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.

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

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Contrails and Cloudiness

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Photo by Jim Angel, Champaign, IL, January 28, 2015.

This morning we had a brilliant display of airplane contrails, enough to significantly increase the cloudiness (as if we needed more cloudiness this winter). Despite rumors to the contrary, airplane contrails are just the byproducts of burning jet fuel at high altitudes where the air is very cold and dry. The basic chemistry involves combing a carbon-based fuel and oxygen to produce CO2 and water.  CH4 + 2O2 –> CO2 + 2H2O

It’s the same process you see on a cold morning with car exhaust. The water vapor exits the exhaust pipe and condenses when it hits the colder air temperature, resulting in a white fog.

There have been some studies (mentioned below) to suggest that airplane contrails can lead to regional increases in cloudiness over time. As a result, in certain regions the daytime highs may be lower and the nighttime lows higher. In other words, a reduction in the range of daily temperatures. Continue reading

2014 – 15th Coldest in the Corn Belt

In a earlier post I compared how Illinois temperatures compared to the rest of the world in 2014. Over at the Sustainable Corn blog, I posted some more thoughts on how the Corn Belt just came off the 15th coldest year on record, while the rest of the world was the warmest on record. You would have to go back to 1996 for a colder year, and before that 1978 and 1979. Here is the time series plot for annual temperature for the Corn Belt. See the Sustainable Corn blog post for more.

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One thing I forgot to emphasize in the Illinois post was that, according to Climate.gov, 19 out of the last 20 years have been the warmest on record for the world. That is an impressive streak.

One last thought – 2014 was very unusual year for Illinois compared to both our historical temperatures and what happened around the world. The chances of a repeat in 2015 are very slim.

2014 – Warmest on Record for World, 6th Coldest for Illinois. Wait, What?

I could see this one coming. While Illinois had its 6th coldest year on record, three major groups (Japan, NASA, and NOAA) have noted that 2014 was the warmest year on record. Check out this map from NOAA of the temperature departures for 2014 (red is warmer, blue is cooler). The area from the Great Lakes and southward to the Gulf of Mexico was the only place over land that was colder than average. All the other land masses and most of the ocean surface was warmer than average. In other words, relatively speaking, Illinois was one of the coldest places on earth in 2014.  Continue reading

Seasonal Outlooks for Illinois

Last week, the Climate Prediction Center released their outlooks for February and beyond. There is nothing exciting to report for Illinois. Both the outlook for February and the 3-month outlook for February-April have us in “EC” or equal chances of above, below, and near-average temperature and precipitation. See map below (click to enlarge). That’s not bad news – it means there are no increased risks of a colder than average winter.  Continue reading