Mild temperatures for the climatological winter (December through February) didn’t quite crack the top 10 list in Illinois, but they were close.
Preliminary estimates peg the average temperature the past three months at 32.6 degrees, which would make it the 12th warmest climatological winter on record, the Illinois State Water Survey reported.
A warm start to February set 115 daily maximum temperatures, including 70 degrees in Charleston Feb. 3, and 12 daily high minimum readings, before a cold and snowy end to the month.
“This winter was quite unique in Illinois,” Eric Snodgrass, principal atmospheric scientist for Nutrien Ag Solutions, said at the WILL ag outlook meeting in Indiana last week. “Since the beginning of 2020, 75% of days have been above normal (temperature).”
And that trend could continue this month, which would be a relief for farmers who dealt with a cold and snowy start to the spring planting season last year before a rainy pattern took over.
“The outlook is for above-normal temperatures through at least mid-March,” Peter Speck, of the National Weather Service office in the Quad Cities, told the RFD Radio Network. “The reason for all that is a trough of low pressure in the western Rockies that’s keeping us locked in a southerly flow.”
The early spring flow is a concern, though, as a tornado outbreak devastated areas in the south last week, including Tennessee where at least 25 fatalities resulted from an overnight twister.
Last week marked severe weather preparedness week in Illinois.
“Typically, this is the time of year we see severe weather start ramping up,” Speck said. “Be prepared. Get a NOAA weather radio.”
Another concern this spring revolves around potential flooding. More rain was in the forecast this week after a warm, dry end to last week.
Precipitation across the state so far this year averaged 4.41 inches in January (the 9th wettest on record) and 2.13 inches in February (.07 of an inch above normal). Cairo received the most precipitation in the state last month (7.34 inches).
“There’s a surplus of water in the Mississippi River Valley,” Snodgrass said. “It still has to drain, which is going to compromise low-lying ground.
“If we have an event like last year, (a 3- to 5-inch rain in March), we’ll have another flood,” he noted. “If we have no precipitation (this month), it will still take about six weeks to drain away.”
Snodgrass predicts tight planting windows this spring and the likelihood that a large portion of unharvested acres in the northwest Corn Belt could be prevented plant acres this year.
Average rainfall from March through May in Illinois increased about 2.2 inches in the past 71 years while the frequency of 2-plus inch rain events doubled.
“We’re likely to see conditions continue to get wetter and wetter (in the Midwest),” Snodgrass said. “I don’t think spring 2020 will be like spring 2019. But, even if spring is normal, we could still have tight planting windows.”