Back on October 18, NOAA released their winter forecast. There was nothing too exciting for Illinois. Illinois has equal chances of above, below, and near-normal temperatures. The same is true for precipitation, except along the westward edge of Illinois which has a slightly increased risk of below-normal precipitation. See maps below.
If you look at the past dozen years in Illinois, winter-time temperatures have been consistent at being inconsistent (see graph). We have had some really mild winters in 2001-2002 and this last winter. On the other hand, we have had harsh winters including the three before this last winter.
Just to give you an idea of what is “normal” or average about Illinois, here is the link to the monthly and seasonal precipitation, temperature, and snowfall across Illinois.
The latest US Drought Monitor map shows an expanded area in south-central Illinois that is completely drought-free at this point (7% of the state). In general, that area has received 8 to 16 inches of rain since August 1, which is about 4 to 8 inches above normal. The largest station total was 23.38 inches in Grayville, followed by Centralia IL with 20.01 inches.
Meanwhile, western and northern Illinois have not seen significant drought recovery so far this fall. Those areas have received only 2 to 6 inches of rain, where normal rainfall in that region is on the order of 8 inches.
Another thing that has helped recently with the drought situation in Illinois is that temperatures have run below normal since August. Most recently, October 1-10 has been 6 degrees below normal.
The statewide average temperature for September in Illinois was 64.6 degrees, 1.6 cooler-than-normal. This was the first cooler-than-normal month of 2012, and the first cooler-than-normal month since September of 2011. See graph below.
The statewide average precipitation for September was 4.9 inches, 1.7 inches wetter-than-normal. This is the first wetter-than-normal month in 2012. See second graph below.
Much of the September rainfall came from the remains of Hurricane Isaac that passed over Illinois on Labor Day weekend. Additional rains fell later, especially in south-central Illinois. In general, areas south of Interstate 80 had monthly totals in the 3 to 12 inch range. A few sites in that region reported over a foot of rain with the largest total at Centralia with 15.89 inches. See first map below.
Precipitation totals north of Interstate 80 were around 1-2 inches. One of the driest spots in the state was Elburn (Kane County IL-KN-30) with only 1.28 inches for the month. Chicago and Rockford were not far behind with O’Hare Airport reporting 1.76 inches while the Rockford airport reported only 1.74 inches for September.
By the end of September, drought conditions had eased somewhat according to the US Drought Monitor. Only 6.7 percent of the state was in the worst two categories of drought (D3 and D4). This compares to 70 percent of the state in the two worst categories at the end of August. Even so, 82 percent of the state still remained in some stage of drought at the end of September.
Even with a wet September, the January-September statewide precipitation total of 22.38 inches was 8.34 inches below normal and the fifth driest on record. Here are the top five:
1988 with 19.49″
1901 with 19.84″
1936 with 21.76″
1940 with 22.17″
2012 with 22.38″
Remarkably, the precipitation over the last two months has erased the precipitation deficit since January 1 in much of Fayette, Washington, Clinton, Bond, and Montgomery counties. Sizable deficits remain across much of Illinois, especially western and northern Illinois as well as far southern Illinois. See second map below.
The January-September statewide average temperature of 59.6 degrees was 4.1 degrees above normal. It was the second warmest January-September on record and just slightly cooler than the record of 59.7 degrees set in 1921.
Notes: “normal” refers to the 1981-2010 averages. Statewide temperature and precipitation records began in 1895.