Although temperatures may remain near average, the Sauk Valley likely will experience a wetter-than-average winter season, according to the latest 3-month weather outlook issued by climate officials.
From December to February, Carroll, Ogle, Lee and Whiteside counties all share a 40% chance of logging above-normal precipitation, but have the same “equal chance” of recording normal temperatures, based on the National Weather Service’s Central Region Climate Outlook.
Those predictions, according to the NWS report, are the result of a strengthening La Niņa weather event, which has been ongoing since the beginning of the year.
Timothy Gunkel, a meteorologist with the NWS Office in the Quad Cities, said it’s hard to say how the current La Niņa will compare to the one that ended in 2018 because it’s just starting, but in general, the weather events come with similar conditions.
La Niņa conditions – cooler, wetter conditions in the north, and warmer, drier conditions in the south – manifest when water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean cool.
“Our area could see some higher precipitation, but that doesn’t just mean snow,” Gunkel said. “We could see other forms of precipitation, like frozen rains, depending on warmer temperatures.”
It’s too early to forecast whether the Sauk Valley will fall on the warmer or cooler side of average winter temperatures, but most La Niņa models predict the area has a 33 percent chance of experiencing non-normal temperatures, Gunkel said.
“If [La Niņa] leads to changes in weather patterns, we’ll most likely see colder temperatures in the northwest and wetter weather to east,” he said.
The NWS report predicts the La Niņa event will peak in intensity between December and February, and weaken in the spring.
That peak could be characterized by storms that bring high winds and drop heavy precipitation, both of which could affect soil conditions in the spring, he said.
“It’s too early to tell what [La Niņa] could lead to after the spring, but these anomalies can have lasting effects,” Gunkel said.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
Whiteside County averages 5.26 inches of winter precipitation and a winter temperature of 24.6 degrees.
Lee County averages 5.34 inches of winter precipitation and a winter temperature of 23.1 degrees.
Ogle County averages 4.93 inches of winter precipitation and a winter temperature of 22.6 degrees.
Carroll County averages 5.41 inches of winter precipitation and a winter temperature of 23.6 degrees.