Monthly Archives: March 2017

Some Rain, Low Streams in Illinois

7-Day Rainfall (NWS)

Here are the 7-day totals for the central US, capturing the rainfall over the weekend. As forecasted, the heaviest rains were in Missouri and along the IL/MO border. Shades of green represent 0.5 to 2.0 inches.Most of IA, MI, IN, and OH received moderate amounts of rain from this system. However, large parts of Illinois received less than 0.5 inches (shaded in blue).


Streamflows (USGS)

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Outlook for Spring – Warm

Notwithstanding this week, the outlook for this spring is warm. The Climate Prediction Center released their outlook on Thursday for April and beyond. Right now both El Niño and La Niña are out of the picture. However, there is much uncertainty for future conditions in the Pacific. Some models suggest that El Niño may return by late summer. As we move forward, we should get a clearer idea about El Niño.


For April, Illinois and much of the Midwest have an increased chance of above normal temperatures. Illinois has equal chances “EC” of above, below, or near-normal precipitation. I call EC a neutral forecast.

April – June

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What! More Snow in March Than February?

Some places in Illinois have been snowier in March than April. About the only noteworthy snowfall of February occurred in a band from Peoria to Hoopeston. So far in March, snow has pushed farther south, all the way to the Ohio River. At the same time, areas in northern Illinois have received substantially more snow in March than February. For example, Chicago O’Hare reported only a trace of snow in February and 7.8 inches of snow in March through this morning.

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Is the Drought Monitor Crying Wolf in Illinois?

The latest US Drought Monitor map shows moderate drought in western and southwestern Illinois, based primarily on below-normal precipitation over the past three months. Are we in moderate drought? I  think it’s premature to declare drought in Illinois.

While it has been dry this winter, the demand on water supplies and soil moisture are very low in winter. In an average winter, we have more than enough water to satisfy demand – in many cases too much water. As a result of low water demand, the impacts of below-normal precipitation on water supplies, navigation, and agriculture are harder to find in winter.

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Fifth Warmest Winter in Illinois

This winter was the 5th warmest winter on record for Illinois. The statewide average temperature was 34.0 degrees, 4.9 degrees above the 1981-2010 normal. It actually beat out last winter, which was a surprise. Last winter was expected to be mild because of El Niño. Here are the top 10 mildest winters in Illinois history. Temperatures are in degrees F. Three of those top ten winters have occurred since 2000 and seven since 1980.

Rank Winter Temperature Departure
1 1931-32 36.4 7.3
2 2001-02 34.7 5.6
3 1997-98 34.6 5.5
4 2011-12 34.5 5.4
5 2016-17 34 4.9
6 1991-92 33.9 4.8
7 2015-16 33.9 4.8
8 1982-83 33.6 4.5
9 1920-21 32.9 3.8
10 1918-19 32.8 3.7

Here are the winter temperatures in Illinois since 1895. There is a 1.7-degree warming per century. That doesn’t sound very spectacular. But what’s really happening is that we are getting more mild winters and fewer severe winters (highlighted). But what about 2013-14? That was the exception that proved the rule – a cold winter by modern standards, but not unusual by 1970s or early 20th century standards. Continue reading