2019 brought a wild weather year

Preliminary year-end weather statistics really put farmers’ struggles into perspective, as 2019 measures up as the third-wettest on record in Illinois.

Precipitation across the state averaged a whopping 50.82 inches for the year, about a foot above the 30-year normal.

The numbers will be finalized this week. If the statistics hold, the only wetter years than 2019 on record in Illinois are 1993 (51.18 inches) and 2009 (50.96 inches), according to Trent Ford, state climatologist with the Illinois State Water Survey.

“The total (precipitation) didn’t quite break the record, but the way the precipitation came was really the story of 2019,” Ford said.

The widespread nature of heavy precipitation events and flooding, along with the high frequency of storms, made this a particularly challenging year for farmers. Some of the heaviest bands of precipitation fell during spring planting and at harvest.

Illinois experienced the wettest January to June on record this year, while October precipitation averaged 5.21 inches across the state, 2 inches above normal.

“This last year, it seemed the entire state was incredibly wet,” said Ford, who noted precipitation averaged 10 inches or more above average at all but one climate division in the state. “The thing about 2019 and the impacts on ag is the frequency of rains, and they came at inopportune times.”

For instance, the number of dry days between rain events was the fewest on record in Peoria last spring.

The impact from all the moisture included massive planting delays, record prevented plant acres, delayed harvest, increased crop drying costs and fewer opportunities for fall fieldwork, including wheat planting and applications of anhydrous ammonia that could reverberate into this spring.

Meanwhile, temperatures jumped all over the board last year, but actually ended up at a statewide average of 52.2 degrees, just .2 of a degree below the 30-year normal.

This, after a new state record low of minus-38 occurred Jan. 31 in Mount Carroll and 51 weather stations recorded the coldest Halloween on record.

The northwest corner of the state wound up with an average temperature .6 of a degree below normal for the year while the southeast corner was .7 of a degree warmer than normal.

As for the most recent month, December finished as the 18th warmest on record in the state with an average temperature of 35.2 degrees. Precipitation last month averaged 2.51 inches, nearly an inch below average.

“After a relatively dry December, we’re looking better than we were a month ago or at this time last year,” Ford said. “The warm, dry conditions helped soil (moisture) and streams drop back near normal.”

And that could be beneficial given the most recent outlook, which favors elevated chances of above-normal precipitation January through March.

“That doesn’t mean we’ll have another 2019,” Ford said. “Just based on trends and the atmosphere, there’s a decent chance we’ll be wetter than normal into spring.”