Every farmer wants a perfect season. Get planting done as soon as possible, then let it get warm, with appropriate rain and thunderstorms, with no hail, freezes, or other calamities. And for corn farmers, bring on the summer heat as well!
Unfortunately, every season falls short of that. Sometimes it’s actually very close, and the crop yields are excellent. And then there are the years that we talk about under dim lighting, sullen voices, and with jars of antacid nearby. So, what could it be this year?
So far this winter, we have been under modest La Nina conditions, with temperatures in the Pacific Ocean central basin roughly a degree Celsius cooler than average. This frequently causes the jet stream to bring cold weather and drier weather to the Plains, and heavy precipitation to the Ohio Valley and the lower Great Lakes in the wintertime.
As of March 8, we have had 27.4” of snow, roughly 7” below the seasonal average.
Unfortunately, rainfall outside of the snow has been lacking in northern Illinois.
Areas in central and southeastern Illinois have received considerably more rain and snow than we have. In fact, along a line from near Kankakee to Quincy, IL, and roughly 50 miles either side of that line, snowfall has ranged from 200% to nearly 400% of normal this winter. The areas of the state that have gotten the heaviest snow run from Quincy, to Peoria, to the southern suburbs of Chicago this winter.
North and west of a line from Moline to Crystal Lake, precipitation has been lacking, and especially so over northwestern Illinois. So much so that areas along and north of a line from Waukegan to DeKalb, to Paw Paw, to Muscatine, IA are in moderate drought conditions. The rest of the state, in general, is doing reasonably well with precipitation.
So, what about the future?
Multiple intense storm systems are expected to bring ample rainfall and some snow to central and southern Illinois, with lesser amounts falling across northern Illinois. Thus, while measurable precipitation is expected in our area, heavy rainfall is not likely in early March in DeKalb County. After that, however, climatology shows that the storm systems tend to track further north, with deeper amounts of Gulf moisture, heat, and resulting atmospheric instability.
In the back half of March through May, precipitation could trend above average, with flooding possible in the hardest-hit areas.
Temperatures are also expected to trend warmer than average, as low pressure systems track into our region.
We see these trends in the official NOAA forecast (see graph). However, if we do see more rain, the above average temperatures could be most notable at night, with clouds and precipitation holding temperatures up.
Having said all of that, we must remember that you can get snowstorms even into late April, and snow has fallen as late as early June in DeKalb County, even in mild/warm springs. However, when one looks at the statistical averages and similar situations such as what we are in now, seasonal analogs point to above average temperatures and precipitation in the back half of spring.
All the best to you, farmers, as I know you’ll do your best regardless of what the atmosphere throws at you. Safe farming, and may good weather go your way!
Gilbert Sebenste, Consulting Meteorologist, AllisonHouse, LLC