What happened to winter?

© 2017- Rochelle News-Leader

Temperatures have been rising and no snow has been falling

ROCHELLE – The sun was bright in the sky and the morning temperature had already hit 44 degrees on its way to the 50s.
Welcome to Oregon in February. Yes, February.
“We cannot remember a winter like this,” said Claudia Dijstelbergen of Leaf River. “Yes, we are enjoying this mild winter.”
The average temperature this time of year is in the low 30s, but this year February has already had multiple days with high temperatures in the 40s and 50s. And the long range forecast shows some precipitation, but no big snow events or temperatures below freezing.
“We’re running much above normal temps since late December,” said Dave Changnon, chairman of the Geography Department at Northern Illinois University.
He said it has been more than 50 days since the last inch of snow.
“This will likely go down as one of our least snowy winters,” he said.
That may be good news for many people, but there are still those who like snow – including Changnon.
“As a person who loves snow, I kind of miss it,” he said.
But less snow does mean cost savings for the taxpayers of Ogle County. Jeremy Ciesiel, county engineer, said using less salt on the roads and paying less in overtime for workers out salting and plowing the streets will mean more money in county coffers.
The season did start off pretty busy, however.
“The season started out like we expected it to,” Ciesiel said of the snowy December. “The guys worked 17 days straight – maybe even longer than that.”
But after Christmas, the snow pretty much disappeared. Even the ice on the Rock River, which was thick in places just a month ago, is gone.
Ciesiel said that after a less snowy winter last year, the county had already spent less on salt, buying about 400 tons less.
But that doesn’t mean the roads in Ogle County will be in great shape after this milder winter. Ciesiel said it might be the opposite. He said if there is one freeze and one thaw a year, it is much easier on the ground and roads. There have been multiple freezes and thaws so far this season.
“Those freeze/thaw cycles take a greater toll on the roadway than you would like it to,” he said.
So why has it been so much warmer this winter? Changnon said it is all about the polar jet stream, which dictates our weather. He said the polar jet stream has been north of our area for most of the winter, which keeps the weather warmer. He pointed to the winter of 2013-14, when the polar jet stream was south of the area and the weather much colder.
He said the jet stream has also been moving in a wave, going up and down quickly. That means we have not been stuck in a cold weather pattern.
And in a twist, Changnon said there has been more snow downstate in Illinois than here.
“We’re sort of sitting in an odd spot,” he said.
While people like Dijstelbergen are enjoying this weather, she said she is concerned that we might see things get worse later in the winter season.
Changnon said that is always a possibility.
“We could still have a 6-inch or greater snowfall up to April 1.”