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Temperature Swings to Continue Through Winter

The dramatic temperature swings seen across the Midwest this winter will continue, says meteorologist Dan Hicks of Freese-Notis.

“This winter has been characterized by wide swings in temperature from one side of normal to the other every few weeks and I think that, in general, this will continue across the Midwest as a we move through the month,” he says.

Snowstorms are difficult to predict more than a week in advance, but in general, no record-breaking snowfall is expected in February. “My impression is kind of a light winter snowfall trend so far,” Hicks says. “I guess I would tend to think that for February anyway, normal to below-normal snowfall in the Midwest on average.”

Looking forward to the rest of the month Hicks adds, “We’ll probably be averaging near to a little bit below normal in the central and eastern Midwest. Maybe near to a little bit above normal in the western Midwest.”

However, averages don’t always show a complete picture. “When you average it all out, it doesn't really tell the story because the cold and the warm kind of balance each other out. The cold periods have been quite cold and some of the warm periods have been quite mild. I think we will see that up-and-down temperature pattern in February and going into March also,” Hicks says.

Looking Ahead to Spring

Through winter, temperature swings don’t pose a big threat of severe weather. But, if the back-and-forth pattern continues through spring, the chance for severe weather increases.

“As we get into March and start to see the atmosphere warming, we start to see more Gulf moisture move northward. If that temperature extreme pattern continues, we’ll probably start to see more severe weather in March in places like Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, eastern Texas, and eastern Oklahoma,” Hicks explains.

If the dramatic temperature swings persist into April, Hicks says the Midwest could start to see more severe weather events. “As we get into the warmer time of year in the Midwest and the time of year when you start to see more thunderstorms, if we continue to have these wide swings, it would enhance the potential for some severe weather, but probably not really until you get into April.”

Planting Season Forecast

With spring around the corner, so is planting season. “As we get closer to the planting season, I think in the northern Midwest there might be some concerns for coolness slowing down the start of the growing season, which may slow down the start of fieldwork,” says Hicks. “That would tend to be a greater concern in the northern half of the Midwest.”

In areas of Illinois, Missouri, and southeast Iowa, current conditions of low soil moisture may become a bigger issue when it comes time to plant. “Soil moisture is quite low compared with normal in the top 4 or 5 feet of soil in those areas. We’ve got some significant drought conditions showing up,” warns Hicks.

Farmers in eastern Indiana, Ohio, and southern Michigan may be facing the opposite problem: wetness at planting time.

Outside the Midwest

“Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and eastern Colorado comprise an area that is quite dry. I think that will be a problem area when the growing season starts. I would say that the southern Plains wheat area is badly in need of moisture, and I think it will be potentially problematic as that crop comes out of dormancy over the next couple of months,” says Hicks.

Later in the spring, the Dakotas and Montana may also have issues with drought.

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