
PPIZ  : POINT LAY              : -19 / -24 /    T  /     /
PAWI  : WAINWRIGHT             : -14 / -20 /  0.00 /     /
PATQ  : ATQASUK                : -20 / -26 /       /     /
PAQT  : NUIQSUT                : -19 / -25 /  0.00 /     /
PASC  : DEADHORSE              : -18 / -25 /  0.00 /     /
PABA  : BARTER ISLAND          : -30 / -36 /  0.00 /     /
PAKP  : ANAKTUVUK PASS         : -31 / -36 /       /     /
:
PAOM  : NOME                   : -20 / -35 /  0.00 /     /
PAOT  : KOTZEBUE               : -32 / -39 /    T  /     /
PAPO  : POINT HOPE             :  -9 / -22 /       /     /
PAVL  : KIVALINA               : -24 / -27 /    T  /     /
PAWN  : NOATAK                 : -35 / -42 /       /     /
PAFM  : AMBLER                 :     /     /       /     /
PASH  : SHISHMAREF             : -17 / -24 /       /     /
PADE  : DEERING                : -19 / -38 /    T  /     /
PABL  : BUCKLAND               :     /     /       /     /
PAIW  : WALES                  :  -5 / -12 /       /     /
PATE  : TELLER                 :     /     /       /     /
PAGL  : GOLOVIN                : -27 / -35 /       /     /
PAKK  : KOYUK                  : -15 / -29 /       /     /
PAUN  : UNALAKLEET             : -17 / -27 /       /     /
PACM  : SCAMMON BAY            : -17 / -22 /       /     /
PAMK  : SAINT MICHAEL          : -23 / -26 /       /     /
PAEM  : EMMONAK                : -17 / -20 /       /     /
PASM  : SAINT MARYS            :  -9 / -17 /       /     /
.END

 COOPERATIVE OBSERVATIONS
 ALL VALUES ARE FOR 24 HOURS ENDING AROUND 9AM ALASKA
 LOCAL TIME TODAY
.B PAFG 0129 Z DH17/TX/TN/PPD/SF/SD
:
: ID           STATION            HI    LO    PCPN   SNOW SNOW
:                                                    FALL DEPTH
PATA  : TANANA                 : -47 / -61 /  0.00 /     /   20
GSCA2 : GOLDSTREAM CREEK       : -41 / -55 /  0.00 /  0.0/   17
FYKA2 : FORT YUKON #2          : -39 / -65 /  0.00 /  0.0/   22
FAOA2 : COLLEGE OBSERVATORY    : -38 / -48 /  0.00 /  0.0/   17
STHA2 : MILE 42 STEESE HWY     :     /     /       /     /
DNPA2 : DENALI PARK HQ         : -27 / -37 /  0.00 /  0.0/   23
HLYA2 : HEALY 2NW              : -30 / -41 /  0.00 /  0.0/    8
LMHA2 : LAKE MINCHUMINA        : -39 / -50 /  0.00 /  0.0/   18
CHSA2 : CIRCLE HOT SPRINGS     : -49 / -58 /  0.00 /  0.0/   20
PRCA2 : PORCUPINE RVR AT COLEEN:     /     /       /     /
RUBA2 : RUBY 14NE              :     /     /       /     /
BIGA2 : DELTA JUNCTION 20SE    : -40 / -58 /  0.00 /  0.0/   19
DDAA2 : DELTA 6N               :     /     /       /     /
PACA2 : PORT ALCAN             : -36 / -49 /  0.00 /  0.0/   13
CQNA2 : CHICKEN COOP           : -43 / -59 /  0.00 /  0.0/   14
EGLA2 : EAGLE                  : -40 / -57 /  0.00 /  0.0/   18
CCVA2 : COLVILLE VILLAGE       : -17 / -37 /    T  /    T/    8
WITA2 : WHITESTONE FARMS       : -38 / -52 /  0.00 /  0.0/   11

.END
 COOPERATIVE OBSERVATIONS
 ALL VALUES ARE FOR 24 HOURS ENDING AROUND 2PM ALASKA
 LOCAL TIME TODAY
.B PAFG 0129 Z DH23/TX/TN/PPD/SF/SD
:
: ID           STATION            HI    LO    PCPN   SNOW SNOW
:                                                    FALL DEPTH
GCQA2 : GILMORE CREEK          : -23 / -47 /  0.00 /  0.0/   16
DRYA2 : DRY CREEK              : -32 / -54 /  0.00 /  0.0/   26
TOFA2 : TOK FORESTRY           :     /     /       /     /
ACLA2 : ALPINE CREEK LODGE     :     /     /       /     /
.END

 COOPERATIVE OBSERVATIONS
 ALL VALUES ARE FOR 24 HOURS ENDING AROUND 6PM ALASKA
 LOCAL TIME TODAY
.B PAFG 0129 Z DH03/TX/TN/PPD/SF/SD
:
: ID           STATION            HI    LO    PCPN   SNOW SNOW
:                                                    FALL DEPTH
TOKA2 : TOK                    :     /     /       /     /
TOAA2 : TOK #2                 : -27 / -51 /  0.00 /  0.0/   22
GALA2 : GALENA                 : -50 / -65 /  0.00 /  0.0/   32
WSMA2 : WISEMAN                :     /     /       /     /
KOBA2 : KOBE HILL              :     /     /       /     /
PALP  : ALPINE                 : -18 / -31 /    T  /    T/   29
MISSI : MISSING                :     /     /       /     /
DIKA2 : KANDIK RIVER           : -52 / -64 /  0.00 /  0.0/   22
.END

 COOPERATIVE OBSERVATIONS
 ALL VALUES ARE FOR 24 HOURS ENDING AROUND 10PM ALASKA
 LOCAL TIME TODAY
.B PAFG 0129 Z DH06/TX/TN/PPD/SF/SD
:
: ID           STATION            HI    LO    PCPN   SNOW SNOW
:                                                    FALL DEPTH
AURA2 : AURORA/FAIRBANKS       : -40 / -51 /    T  /    T/   17
CSKA2 : CLEAR SKY              : -42 / -60 /  0.00 /  0.0/   18
NOPA2 : NORTH POLE             :     /     /       /     /
FMTA2 : FAIRBANKS MIDTOWN      :     /     /       /     /
.END
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New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

The USDA has just released their new Plant Hardiness Zone Map. This is a much-needed update using the 30-year period of 1976-2005 versus the old USDA map which used the period 1974-1986.

One of the outstanding features of the new map is the northward shift of the hardiness zones in Illinois. For example, the boundary between zones 5 and 6 have shifted about 60 miles to the north. Zone 4 has left Illinois in the new map. In addition, the new map shows a lot more detail including the warming effect of the Chicago urban area (see map below).

In the second figure, the minimum winter temperature for each year is shown for Champaign-Urbana. The  old USDA plant hardiness zone map used an unusually short period during one of the colder periods in the record (1974-1986). The general trend in the data shows an increase in the minimum winter temperature from the late 1800s to about 1950, followed by a cooling trend to the 1980s, and finishing with a warming trend through 2005. Interestingly, the last few years showed a cooling trend – except for this year when our coldest temperature so far is 4°F.

The other important feature in the second figure is that even if an area changes Zones, there is still a lot of year to year variability in the minimum temperature for winter. For example, while Champaign-Urbana is nearly classified as Zone 6 in the new map, Champaign-Urbana dipped into Zone 4 a few times (-20°F or less) in the last 30 years.  In fact, as a gardener I would say that the period from the 1930s to the early 1970s was more benign and less challenging than the 1980s and 1990s with respect to winter temperatures. Summer conditions would be another story since the 1930s and 1950s were marred by severe droughts.

Click to enlarge.

Severe Weather in January

It was somewhat strange seeing lightning and hearing thunder yesterday evening, considering that it was January. The NOAA Storm Prediction Center listed two reports of 1 to 1.5 inch hail around Mt. Vernon. There were other reports of high winds and wind damage such as trees down. Meanwhile, tornadoes were reported in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. You can see the preliminary report at http://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/reports/120122_rpts.html

While tornadoes are rare in Illinois in January and the other winter months, they do occur. Here are the number of tornadoes by month for Illinois (first figure) and their distribution around the state (second figure). You can see more figures like these here and here.

Click to enlarge.

And here is their distribution across the state for January:

Click to enlarge.

Getting Around Illinois in Winter

The Illinois Department of Transportation maintains a website called http://www.gettingaroundillinois.com/ According to the site,

Getting Around Illinois is a web-based interactive mapping site that provides the ability to search and display several sources of transportation data. You can find information on winter road conditions, average annual daily traffic, road construction, trucking routes, and planned road projects.

From that main page, you can get current winter road conditions at http://wrc.gettingaroundillinois.com/pages/wrc.htm. I have found this site to be very valuable for  making travel plans during or after a winter storm in Illinois.

Have you ever noticed the weather instruments alongside Interstate Highways? Those systems are called Road Weather Information Systems, or RWIS for short. They include weather sensors as well as roadway sensors to measure pavement temperatures and detect wet or icy conditions. Here is the link for the RWIS data in Illinois: http://www.gettingaroundillinois.com/mapviewer.aspx?mt=rwis

Illinois Site Close to State Record

The statewide average precipitation for 2011 in Illinois was 45.62 inches, 5.43 inches above normal, making it the 10th wettest year on record. The largest precipitation totals for the year came from southern Illinois. In fact, one site – Du Quoin – came close to reaching the statewide record of 74.58 inches set at New Burnside in 1950.

Here are the outstanding annual precipitation totals for 2011:

  1. 72.11 inches at Du Quoin
  2. 70.77 inches at Cairo
  3. 70.58 inches at Grand Chain Dam
  4. 69.97 inches at Carbondale
  5. 69.16 inches at Murphysboro
  6. 66.89 inches at Olney
  7. 66.41 inches at Grayville
  8. 66.18 inches at Brookport Dam
  9. 64.50 inches at Mt. Vernon
  10. 63.98 inches at Shawneetown

However, not everyone was so wet in 2011. A few sites in central and western Illinois reported 30 inches or less. These include Lake Springfield with 25.34 inches, Illinois City Dam #16 with 27.47 inches. One of the driest major cities was Springfield with 30.61 inches, reported at the airport.

We are waiting for final reports from several sites. As a result, there could be more locations added to the wettest and driest spots in Illinois in 2011.

Texas Beats Illinois in Snow Bowl

In one of the weather forums, Victor Murphy (NWS) pointed out that Midland Texas has already established a winter seasonal record for the most observed snowfall at 14.4 inches. For us non-Texans, Midland is in western Texas and almost due west of Dallas-Ft. Worth.

By comparison to that 14.4 inch total in Texas, the winter seasonal snowfall totals for cities in or around Illinois through January 9, 2012, include:

  • Chicago with 1.9 inches
  • Rockford with 1.7 inches
  • Peoria with 0.6 inches
  • Springfield with 0.1 inches
  • Champaign-Urbana with 2.3 inches
  • St. Louis MO with 2.0 inches

2011 in Illinois – Wetter and Warmer than Normal

The year 2011 will go down as being wetter and warmer than normal for Illinois. It was also a year of extreme monthly temperatures and precipitation. For example, we had the 8th wettest June on record followed by the 6th driest August on record.

Precipitation

The statewide average precipitation for 2011 in Illinois was 45.62 inches; 5.43 inches above the 1981-2010 average of 40.20 inches. It was the 10th wettest year in Illinois. It was also the wettest April, 8th wettest June, and 6th wettest November on record. On the other hand, it was the 6th driest August and 21st driest October on record.

Our statewide records go back to 1895. Here are the monthly precipitation and departures in Illinois.

Table 1. Monthly and Annual Statewide Precipitation (inches)
Month/Season Precipitation (in) Precipitation Departure (in)
January 1.19 -0.93
February 3.17 1.06
March 2.67 -0.31
April 7.40 3.60
May 5.18 0.56
June 6.46 2.26
July 3.77 -0.28
August 1.92 -1.68
September 3.47 0.23
October 1.81 -1.45
November 5.13 1.66
December 3.45 0.71
Annual 45.62 5.43

Click to enlarge.

Temperature

The statewide average temperature for 2011 in Illinois was 53.0 °F; 0.8 °F above the 1981-2010 average of 52.2 °F.  It was the 23rd warmest year on record. It was also the 4th warmest July, 7th warmest November, and 11th warmest December on record. On the other hand, it was the 17th coldest January and 10th coldest September on record.

Here are the monthly temperatures and departures for 2011.

Table 2. Monthly and Annual Statewide Temperature (°F)
Month/Season Temperature (°F) Temperature Departure (°F)
January 22.6 -3.7
February 30.0 -0.8
March 41.4 0.3
April 52.9 0.5
May 61.9 -0.6
June 72.8 1.0
July 79.9 4.6
August 74.8 1.3
September 63.4 -2.5
October 54.9 0.8
November 45.7 3.2
December 35.8 5.9
Annual 53.0 0.8
Click to enlarge.

The numbers for December are preliminary and will be updated when the final numbers become available. However, I do not expect them to change the overall results shown here.