The NWS released their new outlooks for the first half of 2018. First of all, the NWS notes that La Niña conditions continue across the Pacific Ocean and will likely persist through the rest of winter. It will likely fade this spring, leading to so-called “ENSO-neutral” conditions, which will continue through summer. “ENSO-neutral” just means that we are between La Niña and El Niño conditions, in other words, neutral.
The shorter-range forecasts out to 14 days indicate a shift in the weather pattern bringing warmer and wetter than normal conditions across Illinois. By this Sunday we could be in the 40s and 50s in Illinois (left panel, below) while the prospects of rainfall are high with potential totals of 1/2 to 1 inch over the next 7 days (right panel).
Summary: we are halfway through January and so far the statewide average temperature is 16.5 degrees, 7.3 degrees below normal. Last year, by mid-January the average temperatures is 25.2 degrees and 1.4 degrees above normal.
The statewide average precipitation is only 0.6 inches, two-thirds of normal for the first half of January. Last year, by mid-January the average precipitation was 0.82 inches, just 0.07 inches below normal. Note that precipitation is a measure of both the rainfall and the water content of snowfall.
Snowfall has been widespread with 2 to 5 inches common in all but western Illinois. For most areas, that is near to slightly below normal. So far our snow has come from fast-moving low-pressure systems out of Canada (so-called Alberta clippers) that are noted for bringing light, fluffy snow without much water content. Last year, some areas in northern Illinois had received zero snowfall in the first half of January and many areas reported less than an inch. Continue reading
The snowiest winter on record was 1978-79 with a statewide total of 44.5 inches. The winter of 2011-12 had the least amount of snow with a statewide total of 9.2 inches.
While a few stations recorded snowfall in the 1800s, our statewide snowfall records in Illinois began in 1902. There is no long-term trend in the snowfall totals; however, some decades were snowier than others, such as the 1910s, 1960s, and 1970s. In fact, the 1970s were the snowiest decade on record with an average snowfall of 27.2 inches.
Since the 1970s, snowfall amounts dropped steeply with less year to year variability for much of the 1980s and into the early 2000s. However, snowfall amounts in the last six winters have been more variable with the winter of 2013-14 being about as snowy as the late 1970s while the winters of 2011-12 and 2016-17 had the lowest and third lowest snowfall totals, respectively, for the state.
Snowfall is accumulated from July 1 of the first year to June 30 of the second year. The second year is used in the plot and table (for example, 2006 refers to the 2005-2006 season). Illinois State Water Survey, 2018.
Based on preliminary data, 2017 is on track to be the 6th warmest year on record in Illinois with a statewide average temperature of 54.5 degrees, which is 2.2 degrees above normal. This was in spite the very cold ending to December (more on that in a minute). We experienced the warmest February on record with a statewide average of 41 degrees, 10.1 degrees above normal. On the other hand, Illinois experienced its tenth coolest August on record in 2017 with a temperature of 70.5 degrees, 3.1 degrees below normal. Eight out of the 12 months experienced above-normal temperatures.