"Old Man Winter weather arrived in full force across much of Illinois in February, the 9th coldest on record since 1895, with a statewide temperature of 21.9°F, 8.9°F below normal, based on preliminary data. Snowfall generally was 2–6 inches (southern Illinois), 6–25 inches (central Illinois), and 12–25 inches (northern Illinois). Heaviest amounts occurred in east-central Illinois, with Sidell (Champaign County) reporting 27.5 inches, the most for any Illinois station.
"While snowfall amounts in southern Illinois were only 1–4 inches above normal, those in central and northern Illinois were typically 4–16 inches above normal, including 20 inches in Champaign-Urbana, the highest amount on record there since 1903. Flooding will be a concern in portions of the state over the next several weeks due to snowmelt and rain falling on frozen or saturated soils. The National Weather Service will monitor the situation closely," says State Climatologist Jim Angel of the Illinois State Water Survey (http://www.sws.uiuc.edu), a division of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
"The statewide February precipitation of 2.37 inches was 0.44 inches above normal, based on preliminary data. Even west-central Illinoisis showing signs of recovery in streamflows and soil moisture from wetter conditions this winter after a dry growing season," adds Angel.
"The wintry roller coaster began with cold and snow the first nine days of December (including a major snow and ice storm ending on December 1). Then we had a run of remarkably warm temperatures from December 10 to January 15, averaging 39.3°F (12.8°F above normal). January finished as being slightly cooler (22.9°F, 2.8°F below normal), but then temperatures plunged in February. Temperatures the first 18 days of February averaged 13.8°F, 13.4°F below normal, but the remainder of February averaged 34.9°F, only 0.6°F below normal. Overall, the statewide temperature for this winter (December–February) was 28.9°F, 0.7°F above normal. Precipitation for the same period was 9.05 inches, 2.50 inches above normal. Data used for all statistics provided herein are from the Midwestern RegionalClimate Center," says Angel.
The National Weather Service (NWS) outlook for March–May calls for both temperatures and precipitation having equal chances of being above, below, or near normal. The recent moderate El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean has faded quickly, and there is some indication that its counterpart, La Niña, may appear in the next three months.
"There has been concern that a rapid switch from El Niño to La Niña may be the prelude to another drought because a similar situation unfolded in the spring of the 1988 drought. Some scientific evidence, however, indicates that the 1988 drought was not triggered by the switch. In fact, the 1988 weather patterns and drier soils already may have been established by the time La Niña arrived. Currently, soil moisture is in great shape across the state and will provide considerable protection against all but the severest drought during the growing season," concludes Angel.