January-February: Record Setting Warmth
The year 2016 finished with a cold and snowy flourish across the Midwest, a stark contrast to the lack of snow the last two Decembers. January, however, brought back the mild conditions we have become accustom to as of late. Not to be outdone, February followed with warmth falling into record territory. While occasional variability occurred with a few brief colder spells, above average temperatures simply dominated the landscape throughout the period.
DESPITE THE WARMTH, WINTER DID MAKE A FEW APPEARANCES
The coldest air to be found took place in the first week of January. After the first 2 to 3 days of 2017 started off mild, there was an Arctic blast that followed on the 8th. This trailed a storm which actually produced a swath of 1 to 3" of snow from Indianapolis to Columbus on the 5th, eventually proving to be the best winter storm of the month in respect to the white stuff for these areas. Cold days in the teens and twenties were followed by frigid nights in the single digits and below zero during this stretch of time.
One of the more noteworthy wintry periods of the month happened toward the middle of January, with a pair of ice storms over Illinois and Indiana. A long duration of periodic rainfall and drizzle fell at sub-freezing temperatures over the southern half of the Illinois bringing up to a quarter inch of ice for some parts on the 13th before conditions improved on the 14th. Fast forwarding two days later, this icy mess translated to the rest of northern Illinois, bringing coatings of ice even into Chicago and Rockford on the 16th.
— Kristin Cwynar (@kristincwynarwx) January 16, 2017
THE LOWEST JANUARY-FEBRUARY SNOWFALL ON RECORD… BY FAR!
Any spells of wintry weather did not last long, however due to the mild pattern that took over through the period. Unsurprisingly, the result was not only below-average snowfall, but almost no measurable snow... period. This is not to say it didn't physically snow near the Chicagoland area, but the numbers across the major cities of the Midwest were paltry. Few, however, hit the very bottom like Northern Illinois. [For Rockford and O’Hare, the official January total did not even exceed one inch (0.7” and 0.6” respectively). For perspective, Rockford received less than 1” for the entirety of January one other time in recorded history, back in 1973 (this was the official lowest at 0.4”). As if the numbers could not go any lower, they absolutely did in February. O’Hare only reported mere flakes and unmeasurable trace amounts for the entire month, matching the winter of 1987 (1998 reported a complete “0”). Rockford, too, was lower down to 0.2” for February, only surpassing the same years of '87 and '98.]
Never had January into February seen lower overall totals in the entire recorded history of both Rockford and O’Hare. Needless to say, it is unprecedented for either of these two stations to record less than one full inch of snow for any winter month. In this one and only instance here in 2017, it happened in back-to-back months!
Records for snowfall futility were not only broken, they were smashed. The totals of 0.9” for Rockford fell well short of the previous low mark for the two-month period of 4.4 in 1961. Unsurprisingly, the low number of 3.7” in 2001 for O’Hare was beaten by the 0.6” total of 2017. It will certainly be very difficult to repeat this in the future.
Since weather records began in 1905, Rockford has never gone all of Jan & Feb with no snow on the ground. That's about to change this year.
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) February 26, 2017
TEMPERATURE RECORDS ALSO SMASHED
For January and February, every single city across the Midwest saw days which crushed daily temperature records (especially in February). In northern Illinois, a streak of six consecutive days (between February 17th and the 22nd) had high temperatures that broke the record nearing 70 degrees at Rockford. Meanwhile, it felt like summer in Ohio on February 24th, as Cincinnati and Columbus both reached a high of 78 degrees! Several high minimum records were hit as well across the Cornbelt States, meaning there were nights that felt like summer as well.
As far as the overall cumulative temperatures, the region was downright balmy. Not a surprise, the combination of these two months was record-setting mild. The only major city that fell slightly short was Cincinnati.