A batch of crocus on the south side of our office building is a reminder of the impacts of warm weather in February. Both January and February have been mild. But on top of that has been a record-setting streak of 60s and 70s in the past week. As a result, many early season perennials such as crocus are coming out a little early. In the past, such warm weather has made any early vegetation vulnerable to the inevitable freeze later on. In 2007 and 2012, a similar scenario played out with damage to corn, winter wheat, alfalfa, and fruit crops across Illinois. The 2007 event was well documented in this report.
In Illinois alone, 257 daily record high temperatures at sites across the state were either tied or broken. Our experience in Champaign-Urbana is typical with five daily records tied or broken on days with highs in the upper 60s and low 70s. The warmest temperature reported for February in Illinois is 79 degrees on the 21st in Perry IL, near Quincy. A nearby site in Pittsfield reported 78 on the same day.
The National Weather Service just released their outlook for March and spring. We have moved out of the La Niña pattern in the Pacific pattern to something called ENSO-neutral conditions this spring.That means we are between the El Niño and La Niña phases in the Pacific Ocean. Some of the predictive models are indicating a shift towards a weak El Niño by summer. That is actually good news for Illinois since we have a tendency to experience milder summer temperatures under those situations.
For March, they have Illinois in a region called “EC”, meaning that we have equal chances of being above, below, or near-normal on temperature and precipitation. Sometimes I call “EC” a neutral forecast because it does not lean one way or another.
For March-May, Illinois has an increased chance of above-normal temperatures and northern Illinois has an increased chance of above-normal precipitation.
The most recent winter storm left a band of light to moderate snow across central Illinois. With warm soils, and forecasted highs in the 40s on Friday and in the 50s on Saturday, this snow will not stick around for too long. The fact that we talking about such a modest storm underscores the quiet winter across central Illinois. In fact, the term snow drought has been raised in recent weeks to describe current conditions.
Snowfall for the Winter
The preliminary January statistics are in for Illinois. The statewide average temperature was 31.4 degrees, 5.0 degrees above normal and the 14th warmest January on record. The statewide average precipitation was 2.16 inches, 0.09 inches above normal. The statewide snowfall was below normal across the state.
Temperatures have been above normal across the state and across the eastern half of the US for January. Click to enlarge.