Higher than usual temperatures in February have made this winter one of the warmest — as well as one of the wettest — on record for the state of Illinois.
The average temperature in Illinois in February was 33.2 degrees, according to state climatologist Jim Angel. That’s 2.3 degrees higher than the average year.
“We’ve been following a warming trend for a couple of decades now,” Angel said. “When we had that really cold winter a couple of years ago it shook people up. But in the ’70s that would have just been an average winter.”
February follows in a trend of warmer than usual weather in December and January to make the winter of 2015-16 the seventh-warmest in state history.
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The average temperature was 33.5 degrees over the winter months, which is 4.4 degrees above average.
By comparison, the coldest winter on record for the state came in 1977-78 when the average temperature was 19.6 degrees. The second-coldest was in 1978-79 when the average temperature was a tenth of a degree warmer at 19.7.
Precipitation across the state was 8.94 inches in the winter months, which was 2.12 inches above average and the 11th wettest winter on record.
But Angel said most of that precipitation came in December, which was extremely wet. January and February were actually a little bit drier than normal.
“We’ve had a little bit less precipitation over the last two months,” Angel said. “But we also had warmer temperatures so when we actually had snow it didn’t stick around for very long.”
Angel said the extended forecast calls for the state to have a spring that is slightly warmer and slightly drier than usual.
“That’s especially good for the farmers who have had problems the last couple of years with it either being too wet or too dry in the spring,” Angel said. “While it will be a little bit dry, there is still an adequate amount of moisture in the soil. So drought conditions shouldn’t be an issue in the spring.”
Angel said it’s too early to tell what the weather will do over the summer.
“Historically, when we’re coming off an El Niño like we are now, it’s basically a coin flip about what’s going to happen,” Angel said.