Second Warmest December-February on Record in Illinois, Illinois State Water Survey

Press Release

For Immediate Release March 5, 2002
Second Warmest December-February on Record in Illinois

Source:   
Contact:   
Jim Angel - (217) 333-0729, Fax: (217) 244-0220, jimangel@illinois.edu
Eva Kingston - (217) 244-7270, Fax: (217) 333-6540, eva@sws.uiuc.edu
"With mild temperatures for the fourth consecutive month, February 2002 temperatures 3.9 degrees above average, and winter temperatures 6.1 degrees above average, December-February ranks as the second warmest winter on record in Illinois since 1895," says State Climatologist Jim Angel of the Illinois State Water Survey (http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/) in Champaign. Only the winter of 1931-1932 was warmer with temperatures 8.2 degrees above average.

"What's more, the four-month November-February period was also one of the warmest on record since 1895, second only to November-February 1931-1932," says Angel.

Not only have the average temperatures been unseasonably warm, but few Illinois locations have even had temperatures below zero through the end of February. Both Quincy and Perry in western Illinois reported the highest February temperature, 71 degrees on February 24. DeKalb in northern Illinois reported the lowest temperature for the month, -6 degrees on February 4.

Consumers are benefitting from the mild winter temperatures because home heating costs are much more economical this winter. Heating degree-days since July 1 have been 17 percent below average compared to last winter when heating degree-days were 9 percent above average.

Snowfall this winter has been down 50 percent or more across central Illinois and between 50 and 75 percent across the rest of the state compared to a typical winter, which averages 8-16 inches (southern Illinois), 16-20 inches (central Illinois) and 20-28 inches (northern Illinois). Windsor received the most snowfall for February, 9 inches, and Danville reported the most precipitation for February, 3.67 inches.

"Despite the lack of snowfall, precipitation amounts have been near average for both February (2.01 inches) and winter (6.75 inches). As a result, soil moisture looks real good going into spring," continues Angel.

"It is not clear why this winter has been so mild. Although warm temperatures and the lack of snowfall seemed like classic signs of an El Niño winter, such as occurred in 1997-1998, sea surface temperatures in the Pacific are still in the pre-El Niño warming stage. The next El Niño event is expected in the next 3-6 months. Based on historical records in Illinois, El Niño events increase our chances of having a cooler and wetter summer and autumn, as well as a warmer and drier winter. However, these impacts can vary, depending on the timing and strength of a particular El Niño episode. It is still too early to tell what specific impacts will be from the upcoming episode," concludes Angel.

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