After 13 straight days with temperatures below average we should finally warm back up to just about average today with a high in the lower 40s. Today should be the warmest day we have seen in nearly two weeks. Monday could be the warmest day we have seen in over two months. Monday’s high will get close to 50°. Last time we were that warm was way back on December 28th last year when the high hit 50°. If we hit 50° on Monday it will only be the 4th time highs have hit 50° or more since the start of winter. Last winter we hit 50° or more ten times by now with even a few 60s and one 70° high mixed in.
These warmer days will be welcome after such a cold start to 2014. 50 of the first 65 days, or 77% of days, have been below average. Only 10 days in January were above average and only 5 in February.
These signs of spring come amid periods of colder than average weather though. 30s for highs this weekend and we’re back below average again for the middle and end of next week. So enjoy it while you can!
The graphic below shows the forecast temperatures for 3 pm Monday from the GFS model.
There may be one good fringe benefit from our frigid winter-less lake effect snow. A wind will develop off the lake later tonight. The lake effect snow that may develop will be limited by the lack of open water on Lake Michigan. The latest estimate from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory is that just under 90% of Lake Michigan is covered in ice. The portion of the lake that has the most open water is on the east side, well removed from the Michigan shoreline. By comparison, last winter the maximum ice cover on Lake Michigan peaked at just over 20%.
The ice cover on the Great Lakes as a whole peaked over the weekend at a near record of just over 90%. The extensive ice cover on Lake Superior has allowed for access to ice caves at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Nearly 80,000 visitors have explored the caves along Lake Superior’s shore since the middle of January. The thick ice has caused some problems though too. The 225 foot Coast Guard icebreaker “Cutter Hollyhock” got caught in a collision with an ore boat after the Hollyhock ran into a thick patch of ice in northern Lake Michigan back in January.
Given the right conditions, more unseasonably cold weather for the next few weeks, it is possible a new record of ice cover could be broken. The previous record was 94.7% set in February of 1979. Both the 6 to 10 day and 8 to 14 day from the Climate Prediction Center call for colder than average temperatures through the middle of March.
The long-term average is just over 51%. The last time ice coverage climbed above 90% was in 1994.
Three to nearly 8 inches of snow fell Monday and most of it will be gone by the end of the week. Our highs will be above freezing today through Thursday. Today should be (but barely) the first day above average since the first day of February, 17 days ago. Every day since, 16 in a row, have been below average.
The longer range forecast calls for temperatures to take a tumble though next week. Most of the country, in particular the midwest, is outlooked to be below average.
The GFS model has highs soaring into the 40s for Thursday. It even has some of our far southern suburbs touching 50°. Our forecast high of 46° will be the warmest we have been in nearly two months. The last time we were warmer than that was back on December 28th when the high hit 50°.
Enjoy it while you can…
Arctic air is scheduled to return in phases with temps falling 15° by Friday to just below freezing. We expect 20s for highs this weekend. Bitter cold could return next week. The same GFS model has highs barely above zero a week from this Thursday.
Today was the 22nd day O’Hare has dipped below zero. The record number of sub-zero days is 25. That occurred way back in the winter of 1884-1885. This morning could be one of the last sub-zero mornings we see for several days. We will thaw out on Thursday to 32°, one of the warmest days we have seen in nearly two weeks. The bigger thaw will come next week. The 6 to 10 day outlook has more yellow, orange and red on it than blue for the first time in several weeks. The area shaded in yellow, orange and red is outlooked with a high probability of seeing above average temperatures for the third week of February. That includes all of the midwest and the majority of the country.
Take with a few grains of salt but the long-range forecast from the GFS model is hinting at 50° or more by Thursday of next week. Central and southern Illinois could see some 60s.
Today was the 20th day this winter that temperatures have dipped below zero at O’Hare. Tomorrow should be the 21st. That is triple the average of 7 days per winter. The record number of sub-zero days for a winter was 25 set back in 1884-1885. The way this winter has been going that record is certainly within reach. 50 out of 72 days or 69% of days this winter have been below average.
February has started out frigid. Here are some of the colder lows we saw this morning:
January will probably go down in the record books as the 8th coldest on record for the state of Illinois. The average temperature statewide last month was 18.2° or 8.1° below average.
If winter is going to be nasty, we might as well try to set some records…
So far this month we have seen 33.5″ of snow. That is nearly an average winter’s snowfall in just 31 days. This means January 2014 now ranks as the third snowiest on record.
Snowiest Januarys in Chicago:
1) 42.5″ January 1918
2) 40.4″ January 1979
3) 33.5″ January 2014
We could add another .5″ to 1″ by midnight but not enough to move beyond third place.
Here is how we compare to other cites for snowfall so far this snow season:
So far…. January Snowfall Season
O’Hare 33.5″ 48.6″
Minneapolis 22.7″ 39.7″
Green Bay 17.0″ 44.6″
Bismarck 5.8″ 23.9″
Denver 14.0″ 22.1″
Nearly half (49.4″) of the contiguous US is reporting snow cover with an average depth of 4.6“. That is up just a bit from last year at this time when 44.6% of the country had snow cover.
Models are hinting at the possibility of another significant snowfall late Tuesday into Wednesday next wee.
Colder than average weather will continue for the next several days but we won’t break any records. That is considered good news for a winter like this one that has been particularly cold. 2 out of every 3 days this winter have been below average. Today will be the 9th day in a row below average. We have dipped below zero 15 times this winter or nearly twice the long-term average. So far this month the average temperature at Anchorage, Alaska (29.8°) is nearly double the average temperature at O’Hare (15.°2).
The 6 to 10 day forecast has outlooked us for a frigid start to February. We won’t be alone in our shivering. Only four states don’t have at least a portion of their state outlooked to be below average during the period of February 3-7. The good news is that we don’t see any sub-zero lows through the weekend and into early next week.
Just when we thought this winter couldn’t get any worse….
Bitter, dangerous cold has gripped the area today and will stick around through Wednesday morning. Temperatures for some in the Chicago area may not climb above zero until midday Wednesday. A wind chill warning continues until 9 AM Wednesday with wind chills as cold as -20° to -40°. The coldest wind chills may occur early tomorrow morning (see image below). This cold outbreak will rival the outbreak that gripped the area three weeks ago. Tonight’s lows will dip to close to -20° at O’Hare to break the old record low for Tuesday of -13° set back in 1977.
This winter has been especially brutal with both bitter cold and frequent snowfall. We have seen at least one tenth of an inch of snow or more 27 of the past 50 days! That means that nearly every other day we have seen measurable snow since early December. Over four feet of snow has fallen this winter (48.2″). 33.1″ of that fell in January alone. We have nearly seen an average snowfall for an entire winter (36.7″) in the month of January.
When it isn’t snowing it is bitterly cold. This winter (as of yesterday) is the 13th coldest on record. By Wednesday we will have seen subzero temperatures occur on 16 days so far this winter. That nearly doubles the average number of days in Chicago at or below zero. On average we record temperatures that cold 7 days each winter.
Our active winter weather pattern continues as if it is on steroids. Wind chills tonight will dip down to 20-30 below zero. Wind chills will remain subzero through Thursday with high temperatures in the single digits. Bitter cold and strong winds will cause wind chills to plummet again down to 30 below or even colder late Thursday night and into early Friday morning. The longer range forecast keeps us in the deep freeze through the end of January and hints at a frigid start to February. Most of the eastern half of the country is outlooked for overall below average temperatures for that period.
There are three “opportunities” for sticking snow between today and Monday. Today’s snow will be a quick coating of up to 1″. Friday night into Saturday another system will slide across the area with the potential for 1-3″ of snow. The wildcard is Sunday’s system. Some models have it diving just south of Chicago and only scraping us with light snow while other models have a more direct hit with several inches possible.
The GFS accumulated snowfall forecast through Sunday brings a grand total of 3-6″ for all three systems combined. We have already seen 44.8″ for the snowfall season to date. That ties 1977-1978 for the third highest snowfall total on record through January 21st. 29.7″ of that fell in January alone making it the fourth snowiest January on record.
NOAA has released their national overview for the year 2013. While it was a warmer year relative to climate averages, it was quite a bit cooler than 2012. The average temperature for the contiguous US last year was 52.4° or .3° above the 20th century average. That makes 2013 the 37th warmest year in the 119-year period of record. As warm as it was compared to average, 2013 was still 2.9° cooler than the 2012.
At the state level, Illinois had an average temperature of 50.8°. That was quite a bit cooler than the statewide average of 55.6° in 2012. Only four months (see image above) saw above average temperatures last year.
At the city level, 2013 was the 29th warmest for Chicago of the 55 years of record from the National Climatic Data Center (see image above) with 2012 still the warmest on record. The average temperature last year was 49.3 ° or -.6° below the 1981-2000 average.