Thursday, Feb. 3


Illinois' sixth-wettest January on record

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[FEB. 3, 2005]  CHAMPAIGN -- "With a 5.56-inch precipitation total, 188 percent above normal, the sixth-wettest January in Illinois since 1895 also included heavy snowfall in the Chicago area and some snow in all but extreme southern Illinois," said Jim Angel, state climatologist. He is associated with the Illinois State Water Survey, a division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

"Precipitation totals in winter include both rainfall and melted snow, but most of January's 5.56 inches fell as rain on the first 13 days of January, when temperatures were unseasonably mild (36.7 degrees F, 12.7 degrees above normal)," Angel continued. "Rainfall during that period was heaviest along the I-70 corridor, with 8- to 9-inch totals not uncommon, including 9.29 inches at Effingham, 9.17 inches at Palestine and 8.79 inches at Edwardsville. As a result, there was extensive local flooding from rivers and streams and standing water in fields in mid-January, but the waters had receded and some fields had drained by the end of January across the state."

Then, temperatures in the second half of January averaged 22.5 degrees, which was 2.9 degrees below normal. For the whole month, January temperatures averaged 28.4 degrees, 3.6 degrees above normal.

Extremes ranged from 72 degrees at Kaskaskia, in southern Illinois, on Jan. 1 to minus 13 degrees at Morrisonville, in west-central Illinois, on Jan. 18. Edwardsville had the highest one-day precipitation total, with 3.05 inches on Jan. 5, and Olney had the highest monthly total, with 9.30 inches.

All but extreme southern Illinois saw snow in January, with heaviest amounts in the Chicago area, including 35.1 inches at Lake Villa, 29.3 inches at Midway Airport (fifth-snowiest), 27.8 inches at O'Hare Airport and 20.7 inches at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

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"With records dating back to 1928, Midway Airport has the longest continuous record of snowfall in Chicago," Angel said. "Not since 1999 has there been snowfall like this, but it still does not top the 40.4-inch record at Midway Airport in January 1979."

The National Weather Service outlook for February calls for an increased chance of above-normal precipitation and a very strong chance of above-normal temperatures across Illinois. Long-term outlooks for spring and summer call for equal changes of above, below and normal temperatures and precipitation. The weak El Niņo event currently occurring in the Pacific is expected to persist over the next few months but should have little influence on Midwestern weather.

"The prospect of a wet February after such a wet January raises concerns about the potential for soggy fields this spring," Angel said. "We'll just have to wait and see what February and March actually deliver in terms of precipitation."

[Eva Kingston, editor, Illinois State Water Survey]

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