El Niño!

March 5, 2015: Announced today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an El Niño event emerged in February, and may persist through this spring and summer.

As exciting as that may sound, this event doesn’t really do much of anything for us here in the Stateline, or in the U.S. in general. First off, this El Niño event is a weak one, for now.

Capture

Sea surface temperature anomalies. The area circled in red shows where the above normal ocean temperatures are, indicative of an El Niño event. [Click on the map to enlarge]. Map courtesy of NOAA.

Sea surface temperatures have only been 0.5° C to 1.0° C above average, which isn’t too warm, but warm enough to classify as an El Niño.  That means the effects caused by El Niño will not be that great.

Also, the timing is a little unusual.  This El Niño event is emerging as we head into spring, so the usual effects that it has on North American winters (cool and wet in the South, warmer and dry in the Stateline) won’t be felt.

Effects of an El Niño event during the summer months. Map courtesy of NOAA

Effects of an El Niño event during the summer months. [Click on the map to enlarge]. Map courtesy of NOAA.

As you can see on the map, this spring/summer event (if it persists that long) will have effects in other spots on the globe.  The one effect it may have, if El Niño lasts into the summer, would be to quiet down the Atlantic hurricane season, and ramp up the Pacific hurricane season, much like we saw last summer.  Monster storms exploded all of the Pacific, while barely anything happened in the Atlantic.

Global temperatures do go up during El Niño events, so could we be seeing a lot of very warm weather this spring and summer? We’ll have to wait and see!

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 5, 2015

Thinking Spring (Severe Weather)

March 4, 2015: We won’t have to worry about severe weather in the near future, but now is a good time to start thinking about it.  This week is Severe Weather Preparedness Week in Illinois.  As part of preparing for severe weather, many of you may have heard the tornado sirens in your community yesterday.  The state of Illinois conducts the drill as a dress rehearsal to get ready for any real event later this year.

Why so early, especially since yesterday we were dealing with freezing rain and snow, and today and tomorrow feature record-setting cold? If you haven’t heard yet, 50-degree weather returns next week. That’s how volatile the month of March can be. Plus, it is best if you have your plan in place well ahead of severe weather striking, so you are not caught unawares, since severe weather can strike fast.

1Overall, start going over where you need to go for shelter at home, at work, etc., and review that plan with your loved ones.  This plan may change depending on your location.  Make sure you check out all your ways of staying updated during severe weather to see if they are in working order. 2Do you have a NOAA weather radio? Are you signed up for text alerts ( you can sign up here: http://www.wrex.com/Global/link.asp?L=410454 ), or have a weather app? Don’t rely on just one source, especially only the sirens.  While the tornado sirens are a good resource to have, they were designed and meant only for people outside, and you have to be within earshot of one!

3

Finally, a couple quick terms for review; you probably already know these, but just in case, remember: a watch is when conditions are right for severe weather, but severe weather is not occurring yet. Stay alert! A warning means that severe weather is happening or will strike soon. Take action!

Check back in with the 13 Weather Authority Blog later this week.  We’ll be going over a quick refresher on tornadoes, thunderstorms, and flash floods.  Stay tuned!

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 4, 2015

February’s over, but the Arctic cold doesn’t want to leave…

March 3, 2015: It is starting to feel like a broken record around here – we’ve had at least one day in the teens each week since the beginning of February. Arctic air keeps spilling into the Stateline, keeping conditions quite chilly around here.  This week will be no exception.

Wednesday and Thursday will be this week’s turn at having highs in the teens. Both days will be in near record-breaking territory, though Thursday may be the only realistic chance to set a new record.

Wednesday's and Thursday's record cold high temperatures

Wednesday’s and Thursday’s record cold high temperatures

Good news – after shivering through the next two days, an extended warming trend kicks in, putting us near average this weekend, and even above average next week!

The Climate Prediction Center's outlook for next week. Temperatures are expected to be above average (50's possible).

The Climate Prediction Center’s outlook for next week. Temperatures are expected to be above average (50’s possible).

Stay warm – we only have a few days before relief arrives!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 3, 2015

Wintry mix hits Stateline tomorrow

March 2, 2015: A complex winter storm will hit the Stateline very early Tuesday morning and provide a variety of precipitation, making roads slippery during the morning commute.  A Winter Weather Advisory will be in effect, highlighting when the icy precipitation will occur (3 AM to noon Tuesday).

Tuesday's Winter Weather Advisory

Tuesday’s Winter Weather Advisory

A warm front will help generate the precipitation, and as the air becomes increasingly warmer with the new air mass pushing in, the precipitation type will change throughout the day.

futuretrack 2

Futuretrack for early Tuesday morning

Basically, the further south you go, the more warm air will be available above the ground to generate sleet and freezing rain.

precipitation

Precipitation will change from snow to freezing rain the farther south you go tomorrow, as you are getting closer to the warm front.

As a result, the snow forecast drops off from north to south. North of I-88 will see the most snow, while south of I-80 will see the most freezing rain and sleet. In between is where the most mixing of precipitation types will occur.

snow forecast

Precipitation changes from snow to freezing rain the father south you go, resulting in less snow but more ice.

Regardless of what’s falling tomorrow, allow extra time to get to your destination.  That means you can drive slower, increasing stopping time and distance between vehicles and avoiding any issues on the slick roads. This may mean leaving home earlier than usual or arriving to work or school later than usual, so plan accordingly.

Allow extra time to reach your destination.

Allow extra time to reach your destination.

By Tuesday afternoon, most of the frozen precipitation will be over, with rain either mixing in or completely taking over. Watch out for icy and slushy spots, but conditions should improve through the afternoon.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 2, 2015

February and Winter wrap-up

March 1, 2015: Welcome to March, and meteorological spring! For climate record purposes, the meteorological seasons start at the beginning of the month, to keep things more consistent each year (the start of the astronomical seasons can change date from year-to-year).  In this case, meteorological winter starts on December 1 and lasts until February 28 (or the 29th in leap years).

Thank goodness February is over, by the way. Overall, last month was the 2nd coldest February on record!  The average temperature was 12.1 degrees, which was 13.8 degree below average.  The only category we were above average in for February was snowfall.

Ranking of the coldest Februarys on record

Ranking of the coldest Februarys on record

A wrap-up of February 2015

A wrap-up of February 2015

We also set numerous daily records, especially at the end of the month when there were 5 records set or tied in a row.

List of records set or tied in February

List of records set or tied in February

As for the winter season as a whole, we were a little below average in all categories except for snow. Snowfall was well below average by nearly a half a foot.

A wrap-up of meteorological winter

A wrap-up of meteorological winter

While we are not out of the woods yet for harsh cold and snow, we have passed another hurdle toward consistent warmer weather and less snow!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 1, 2015

Record round-up

February 27, 2015: This latest Arctic blast will be memorable, now that we are in the record books for the chilly weather. We set two records last night:

holiday travel

Last night was a two-fer: We cooled off to -8 by midnight to set the record low for Feb. 26, then kept cooling to -15 to tie today’s record low.

Temperatures only recovered to the low teens, so another record was broken:

slide 2

2014 was the 3rd coldest February on record, but we haven’t seen too many records from 2014 pop up, at least until today.

We may set one more tonight as temperatures drop below zero. This would be the record low for Feb. 28th.

slide 3

After this weekend, we get a break for a few days as highs rise to near 30, then almost for 40 by Tuesday.  After that, yet another wave of Arctic air sends temperatures tumbling into the teens.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 27, 2015

Close to doubling up

February 26, 2015: We picked up another 2″ in Rockford last night, pushing us over 14″ for the month of February. A typical February stays under 8″, so we are getting close to having double the average amount of snow for the month!

Snow graphs for February and this winter.

Snow graphs for February and this winter.

Despite having nearly double the amount of snow for February, we are still sitting a good 5″ below average for the winter as a whole (thanks December, for only contributing 0.1″ of snow this winter). Time is running out quickly for this winter, so we probably won’t see these values change much between now and March 1 (our climate records follow the meteorological seasons rather than the astronomical schedule that everyone is used to).

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 26, 2015

February snow

February 24, 2015: With winter coming to a close (meteorological spring starts on Sunday, March 1!), we have only a few more days to add to our seasonal snow total. We haven’t had many opportunities, especially for anything heavy, this winter.

Snow comparison this month. February is well above average for snow, but the winter as a whole is down.

Snow comparison this month. February is well above average for snow, but the winter as a whole is down.

The only heavy snowfall day we’ve had was February 1st.  That day alone more snow fell than what we usually get in February as a whole.  Since then, we’ve barely had any snow. That fits with the overall pattern this winter: an active jet stream has set up well away from our region, steering storms elsewhere and keeping our weather quiet. Plus, harsh cold air can help dry the atmosphere out, keeping our weather quiet as well.

There are chances for snow in the forecast for tomorrow evening, but that’s it for the rest of the month. Overall, this winter will go down as pretty dry, with one day making up nearly half of the snow we’ve received this winter.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 24, 2015

Need a vacation?

February 23, 2015: For the 3rd time this month, temperatures didn’t rise to 10°, and we are on track to have this month rank in the top 5 for coldest Februarys.  A get-away to somewhere warm sounds nice, doesn’t it?

High temperatures for Feb. 23, 2015

High temperatures for Feb. 23, 2015

You might have to search for a little while to find a place with consistently warm weather this winter, compared to our recent persistent cold. Many places in the U.S. were below 30°, or some 30° to 40° below average with this latest blast of Arctic air.

May places were over 30 degrees below average.

May places were over 30 degrees below average.

One place that has had a very mild this winter is Alaska!  While the polar jet stream is dipping well south into the heart of the continental U.S., they’ve had the side effect of plenty of ridging in the jet stream.  This ushers milder air north to a place we typically think of as an ice box.  While there are still plenty of very cold spots in Alaska (the state covers a lot of territory), there have been areas that have been near-average to near-record-breaking almost all winter!

The temperature plot for 2015 for Juneau, AK. Courtesy National Weather Service.

The temperature plot for 2015 for Juneau, AK. Courtesy National Weather Service.  Observed temperatures have been in average to record territory.

While our northern neighbor may not offer the 80’s like Florida had today, long stretches in the 40’s sounds better than what we have here, doesn’t it?

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 23, 2015

2 in a row

February 20, 2015: The month of February has not been our friend lately when it comes to the cold. We had record-breaking weather yesterday, with more Arctic air looming in the forecast. We’ve had 3 days above the freezing point all month, with little chance to see any more days above freezing before the end of the month. The insult to our cold-related injury is that last February was just as cold!

February 2014 and currently this month rank as some of the coldest February's on record.

February 2014 and currently this month rank as some of the coldest February’s on record.

Through yesterday, we’ve had an average temperature (average of all the high and low temperatures this month) of just under 14°.  This value ranks us, so far, as the 5th coldest February on record.  Just two spots above this February sits 2014 as the 3rd coldest. After back-to-back harsh February’s, let’s hope next year we have mild end to winter, or we are going to start hating the 2nd month of the year!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 20, 2015