How cold? It's been nearly 40 years since we've had a winter this frigid

News-DemocratMarch 4, 2014 

It's not your imagination. This is, in fact, one of the coldest winters on record.

The winter of 2013-24 is the fourth-coldest in state history, according to the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois. The average, statewide temperature for December, January and February was 20.8 degrees. That's 8.2 degrees below the long-term average temperature, state climatologist Jim Angel said.

"The overlying reason for the cold weather is that we've had a weather pattern that really hasn't changed much going back to November," Angel said. "The jet stream set up to the south of us which has allowed the colder air trapped to its north to make it down to our area. Usually, this will happen from time to time and then break up. But this time it has held up pretty consistently."

The three colder winters on record came back-to-back-to-back in 1976-77, 1977-78 and 1978-79.

But Angel said Illinoisans shouldn't necessarily expect more unusually cold winters the next couple of years.

"I'd be surprised if we see what we had this year again next winter," Angel said. "It seems to be more typical, when you look through the historical records, that these or sort of one off things. The next year things seem to get back to more of a typical winter."

Our cold, snowy winter (click to mute & advance graphic)

Gary Schmocker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said it has also been significantly snowier than average this winter in the St. Louis area.

We've had about 27.2 inches of snow compared to an average of 18 inches in a typical winter.

"It's been tough," Schmocker said. "Most people I have talked to say they're pretty much sick of winter by now."

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like things are going to get back to normal for a while.

"The outlook for the next 15-20 days says that we're going to stay below normal in temperature," Schmocker said. "But if we can make it through that, April and May are expected to be normal in terms of temperature."

Ultimately, Angel said the changing calendar will force the weather pattern to break.

"When you start to get to the transition months like March, it tends to break down the long-standing patterns," Angel said. "The days are getting longer and the sun is getting higher in the sky. That will force things to warm up and the weather patterns to change."

Metro-east residents will see a warming trend the rest of this week. But the peak is expected to only get back to average.

On Wednesday, skies will be partly sunny with a high of 36. The high temperature is expected to reach 42 Thursday and 51 Friday. But there is a 40 percent chance of more snow this weekend.

The average high temperature for the first week of March in the St. Louis area is about 50 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 239-2626.

Our cold, snowy winter (click to mute)

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