The snow continues to fall:
The Chicago area remained under a lake-effect snow warning as the Tuesday morning rush slowed to an icy crawl on expressways and some Metra train lines.
The warning covers Cook, Lake and DuPage counties until 4 p.m. In Lake County, Ind., the warning has been extended to 1 a.m. Wednesday.
The dense snow was being carried by winds from the north to northeast over Lake Michigan. The snow bands were expected to slowly shift into northwest Indiana later in the morning and continue overnight into Wednesday.
I'm in my home office today watching alternating whiteout and sunny conditions as bands of lake-effect snow wash over the area. Later, I have to dig my car out to take Parker for a routine vet visit.
But, of course, it's March. The forecast calls for temperatures to warm up above freezing around noon Thursday and stay there until Saturday night, when they'll dip only briefly before spring begins in earnest.
Chicago's weather is weird.
Chicago had no measurable snowfall for almost three months—until last night:
Snow started Sunday. Snow in the Chicago area and elsewhere is leading to more than 500 cancellations at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports.
The last time Chicago received any significant snowfall was in mid-December, when there was a little more than 5 inches of snow on Dec. 11 and 3.5 inches of snow days later.
Since the first of the year, what rare flurries the city has seen have added up to less than an inch of snow.
My co-workers who came from other climates are terribly confused. We native Chicagoans are not. Of course we're getting an early-spring snowfall. We haven't built up enough character from the first two months of the year.
Chicago is experiencing sustained 48 km/h winds with gusts up to 68 km/h, which has a noticeable effect on the building I work in. Sears Willis Tower was designed to sway in high winds. Over the years, however, material and building techniques have changed, so occasionally windows blow out of our upper floors. Fortunately this hasn't happened in almost 7 years, but these winds are high enough today that we may have to close the upper floors.
I may pop up to 66 today just to feel it. At that floor, the building can sway almost 3 m. I'm feeling a little dizzy and I'm only a third the way up.
It's official: for the first time in recorded history, Chicago had no snow on the ground during the last two months of meterological winter (January and February):
Because the snow measurement is taken at 6 a.m. at O'Hare International Airport, small amounts of snow that may have fallen later in the day and melted were not recorded, said Amy Seeley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. This occurred Feb. 25 when there was a trace of snow and Jan. 30 when there was 2 mm. The weather service has been keeping data on snow on the ground for 146 years.
WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling said he believes the 146-year streak in Chicago is part of climate change and emphasized that it does not occur linearly, meaning that there is potential for cold winters in the future.
And Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel officially declared February the warmest-ever:
All those days with 60- and 70-degree [Fahrenheit] weather paid off – this February was the warmest February on record for Illinois. The statewide average temperature for February was 4.7°C, 5.3°C above normal. It beat the old record of 4.4°C set back in 1998.
Yes. This is climate change. I've long predicted Chicago would benefit, even though on balance the world won't.
With tomorrow's forecast 16°C temperatures, Chicago will end meterological winter having had just a trace of snow in February and less than half our usual amount of snow since the season began December 1st. Since records began in 1884, only five other winter months have had so little snow. We also could have the third-warmest February in history with an average temperature of 3.4°C—just 0.4°C cooler than the record set in February 1882.
Of course, we could get snow in March. Best not to think about that right now.
The Illinois State Climatologist reports that 257 daily high temperature records have been set statewide this month. He worries that the early warmth could cause damage to agriculture as similar events did in 2007 and 2012:
A batch of crocus on the south side of our office building is a reminder of the impacts of warm weather in February. Both January and February have been mild. But on top of that has been a record-setting streak of 60s and 70s in the past week. As a result, many early season perennials such as crocus are coming out a little early. In the past, such warm weather has made any early vegetation vulnerable to the inevitable freeze later on. In 2007 and 2012, a similar scenario played out with damage to corn, winter wheat, alfalfa, and fruit crops across Illinois. The 2007 event was well documented in this report.
Meanwhile, a cold front pushed through last night with dog-frightening thunder, so it's now just above freezing in Chicago and promises to drop to about -5°C this weekend.
I hope to read these articles sometime this year.
The windows at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters are all open—yes, on February 17th—because it's 18°C outside. This is the normal high temperature for May 1st.
Parker's having a bath, too, so the weather is great for him to walk home from the doggy daycare place.
We haven't gotten 25mm of snow in Chicago since December 19th, and the forecast for the next week is precipitation-free—57 days of snow-free weather so far. The record is 83, which we'll break if we don't get that much snow before March 12th. This is unlikely most years, but this year, the climate predictions look promising.
Stay tuned. We could always get a blizzard. It's February, after all.