Goodbye Snow

January 19, 2015:  The last 5 days have made a big difference in how winter-like the Stateline has felt and looked.  We’ve had a string of above freezing days, and that put a pretty big dent into the snowpack in the area.

Warmer weather and additional sunshine helped melt the snow cover quickly.

Warmer weather and additional sunshine helped melt the snow cover quickly.

As we’ve had more sunshine and days above freezing during this recent “thaw”, we’ve lost an inch a day in snow depth, at least where the official measurements for Rockford are made.  Scattered spots of bare ground are popping up, where the snow was packed down and/or didn’t pile up as much.

Snow cover reflects sunlight, keeping temperatures much cooler.

Snow cover reflects sunlight, keeping temperatures much cooler.

The bare ground will start influencing our temperatures, if those spots can stay clear long enough. The white snow reflects a substantial amount of solar energy, meaning very little goes into warming up the ground and the air (most of the leftover energy goes into melting the snow). More bare ground helps warm up the air, allowing us to have warmer days and more chances to eat into the snowpack.

We may not see the bare ground for long – a round of light snow Tuesday night could cover those spots for a little while this week.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 19, 2015
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Winter of 2014-2015 Has Been Very Light

January 17, 2015: The National Weather Service office in Chicago, IL released data comparing this winter to the winter of 2013-2014. The two winters really do not compare to one another at all. The winter of 2013-2014 was not only colder, but the Stateline area saw significantly more snowfall.

snow fall last year to this year

 

So far this winter the Stateline has seen about a third of the snowfall that occurred last winter. To this date in 2013-2014, 24.4 inches of snow had already fallen. This winter though, only 7.2 inches of snow has been recorded. That’s a significant decrease in snow amounts from the last year’s winter. We are also under the average snowfall totals by a significant amount as well. The average snowfall to this date for the Rockford area is 16.1 inches of snow. With the 7.2 inches accumulated so far we are just under half the normal average.

Snowfall is not the only variable that has been completely different compared to last winter. Temperatures have also been extremely warmer this winter compared to last. The Rockford area did experience one of the coldest Novembers to record, but temperatures have since rebounded. To date the average temperature this winter has been 24.6 degrees for the Rockford area. Now this is just slightly warmer than the average temperatures the area normally sees which is 24.3 degrees. When comparing that to last winter though it’s not even close. Last winter the average temperature to this point was only 17.5 degrees which is 7 degrees colder than what we are experiencing now. So not only did we see more snow last winter, but temperatures were also chillier last year too.

There is still a long way to go this winter and the Stateline area could definitively still experience large snow storms down the road, but when comparing it to the winter of 2013-2014, it doesn’t even come close. If you would like to know more about the National Weather Service’s findings you can visit the link I posted below.

NWS Chicago: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/?n=winter_briefing

 

– Nick

 

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 17, 2015
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2014: Warmest Year on Record

January 16, 2015: NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their analysis on the weather data for 2014, and it’s official: 2014 was the hottest year in 135 years of record-keeping (NOAA started keeping records in 1880; there have likely been plenty of warm years before 1880, but data from those years either doesn’t exist or wasn’t officially kept).  These findings match what the Japanese Meteorological Agency also determined; their findings were released last week.

HOT 1

The global temperature (both land and ocean temperatures combined) was 1.24° F above average. This may not seem like much, but consider how large the Earth is, and how much heat is needed to push the average global temperature up over 1 degree. Interestingly, 2014 reached the top mark without the help of El Niño, the global climate pattern that usually leads to an increase in global temperatures.

One thing that we in the Stateline may remember right away was how cold last winter was. You might be asking, ‘How come 2014 was the warmest year on record, yet Winter 2013-2014 was one of the coldest on record? In fact, we had a fairly cool spring and summer too, didn’t we?’  The map below should help answer those questions.

Courtesy: NOAA

Courtesy: NOAA

Overall, the Midwest and sections of the South were cooler than average. Those spots are some of the very few areas that had cooler than average conditions.  Everywhere else on the globe, conditions were warmer than average, with the West Coast of the U.S. and Europe featuring record-breaking warmth. So while we were shivering through the many cold days in the Stateline, many other places were sweating the record heat out. When you average this all together, the warm spots easily outweigh our cold spot.

Where does 2014 fit in with any current trends? December 2014 continues a very long hot streak, with every month featuring above average global temperatures.  The last time we had a month with colder than normal global temperatures was February 1985.

HOT 3

This trend shouldn’t end this month or next month, meaning an important 30 year anniversary is coming up in February 2015.  In fact, 2014 fits right in with another trend: it has been nearly 40 years without a colder than average year.  13 out of the top 15 hottest years have occurred since 2000, so 2014 fits in with that trend as well.

This is just a summary of the findings released today, and of course, this is a very complex topic.  If you would like to read more about what NASA and NOAA have to say on the news released today, here are the two articles they provided today:

NASA: NASA, NOAA Find 2014 Warmest Year in Modern Record

NOAA: It’s official: 2014 was Earth’s warmest year on record

Both articles have plenty of maps and graphs to help you understand the immense list of data to sift through. Let us know if you have any questions!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 16, 2015
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A Comfortable Winter Day

January 15, 2015: Wasn’t that nice?! Temperatures leaped from a high of 20° for the last 2 days to 34° this afternoon in Rockford. Between the sunshine, a lighter breeze, and the 14° temperature change, it felt like a great day to be outside (by January standards).

High temperatures in the Stateline for Jan. 15

High temperatures in the Stateline for Jan. 15

Comfortable weather was seen across the Stateline with highs of at least 30°, with some areas inching into the middle to upper 30’s.  We had help from the sunny skies, westerly winds out of the jet stream (helping bring in the milder air, rather than cold northerly winds pushing chilly air down to us), and a nice southwesterly wind at the surface to help boost the temperatures up today.

Warmth in January 2015 so far

Warmth in January 2015 so far

This was the 3rd time that we’ve had a high of 34°; the significance is that we haven’t had a warmer day than that yet. There is a good chance that temperatures will top today’s value by a few degrees this Saturday.  We’re looking at the possibility of the upper 30’s, with some areas even getting to the 40’s!

-Alex

akirchner@wrex.com

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 15, 2015
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1st half of January

January 14, 2015: We are almost to the halfway point of this month, so let’s take a look back over the last two weeks.  We seemed to have 3 distinct patterns so far: a mild start to the month, followed by an Arctic blast, then a cool pattern setting up at the start of this week.

1ST HALF OF JANUARY

The pink line is the average high temperature for each day early this month. We’ve had only 5 days at or above average this month, and most of those were a few weeks ago! Temperatures will be hovering around average for the next week, bringing us many more days closer to the average line.

Looking ahead to the second half of the month, the Climate Prediction Center (part of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) has equal chances for above or below average weather for the Stateline.

off15_temp

As you can see so far this month, we’ve had times of above and below average. Equal chances for the rest of the month means we could see a similar temperature trend as the first half.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 14, 2015
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Free Fallin’

January 13, 2015: We’ve had quite the drop off in the last few nights, with the temperature flying downhill after sunset.

temperature trend

Tonight in particular, we’ve had a drop off nearly 3 degrees an hour.  Here’s why:

 

CLOUDS, BREEZE

 

If we have any sort of breeze overnight, or cloud cover, or a combination of both, we usually stay warmer than if we had a clear, calm night, if all other variables are kept equal. As the Earth cools, the escaping heat, or radiation, escapes to space.  Cloud cover can absorb some of that outgoing radiation, and reflect it back to the Earth, keeping the air warmer. A breeze will do something similar, by mixing the atmosphere. Just like you would stir your oatmeal or soup to even out the heat, the breeze keeps the atmosphere more “mixed” and brings the heat back to the surface.

 

 

QUIET, COLD

We are experiencing a clear, calm evening, so any heat from the cooling Earth flies off into space, resulting in a rapid drop-off in temperatures.

While the breeze can help keep the air mixed in the day and provide some warming effects, cloud cover during the day can block incoming solar radiation, so we don’t warm up as much.  If you’d like warmer weather during the winter, keep your fingers crossed for a sunny, cloud-free day, then a breezy, cloudy night.  While these aren’t the only factors affecting our temperatures, having this scenario play out would help keep us warmer!

-Alex

akirchner@wrex.com

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 13, 2015
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Busy, Frigid Week

Friday, January 9th, 2015: It has been quite a week! Every since Sunday night, we’ve had waves of Arctic air that put the Stateline in a deep freeze, and kept wind chills at hazardous to dangerous levels. Throw in a few doses of snow, and it is really looking like winter around the Stateline after seemingly avoiding the season for most of December.

Arctic air kept temperatures in the single digits, above and below zero, for most of the week.

Arctic air kept temperatures in the single digits, above and below zero, for most of the week.

With frigid air diving in from the Arctic, temperatures did not budge much, staying within a handful of degrees of the 0° point. Conditions felt worse than that, of course, with breezy to strong winds for most of the week.

The Stateline was plagued by wind chill values well down below zero all week.

The Stateline was plagued by wind chill values well down below zero all week.

Wind chill advisories dominated most of the week, as between the cold air and the breezy winds, dangerous conditions were created. Frostbite and hypothermia were definite concerns for anyone spending time outdoors. The wind chill in Rockford bottomed out near -20° at the worst this week, meaning frostbite within 30 minutes or less.  There were times where the wind dropped below -30°, which meant frostbite and hypothermia setting in even quicker.

The “icing on the cake” was several rounds of snow showers, and strong winds causing blowing and drifting snow Thursday night.  Near whiteout conditions occurred that night as winds gusted near or over 40 mph.

Snowfall during the first 8 days of January doubled up on the last 2 months combined.

Snowfall during the first 8 days of January doubled up on the last 2 months combined.

The first 8 days of January featured nearly double the amount of snow than the previous two months combined. This graphic really shows how mild and un-winter-like December 2014 was. The majority of the 7″ of snow fell in this week alone!

To average it all up, this work week had an average high of 9.6°, an average low of -5.8°, and the coldest wind chill averaged out at -21°.  We will have much warmer weather starting this weekend with highs in the teens and 20’s, then the middle to upper 20’s for most of next week.  It will feel like a heat wave after the very frigid week that are are wrapping up now!  Hope you managed to stay (somewhat) warm!

-Alex

akirchner@wrex.com

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 9, 2015
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How does wind chill work?

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015:

Here’s a refresher on the wind chill, since we’ve been talking about it a lot this week, and will do so plenty over the rest of the week.  Here’s how wind chill works:

We all have plenty of moisture in our skin. (It may not feel like it in the winter, but that is because cold air holds less moisture than hot air, so the moisture in our skin gets sucked into the dry, cold air, and dries out our skin).

2

As the moisture in our skin evaporates, our skin cools.  This is how sweat works, and why sweat works well as a natural cooling mechanism as our body heats up- evaporating sweat cools our skin off.

1

When there is a breeze, whether we are sweating or not, the moisture in our skin starts to evaporate, and the breeze feels cool on our skin.  When the air is already freezing cold, and the breeze kicks in, we feel much colder.  The cold air cools us off quickly, and the breeze speeds the process up.  As a result, we feel like the elements are colder than what the thermometer is reading for our area.  This is why we portray the “wind chill” effect as a temperature; we try to describe how cold it feels like when the wind is blowing on us.

winter list

Because the wind helps speed up the cooling process on our bodies, we have to be very careful in elements like the Arctic weather we are experiencing.  The breezy winds can accelerate how fast our skin freezes, resulting in the onset of frostbite, and rather quickly.

-Alex

akirchner@wrex.com

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 7, 2015
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Dangerous cold for Wednesday

Tuesday, January 6, 2015: A blast of Arctic air arriving around midnight Tuesday night means we can say ‘goodbye’ to above zero weather until Thursday. With blustery winds coming along with the frigid air, we are in for very harsh winter conditions as the wind chill plummets to between -25° and -35°.  Wind chill warnings will be in effect for all of Wednesday and part of Thursday.

radar2futuretrack wind chills

Just one look at those values shows the cold isn’t messing around. These conditions can be dangerous to deadly.While frostbite and hypothermia are dangers throughout the winter, in frigid weather like this, these dangerous conditions can set in within only minutes.

winter listwind chill protection

Frostbite can occur within minutes in these conditions. Protect yourself by covering all exposed skin; by wearing all of your winter gear, including a hat, mittens, and scarves, you can also slow down heat loss, since most of the body’s heat is lost through the head and the limbs.  Frostbite is when the skin begins to freeze because of the cold. If your skin starts to look pale or very white, and feels numb, get inside quickly and very slowly warm the affected areas.  Do not massage the skin; that could push very cold blood into the heart and cause an irregular heartbeat or heart failure.

hypothermia

You’ll need plenty of layers to ward off the cold, and even those may not keep you completely safe if you are going to be outside for a long time.  If you start to feel dizzy, confused, or are shivering uncontrollably, get inside immediately and warm up slowly.  If you start to feel the symptoms listed below, or see someone showing these signs, call 9-1-1, as hypothermia is setting in. Hypothermia occurs when the body looses too much heat, and cools to a dangerous level. Important brain functions shut down in an effort to preserve the rest of the body, and this can be deadly.

There are plenty of schools closing on Wednesday because of the cold.  Make sure to keep children inside, as they are especially vulnerable to frostbite and hypothermia.  This also goes for your pets too! Keep them inside, and only let them out when absolutely necessary, and for short amounts of time as necessary.

Thankfully, we only have to deal with the extreme cold for a day and a half. While the wind chill values only improve to the teens below zero later this week, these conditions are at least a little more manageable.

-Alex

akirchner@wrex.com

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 6, 2015
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Looking ahead to next week

Dec. 17, 2014:  Now that we are almost a week out, I’m sure many are anxiously looking at the days ahead in the weather department to see how the weather may affect their holiday drive. We have a few things that may need monitoring.  The situation is still pretty fluid (I’ll explain why in a little bit), but here’s what we may be dealing with in the upcoming week to Christmas (we’ll be revisiting this topic as we get closer, and compare how the forecast can change getting closer to an event).  This is just a general outlook; we’ll provide specifics when we get closer to each storm.

There are two storms that could affect holiday travelers heading to or leaving the Stateline.  The first is a clipper-like system moving out of Canada for early next week.

A clipper system brings a chance for rain and snow early next week.

futuretrack2 A clipper system brings a chance for rain and snow early next week.

The models are differing on how fast and how far north or south to take this system, but in general, we are going to see chances for rain and snow Monday into Tuesday.  Clipper systems usually do not bring much precipitation in the first place, so this storm shouldn’t slow you down much if you are hitting the road ahead of the holiday. Be ready for wet weather, regardless.

futuretrack3futuretrack4

The second storm looks to be much stronger on the models.  They also disagree for now on the speed, strength, and placement of the low, but there does look to be wet weather for Christmas in some spots of the nation, especially as you head east into Michigan or toward New York. This storm looks to leave the Stateline alone, but there could be some travel issues ahead if you are leaving the area and heading toward the storm.

stay vigilant

The reason for the uncertainty on the storm tracks? The impulse in the jet stream that will create these storms are still taking shape and are out over the ocean. There are less sensors out over the water versus on the land, which means less data points for the models to mull over before reaching a solution.  As these storms make landfall, the picture can become a lot clearer.

Stay tuned to the forecast, especially over the weekend, for updates, and we’ll make sure we keep you up to speed on how these storms and the forecast is developing.  We want everyone who is traveling to be able to do so safely in order to have a great holiday! – Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on December 17, 2014
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