Warmer December 2001 Means Lower Heating Bills, Illinois State Water Survey

Press Release

For Immediate Release January 4, 2002
Warmer December 2001 Means Lower Heating Bills

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
"Below normal temperatures after Christmas Eve led to December 2001 dropping from 4th to 14th warmest December since 1895. Even so, temperatures were 5.6 degrees above average for the month," says State Climatologist Jim Angel of the Illinois State Water Survey in Champaign, Illinois.

"A bonus of these warmer-than-average temperatures will be lower heating bills for Illinois consumers than in December 2000, the second coldest December on record with temperatures 11.6 degrees below average. December 2001 heating-degree totals were 16 percent below the long-term average and two-thirds of December 2000 totals," says Angel.

In addition to warm temperatures, there has been a lack of snowfall compared to last December, which will be remembered as one of the snowiest. December snowfall normally ranges from 2 inches (south) to 4 to 5 inches (central) to 8 inches (north), but December 2001 totals of 1 to 4 inches were confined to the northern half of Illinois. The snowiest station (Chatsworth near Springfield) reported 5 inches (21 inches in December 2000); Springfield, 3.3 inches (10 inches in December 2000); Chicago at O'Hare, 1.6 inches (30.9 inches in December 2000); Rockford, 0.5 inches (30.1 inches in December 2000); and Peoria, 0.4 inches (21.2 inches in December 2000).

Soil temperatures at the 4-inch level also have dropped below freezing across the northern half of the state due to the recent cold without the protection of insulating snow cover. "Cooler soil temperatures may help kill off overwintering pests, but the lack of snow cover may leave some crops and landscape plants more vulnerable to cold temperatures.

"While precipitation has been below average in the northern half of the state due to a lack of snow, above average rainfall in southern Illinois resulted in some reports of damage to winter wheat due to saturated fields," says Angel. For example, Anna, Illinois, reported 7.11 inches of rain in December.

The coldest December on record occurred in 1983 with temperatures 12.1 degrees below average.

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