Isobar look at January weather 2012.02.08

Written by David Green.


With January gone and a week into February, we’ve somehow survived what many forecasters were calling a brutal winter.

Cold temperatures, deep snow, plenty of misery.

A headline-grabbing forecaster from predicted cities would be buried with snow. Another from Accuweather said people of Chicago would want to move after this winter.

“I think the only ones who want to move,” said George Isobar, the Morenci climate observer for the National Weather Service, “are those with snowmobiles and skis who are looking for some good winter weather.”

January finished up 4.7° warmer than average and snowfall, at 6.5 inches, came in a little on the light side.

“We’ve had many Januarys with less snow,” Isobar said. “Last month’s just stands out in contrast to the big predictions. Our average is about nine inches.”

The ground was covered with snow on only nine days last month—the deepest just three inches—which is a little unusual.

“Many years if we get two or three inches, it’s going to stick around a while, but we never had ground cover more than four days in a row,” Isobar said. “It just kept warming up too much.”

Total precipitation finished at 2.4 inches, about a quarter inch above average.

“We even had a couple of thunderstorms last month,” Isobar said. “We had a little freezing rain only on Jan. 13.”

January finished with only three days in single-digit temperatures, with a low of zero. On the other end of the scale, there were three days in the 50s, with a high of 55°, and 13 days with a high in the 40s. 

“There were just four nights where the temperature stayed at or above freezing,” Isobar said, “so we still had plenty of cold.”

It looks like more of the same, Isobar said.

“We’re on a roll right now with 15 consecutive days above average,” he said. “For the next week, the current forecast calls for most days to rise above freezing. It’s not going to be warm, but it certainly won’t be as cold as it often is this time of year.”

The final day of January proved to be the most above average at 24° higher than normal. The high temperature for the month was recorded that day at 55°. The low temperature of 0° recorded Jan. 20 came on the coldest day—16° below the average.

“We didn’t come even close to a record,” Isobar said. “The high of 71° was set in 1890 and matched in 1950. The low of -20° came in 1984.”

FEBRUARY—As Isobar mentioned earlier, there’s no “real winter” on the horizon. 

“We’ve had a half dozen or so Februarys in the last 30-odd years with snowfall measuring above 10 inches, and that could potentially come in one big storm,” Isobar said.

“So even though there’s only light snow in the forecast through the middle of the month, we still have half the month remaining to turn wintry.”

Or, on the other hand, perhaps this most horrible of winters will continue in shades of green and brown without much of the white.

“I’m hearing reports of trees budding and flowers poking up,” Isobar said. “It feels a lot more like March than February.”

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