POLO, Ill. — Baby, it’s cold outside. And Larry Acker says
we could be saying that for a while.
The founder of 3F Forecasts believes the frigid weather that
has visited us in December may stick around like an unwanted party guest. The
Midwest is in for a cold winter following a November marked by tornadoes and a
December that saw the mercury dropping below zero in some locations.
“December has been colder than normal. That should
continue,” Acker said. “New Year’s Eve is going to be a tough one, too.”
That cold spell may stretch even longer, said Acker, who
bases his prediction partly on historic patterns.
“The weather in general is probably going to be colder than
normal, at least until the first of March,” he said. “That’s the way the cycle
is working. We could have a thaw the first week in January. But we’re looking
for below-normal temperatures basically through February.”
However, Mike Timlin, regional climatologist at the Midwest
Regional Climate Center, pointed out that standard indicators of long-term
forecasts are absent.
“For most of Illinois we’re in the no-use forecast section,”
he said. “There are some hints it’s going to stay cold this winter. They don’t
know for sure what’s going to happen because we don’t have a strong El Niño
signal or something like that to hang our hat on.
“There’s nothing on the horizon that we’re really dreading,
where we’re saying, ‘Oh boy, we’re really in for it now.’ There’s really nothing
huge in one direction or another.”
Acker sees a probability of some wild swings in 2014.
“It’s going to be an interesting year,” he said. “One of the
big things lurking in the background is that the 1936 drought cycle will be
back. That was the time we had the widest extremes of temperature we have ever
recorded in this country. That cycle is coming back.”
Plant diseases could be more of a problem than usual, Acker
said. He is monitoring that and plans to release a report shortly after the
first of the year.
“What we need to keep an eye on is the disease cycle — scab
and diseases like that,” he said. “That’s definitely picking up.”
A continuation of below-average temperatures through the
first part of the year could, however, help reduce insect populations. That is
especially true for regions with relatively little snowfall.
“In case of a lot of snow cover, they can hide in the snow,”
Acker said. “The snow will be an insulating factor. But on bare ground, that
should kill off a lot of insects.”
He doesn’t predict a lot of snow, though southern Illinois
was hit with a severe winter storm in December that resulted in as much as 14
inches of snow falling on top an ice layer.
“I don’t think we’re going to see as much snow as we’d like
to see, because we’re going to want some moisture later on,” he said.
“Up here (west of Rockford) we’re still in a drought. When
it’s super cold, you don’t usually have a lot of moisture. And now we’re running
about 10 to 15 degrees below normal.”
Timlin also noted that many areas of Illinois could use some
“The western part of the state is a little drier,” he said.
“We’ve still got some drought issues out in that direction, and down into
Decatur. Now that the ground’s pretty well frozen, we’re not going to have a lot
of recharge, but maybe we can build up some snowpack in the winter and that will
help as it melts off in the spring.
“Some places are doing OK, and there are a few places that
are still a little bit dry. Southern Illinois is doing a little bit better.
“Even if you’re a little dry, if you have a good snowpack
sitting on top of it, you feel like you’re in pretty good shape.”