This Winter vs. 1970s Winters

Meteorological winter will wrap up at the end of the month. Typically the coldest three months of the year, meteorological winter includes the entire months of December, January, and February. As we all know, this winter has been exceptionally snowy and cold. In fact, we are currently the 4th coldest winter on record!  Amazingly, the top 3 coldest winters in Rockford all occurred one after another in the late 1970s.


The winters of 1976-77, 1977-78, and 1978-79 were the coldest, taking into account high and low temperatures.  The winters of 1977-78 and 1978-79 hold the title for the 13th snowiest and 2nd snowiest, respectively.  The snowiest meteorological winter was 2007-08 with 65.1 inches.


With our current forecast through the end of the month (Thursday & Friday), we have a good shot at tying for the 3rd coldest winter! But what happens after meteorological winter?

March 1st is the start of meteorological spring. Meteorological spring encompasses March, April, and May. The average temperature  for the season is 48.9°F.  If we look at the harsh winters of the late 70s, many of them ended up with below average spring temperatures.  One year that bucked the trend was 1977: coming off of the 3rd coldest winter was the 2nd warmest spring on record!

Near the Chrysler Plant in the late 1970s

Near the Chrysler Plant in the late 1970s

Snow is likely during the first half of meteorological spring; it’s even possible into May.  However, after snowier-than-average winters in 1977-78 and 1978-79, spring snowfall was actually below average.  Hopefully that is a sign of things to come as we head through the next several weeks! Winter 2013-14 is, after all, the 9th snowiest on record.

Meteorological Winter vs. Meteorological Spring

Meteorological Winter vs. Meteorological Spring

In the weeks to come, there are a few signs that temperatures will warm above average. Unfortunately, it’s not until the middle of March! Looking beyond spring, the three late 1970’s meteorological summer seasons ended up just slightly below average on the temperature trend.



Posted under 13 Climate Authority, climate/climate change, cold blast, news, photos, record weather, snow, statistics, weather, winter weather

This post was written by qni_it on February 26, 2014

On Track for 9th Snowiest

With meteorological winter coming to an end this Friday, it looks as though this winter will go down as the 9th snowiest in Rockford’s history! Meteorological winter is defined as the entire months of December, January and February. During this time-frame, 46.5 inches of snow was recorded at Chicago Rockford International Airport on the city’s south side.


Looking at our extended forecast, there is one chance of accumulating snow through the end of the month.  That chance arrives Monday evening and Monday night.  A quick coating of snow up to 1 inch is possible, although models are trending less today than on Saturday.  So I would give us just a 30% chance of seeing an extra inch of snow added to our seasonal total.  However, if we do pick up one more inch, winter 2013/2014 could slip into the 8th snowiest spot.

We’ll be tracking Monday evening’s round of light snow on 13 News Weekend and 13 News Today.

Here are the Top 10 snowiest winters in Rockford:

  1. 65.1 inches — 2007/2008
  2. 63.4 inches — 1978/1979
  3. 51.2 inches — 2010/2011
  4. 49.9 inches — 1993/1994
  5. 49.3 inches — 2008/2009
  6. 48.9 inches — 2009/2010
  7. 48.9 inches — 1909/1910
  8. 47.3 inches — 1973/1974
  9. 46.5 inches — 2013/2014*
  10. 46.4 inches — 1917/1918

*as of February 23, 2014

We all know that Mother Nature doesn’t stop the snow from falling when the calender hits March 1st, so we’ll be tracking our yearly snowfall total beyond the end of meteorological winter.  Our yearly snowfall is recorded from July through June, and our snowiest was 1978/1979 with 74.5 inches followed closely by 2007/2008 with 72.9 inches.  As it stands right now, 2013/2014 is at 47.5 inches of snow.



Posted under 13 Climate Authority, climate/climate change, record weather, snow, statistics, weather, winter weather

This post was written by qni_it on February 23, 2014

Rockford, Alaska or Anchorage, Illinois?

ALASKAThe weather is totally out of whack. The LOW temperature in Anchorage, Alaska was 35 degrees. The HIGH temperature in Rockford, Illinois was 6 degrees today. The jet stream continues to bring warm air into Alaska which displaces the cold reservoir of air over Northern Canada, southward. More extreme cold is anticipated in the Upper Midwest. However, this pattern can’t last too much longer because the high latitudes are running out of cold air…literally! Temperatures will begin to moderate by the end of the month as the northwesterly orientation of the jet stream becomes more zonal (west to east).

Here’s the forecast for Rockford, Illinois versus Anchorage, Alaska.

Rockford, Illinois
FRI -13/21
SAT 13/24
SUN 9/24
MON -7/-1
TUE -18/-4
WED -2/11
THU 15-27

Anchorage, Alaska
FRI 38/48
SAT 32/43
SUN  32/38
MON 33/40
TUE 30/38
WED 31/39
THU 32/38


Posted under climate/climate change, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on January 23, 2014

Where We Stand

Much of our area saw a good soaking on Friday (and extremely icy roads, unfortunately).  If you lived in northern Illinois along and east of the Rock River, rainfall totals were pretty hefty.  At Chicago Rockford International Airport, 0.87″ of rain fell into the gauge.

Friday Rain Totals

Friday Rain Totals

This brought our total precipitation (including rain and snow water equivalent) for the month of January up to 1.30″.  How does this compare to normal? Well, our climatological average for January is 1.37″ of precipitation.  So we’ve already picked up almost our entire monthly average, even with more than half of the month to go!

Snowfall for January currently sits at 6.1″ which is about 3″ more than expected.  Seasonally speaking, RFD picked up 24.8″ of snow this Winter, which is about 8 inches more than expected.  Remember last year?  At this time, we had only picked up 2.1″ of snow—twelve times less snow than this season!  Our next chance for accumulating snow comes Monday overnight and Tuesday.

Snow / Precipitation Climatology

Snow / Precipitation Climatology

Looking at temperature trends, January has been well below average.  Currently, our average high sits at 18 degrees; our average low sits at -1 degree.  Statistically speaking, our average high and low should be around 30 degrees and 14 degrees, respectively.  Looking ahead to the rest of January, there are no imminent signs of a major warm up or Arctic outbreak (like the start of the month).  Much like the week ahead, we’ll have to deal with minor temperature fluctuations.  There will be some slightly above average days and slightly below average days.



Posted under 13 Climate Authority, climate/climate change, rain, statistics, weather, winter weather

This post was written by qni_it on January 11, 2014

Subtle changes in the overall pattern

1A lot of us are wondering if this really cold pattern will stick around through the winter months. After all, we’ve been 10-20 degrees below normal for the better part of a week now! Here’s a look at the pattern we’ve been locked in for the past two weeks. A giant longwave trough has been set up across the central part of the continent. Noticeably warmer weather? That’s been present in Alaska! A concentrated snow-zone has been seen from Arkansas through Southern Illinois and Indiana through much of Ohio.

2There are only subtle changes anticipated for the next two weeks. You have to look close to see any change in the map at all! The location of the jet stream will be a little bit closer to us with colder-than-normal temperatures expected. The snow-zone will remain to our east, but we’ll be on the edge of a few systems that bear watching. A white Christmas is almost a sure bet. However, the ECMWF model does bring our temperatures above freezing beginning Wednesday December 18th (week from tomorrow), lasting until the days before Christmas. Way out there in the December 23-25 timeframe, there are indications of a big weather maker from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic states. Way off though…


Posted under climate/climate change, cold blast

This post was written by qni_it on December 10, 2013

Warmer winters mean more lake-effect snow



Warmer winter climates are causing more lake-effect snow due to warmer, ice-free waters! One might think that there would be less snow in a warming world, but that is not the case for lake-effect snow. In fact, during the period from 1931-2001, there’s been a noticeable upward trend in the amount of lake-effect snow falling each year.



Lake-effect snow is created when cold air swoops over the warmer water of the Great Lakes, which hold heat longer than the atmosphere. Water quickly evaporates from the lakes and then falls as snow (if temperatures remain low enough) as winds put it onshore. From 1979 through 2006, the Great Lakes’ surface temperature has warmed 4.5°F. That corresponds with decreased winter ice cover on the lakes. Observations dating back to 1850 also show lake ice forming later and dissipating earlier. So, more exposed and warmer water are supporting more lake-effect snow.


These conditions mean more lake-effect snow is likely for the near future. However, with winter temperatures projected to keep rising across the region, fewer days below freezing (particularly along the Southern Great Lakes) could reverse that trend by the end of the twenty-first century with areas downwind of the lakes receiving more lake-effect rain than snow. -Eric


Posted under climate/climate change

This post was written by qni_it on October 24, 2013

Long-range outlook

1Sunny skies with temperatures in the 70s. Hard to beat the weather this week (with the exception of the fact we could use a bit more rainfall). We’re timing our next cool front for Saturday with a few rain showers likely. But this week as a whole will remain warmer than normal. Next week, we’ll be watching a few surges of cold air that will stair-step us down below normal about two weeks out. So, if you really want to wear that heavy jacket and crank up the fireplace, this will be your first chance of fall. And just for grins, it looks like we’ll transition back to normal or slightly warmer for Halloween. Keep in mind, the average high temperature on Halloween is 56 degrees, so even low 60s by then would be quite a bit above normal!

2Rainfall looks good as well. Rockford has seen 1.25 inches of rain so far in the month of October (from last Thursday through Sunday). That is more than the green line in the rain gauge so we’re on a roll getting batches of rain like this. Over the next 16 days, the GFS computer model gives us about 2.68 inches of rain…again, above normal. Now let’s hope these models don’t pull a switcheroo! -Eric


Posted under climate/climate change, rain

This post was written by qni_it on October 7, 2013

Strong storm system will bring an end to our summer weather

1Tuesday brought temperatures in the middle 80s to Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. Paired with sunshine, it’s hard to beat this weather…especially considering our next 80 degree temperatures are likely more than six months away! We’ll still be very nice heading into Wednesday with highs in the lower 80s. Thursday and Friday’s upper 70s are still well above the seasonal norm of 69 degrees.

This is the weather map for Sunday though. Get ready for a significant chill! 2Temperatures won’t likely get above 55 degrees Sunday afternoon, even with a fair amount of sunshine! The Dakotas will stay in the 40s during the daytime! Believe it or not, this is closer to normal than the 80s we had on Tuesday. But as things change, we could get quite a bit of rainfall, and possible thunderstorms.

As low pressure ejects out of the Rockies, it will deepen. The track takes the low from Colorado toward Minnesota, putting us solidly in the warm sector. A broad southerly wind will pump in ample moisture from the Gulf of Mexico with dewpoints expected to surge into at least the middle 60s for our area. 3Depending on the timing of the cold front, we could be in a risk area for possible severe thunderstorms on Friday. However, the way things look right now, the higher threat will remain across Iowa and Southern Minnesota. Friday Night Football could be in jeopardy once again with a decent chance of lightning. Greg, Joe, and I will keep you updated right here over the next few days. -Eric

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Posted under climate/climate change, cold blast, heat wave, science, severe weather, weather, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on October 1, 2013

Two summer droughts in a row, two robust winters in a row…

Drought conditions persist across the Midwest heading into Fall, making some people ask if we’ll start making up for our dry weather once winter starts. Today, I decided to look back at the past two years of precipitation data. The black line represents the average precipitation. If the white bar goes into the blue-green, it’s a month with a surplus of precip. And if the white line stays in the orange, you guessed it, that’s a dry month.

What can we take away from this? Most importantly, you can see the highly variable nature of our precipitation. This has been much more variable in the past few years versus a decade or two back. And this variability is hard to forecast! One thing is for certain, our dry streak WILL end. Question is whether it will do so before we’re cold enough for snow? Considering it will be cold enough for snow in about 6-8 weeks, I wouldn’t bet on it! -Eric


Posted under climate/climate change, snow

This post was written by qni_it on September 24, 2013

Drought conditions will persist well into October

You’ve gotta wonder when we’ll make up for the lack of rainfall. With the latest model guidance in, we’re not set for any gang-buster rains until at least the second week of October! Consider this, if we don’t get into a wet pattern until November or December, we could be making up for our summer and fall deficit in the form of winter storms!

tempHere’s a look at the latest #GFS model for Rockford. Over the next 16 days, we are set to receive 1.44 inches of rainfall. However on average we should see 1.72 inches over that timeframe. While models are subject to change, the overall pattern looks pretty dry.

This isn’t as bad as getting drought conditions in June and July when the crops are growing, but it does make a difference when we look at area water tables (still low from last year’s drought).

untitledHere’s a look at the seven day precipitation forecast for the whole country. There is good news here: Drought-stricken areas of Texas and Louisiana are set to get some healthy rains. The unfortunate part of it is the cool front approaching from the west this weekend may rain itself out before it gets here. We’ll see! -Eric


Posted under climate/climate change, drought

This post was written by qni_it on September 23, 2013