Jake Hoey is a freelance meteorologist who graduated from the University of Oklahoma.
As well as an interest in the weather, Jake is an avid traveler, having visited 49 of our 50 states. Jake is also a recurring guest on Happenings Q&A M-F noon till 3pm. Check out Jake’s weather page on Facebook & give it a like.
2020 Kenosha Weather Summary & Winter Outlook
Fall has ended this week, based on meteorological reckoning, so this seems like a good time to start looking back on how 2020’s weather panned out for the Kenosha Area. It began with a very warm January, relative to normal. February didn’t have as extreme of a departure from average as January, but it was also above normal. All of last winter featured below average snowfall, particularly February which featured very little precipitation in any form. March continued the warm pattern, but that came to an end in April, our first below normal month of this year. However, March began another trend which did continue in April and that was for above normal precipitation. Wet weather persisted for all of spring, not coming to an end until June. May, while wet, was very close to normal with its temperatures. Summer saw a warm pattern return, with July featuring the greatest departure from average (comparable to March but not as high as January). By the time Fall arrived, the magnitude of the warmth was dropping but September remained a little above normal while continuing the trend for near normal precip ongoing since June. October stands as just the second below normal temperature month of 2020, with a very similar departure to its “teammate” April. It also started a little bit of a dry trend that continued in November as well. The cold of October left quickly, and November stands as our second warmest month of the year, relative to normal, after January.
So what does winter have in store for us? While December has started pretty close to normal, long range models are hinting at above normal temperatures for much of the month, and continued dry conditions. That isn’t to say we won’t see any snow or cold, just that, overall, this December is looking warmer and drier than normal. This was also the case last year, but I’m skeptical we will see as warm and snow-less a month as that again already. However, this does not mean that all of our winter will be like this. We have an ongoing La Niña, which refers to below normal sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. This can have big impacts on our weather here and it often results in higher than normal precipitation for us in winter. Due to this, climate outlooks continue to show that by January and February we could start to see increasing trends for precipitation; with a significant portion of that likely coming as snow. There is not a strong signal in the outlooks for temperature after December, though. I personally don’t put a lot of faith in long term outlooks like this, so it remains to be seen if we will have another warm winter with minimal snow like last year. I know people are divided about whether they want snow or not this time of year, but I myself am hoping for a decent amount, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed!
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(This article first appeared in the 12/3/20 issue of the Smart Reader)
This week in Kenosha we celebrated the autumnal equinox, which marks the first day of fall from an astronomical point of view. Meteorologically, we consider all of September to be fall, but the equinox marks the point when the Sun is most directly above Earth’s equator. It is also, approximately, when the hours of day and night are the most identical. So, going forward until next spring’s vernal equinox, we will have more hours of darkness than light, and the Sun’s rays will more directly impact the Southern Hemisphere than our Northern Hemisphere.
This means colder weather is on the way, obviously, but when will that be? Well we’ve already seen some cold temperatures the past couple weeks including our first drop into the 30s, per the Kenosha Airport’s thermometer, on the 19th. We have returned to temperatures a bit above normal this week, and our month of September so far is running at almost exactly normal, so far. The date of the first freeze (low temp at or below 32°F) in this area varies quite a bit depending on proximity to Lake Michigan, but our climatology tells us that it typically happens in mid to late October. Some locations in Kenosha County farther west, like Twin Lakes New Munster have median first freeze dates closer to early October. For most of the city of Kenosha, the median is mid October, and a narrow strip, directly adjacent to the Lake, typically sees late October. The earliest first freeze in our recorded history (which dates back to 1944) was September 20th in 1956 and the latest was November 19th in 1994. However, this data is from a sensor located relatively close to the Lake, so looking at our other, newer sensor at the Kenosha Airport (which only dates back to 1998), we see a different story. The record earliest there is September 24th in 2012, and the latest is October 28th in 2007. This is telling both of the relatively short time span of the data at this site, and it’s more westerly location, farther from the Lake’s influence.
Let’s wrap this up with a look at what the rest of fall, and our impending winter might have in store for us. Our immediate future looks mild and dry with our streak of no rain, since our gloomy and wet spell ended on the 12th, continuing for another week. By this weekend, some rain chances should finally return, and a cooling trend should kick off for next week. The final days of September look wetter and turn colder as October dawns. After the chilly start, climate outlooks depict a relatively warm and dry October for us with dry signals becoming less strong for the later part of the month. This pattern should moderate some into November, and by December we should see La Niña start to play a larger role. This well known phenomenon (the counterpart to El Niño which has to do with sea temperatures in the east/central Pacific Ocean) can have a big impact on our winters, and often result in higher than normal precipitation. This is the case for us again this winter when outlooks show above normal precipitation and no strong signal for temperature. Outlooks like these have certainly been wrong before, but fans of snow have something to look forward to, at the very least!
(this article first appeared in the September 25th, 2020 issue of the Smart Reader)
Sizzling Summertime in Kenosha
We are now more than halfway through the summer of 2020 in Kenosha, and it has been quite a hot and humid one for us. June ended up being about 2-3”F above normal for us, and July is running a shade over 4°F above normal. The hottest day of the summer so far was Sunday, July 26th when we reached a high of 96°F at the Kenosha airport. This combined with the high humidity (dew points in the mid-70s at times) led to the heat index peaking in the 105-to-110°F range during the afternoon. Later that night, we received a healthy dose of rainfall courtesy of strong thunderstorms. This has been a bit of a trend this summer so far — to go for long stretches of time without rain, then to have a great deal fall all at once. While not unheard of for us, this pattern might not be very welcome for gardeners and farmers who would, no doubt, prefer more consistent and less inundating rains.
This summer, through to the final week of July, we are running a modest rainfall surplus of around an inch or two, despite the long dry periods. If we look at year-to-date numbers for 2020 so far, which includes our very wet spring and relatively drier winter, it should come as no surprise that we are above normal. Taking multiple observation sites into account, we stand at around 24 to 27″ with normals being around 19 to 20” and record highs ranging from 27 to 33″ by this point of July.
How does the rest of 2020 look? Well, the immediate future looks pleasant, with the milder temperatures we’ve been enjoying this week likely continuing into the beginning of August. However, the longer term outlooks show heat returning for some of August, but there is not as strong of a signal for most of the month as there was for July (meaning lower confidence in hot weather). Concerning rainfall, the consensus seems to be for drier conditions to be likely. Looking further ahead, this coming autumn could feature above normal temperatures, but early indications are that we could have a developing La Niña for the winter ahead. Long story short, this refers to lower than normal water temperatures in parts of the Pacific Ocean and can result in cooler, snowier winters in the upper Midwest. It is still much too soon to provide any real information about what winter holds for us, but thinking about the cold to come can help make a hot summer much more bearable!
Look at the Sky
Summer is here for the Kenosha area! June is off to a warm start with a high of 93°F having been recorded back on the 2nd. Temperatures are averaging around 3-4°F above normal, despite the stretch of chilly weather between the 12th and the 15th. The scarcity of rainfall so far this month is a problem for some of us but welcome for others. Between 0.5 and 1” have been reported, whereas normal would be around 2.5” at this point. Those with gardens and growing crops are probably eager to have an uptick in rainfall going into the final stretch of June. However, our very wet spring led to swollen rivers and increased concern about the level on Lake Michigan, as well as erosion, so a lull in rain helps in that regard. Obviously, a brief rainfall deficit in our little corner of the Lake Michigan-Huron drainage basin is just a drop in the bucket, but every little bit counts when it comes to shrinking the record-breaking levels of our lake.
The biggest weather highlight of June has been the arrival of Tropical Depression Cristobal. This was exceptional. While Wisconsin has had former tropical systems cross our borders in years past (the Galveston Hurricane in 1900, an unnamed storm in 1949, and Hurricane Gilbert in 1988), these had all weakened to such an extent that they were no longer considered “tropical” before they reached us. Cristobal remained tropical throughout its entire traversal of the state, which also makes it the farthest northwest track ever taken by a tropical system in the Atlantic basin. Also unusual was the time of year this impacted us. Hurricane season just started on June 1st, and all other previous tropical systems to impact Kenosha arrived nearer to the peak of the season, which comes in late summer or early autumn. Here in Kenosha, we only saw around a half inch or so of rainfall between June 9th and 10th, but other parts of the state reported much more. Many sites in western Wisconsin had over 3” of rain during the same time period. Perhaps the most significant impact here was the strong winds, with gusts over 40 mph in this area on the 9th and a gust of 51mph reported in Fond du Lac.
What weather do we have to look forward to as we approach the end of June? We are seeing another surge of hotter temperatures late this week, and rain/storms are on tap for the weekend. This rain will help moderate highs a bit after a hot day Friday (away from the Lake), so look for more seasonable temperatures in time for the summer solstice on Saturday. I expect mild to slightly-below-normal conditions for the final full week of June, but we could see more unsettled weather with periodic rain/storm chances. Early indications are that the last few days of June might bring another surge of hot weather with heat carrying over into early July as well. We shall see if that will come to pass, but regardless, I hope everyone enjoys the summer weather!
(this article first appeared in the 7June 19th, 2020 issue of the Smart Reader)
Love, RAIN o’er Me
The month of May in Kenosha so far has been characterized by cooler than normal temperatures and twice the amount of rainfall as expected. In the one week span from May 13th through the 19th, approximately 4 to 6 inches of rain fell here, whereas normal for the whole month would be around 3.85 inches. This is the second instance of a heavy rainfall event so far this Spring, with 3.5 to 4 inches falling in a 3 day span at the end of April. Flooding is a cumulative hazard, and this previous surplus of rain laid the groundwork for the more troublesome flooding this time around. Likewise, if another instance of heavy rainfall occurs in the near future, we can expect less ground infiltration, more run-off, and ensuing flood worries.
Looking at the year-to-date values so far, most of the greater Kenosha area has seen around 16 to 18.5 inches of precipitation. Normal would be around 10.5 inches to a foot, and our record highest for most rain gauges is close to 20 inches at this point in May. We had lower snow accumulation this past Winter than usual, but as you can see, the past few heavy rains have pushed us up above normal and within striking distance of the record books. Let’s hope the rain eases off and sunshine prevails going forward.
Luckily, our cold trend seems to be coming to an end. By this point in May, our normal high temperatures in Kenosha fall in the upper 60s to near 70°F. We have seen mostly below normal temperatures for the past 2 weeks with few exceptions, including our low temperatures falling into the 20s back on March 9th. Starting this Labor Day weekend, however, we should see highs rise into the 70s to near 80°F with continuing warmth into the following work week. With June right around the corner, it will be nice to see some warm weather to remind us that Summer is fast approaching!
Springtime In Kenosha
(This story originally appeared in the May 7th Issue of the Smart Reader)
Springtime in Kenosha is in full swing, and we have seen quite the roller coaster of temperatures and precipitation lately. Instances of warmer than normal conditions, such as a high of 80°F on April 7th and our balmy first weekend of May, have been interspersed with much cooler than normal temps, like the three nights in the lower 20s from April 14th through 16th. Perhaps the most significant weather event of the season so far has been the heavy rainfall that fell between April 27th and 30th. Around 3.5 to 4 inches of rain fell in the Kenosha area during that time, which is an unusually large amount in such a short time. For perspective, normal rainfall for all of April in Kenosha would be around 3.7 inches, and we observed approximately that in just a 72 hour span. We ended April around 1.5 to 2 inches above normal precipitation, despite having been much drier than normal up until the afternoon of the 27th.
This is just the latest in a string of short term heavy rainfall and flooding events in Kenosha – and not even the most extreme one. Other notable events include around 7 inches of rain between September 9th and 13th of 2019, and 6.5 to 7.5 inches between July 10th and 12th of 2017. No doubt these events will be memorable to many locals due to the copious flooding that ensued. We were lucky this time to fall short of those previous events, but sadly, more instances of short term heavy rainfall are expected to impact us going forward due to our changing climate.
We also saw another instance of troublesome lake shore erosion on the tail end of our late April heavy rainfall. Strong north to northeasterly winds whipped up waves that led to more shoreline loss in some of Kenosha County’s lakeside communities. The extremely high levels of Lake Michigan have persisted, which only exacerbates this problem. We are in the midst of the time of year when lake levels typically rise with our increasing precipitation as Summer approaches, but we are already setting records, so this does not bode well for us. As of May 1st, Lake Michigan is 2 inches higher than it was on April 1st and 10 inches higher than 1 year previously. The average water level for the lake is 33 inches above normal and 2 inches higher than the record level for May, which was set in 1986. Forecasts call for continued rising, but let’s all hope for a drier month of May to help alleviate this issue.
Winter in Kenosha
This story originally appeared in the February 13th, 2020 edition of The Smart Reader.
Through the first two months of Meteorological Winter in Kenosha, warmer than normal temperatures have been the dominant. Our cold and surprisingly snowy end to Fall seemed to be a harbinger of frigid air and heavy snow. However, our December was around 6-7°F above normal, with not much snow, and January was closer to 8 or 9°F above normal, with below normal snow. In fact, November’s average temperature was within half a degree of December’s average and within 4°F of January’s (normal would be December more than 12°F colder than November’s average and January 17°F colder). Yes, November was close to 5°F colder than normal, but the consecutive warm months that followed have done much to erase that chill from our memories.
February had a very warm start too, with highs close to 50°F on Groundhog Day, but temperatures moderated somewhat after the first few days. Normal low temperatures through the middle of February in Kenosha would be expected to fall in the upper teens but almost no days this month have been that cold here. So, despite highs nearer to the normal range, we still have, thus far, largely seen milder lows resulting in an above normal running average.
Looking ahead, models seem to be suggesting colder conditions as we begin the second half of February. This cool down would help to balance out our very warm start to the month and could cause monthly average data to recede back towards normal. We might also be entering a more active period precipitation-wise, so will we finally see the cold and snowy winter that was “promised” in October and November? Time will tell! (Note: I am writing this many days ahead of publication, so I am relying on longer term models and outlooks for this info. For more up to date forecasts please visit my Facebook page here.
Remarkable weather events of 2019
This story originally appeared in the January 2, 2020 edition of The Smart Reader.
2019 was a year of some wild weather events in Kenosha, so let’s look back and highlight some of the more notable occurrences from the past year.
Perhaps the first major weather event of 2019 was the bitter cold snap of late January. On the 30th we had a high temperature of -12°F and on the 31st a low of -28°F; both of which easily broke records. -28°F is the coldest temperature observed in Kenosha since January of 1985 when we reached a low of -31°F, which still stands as the coldest all time in Kenosha.
April saw some late season snowfall when several inches fell on the 14th but a little over a week later we were enjoying a high of 80°F on the 22nd. Then a few days later another snowfall struck with a couple more inches falling on the 27th but we truly dodged a bullet that time with many forecasts having calling for much more than we actually received.
We definitely can’t forget to mention the heavy rains and flooding that occurred in September and October. September saw around 10 inches of rain which far exceeds the normal amount of around 3.5 inches for the month. October brought an additional 6.5 inches so we stand at years end with around 45 total inches (normal is around 35″) despite the drier November and December.
Halloween was extra scary this year when several inches of snow fell in Kenosha! The 4 inches of snow reported at one observation site are easily the most in one October day and are enough to make it the snowiest month of October in the record books too. We had a high that day of 34°F and a low of 19°F. Both of these set records for coldest high and low for the entire month of October in Kenosha’s recorded history. Few would expect Halloween to be colder and snowier than Thanksgiving or Christmas, but that was the case in 2019!
To round out the year we saw one of the warmest Christmas Days on record. The high topped out at 59°F which is just shy of the all time record set in 1982 of 60°F. No other Christmas, apart from these two has even surpassed the 50°F threshold dating back to the beginning of our data record in 1944.
Will 2020 bring more unusual weather to Kenosha? It seems likely, so perhaps we should just expect the unexpected!
Autumn of 2019 in Kenosha has been a truly wild ride, weather-wise. September was both extremely hot and wet with around 10 inches of rain for much of town (normal is 3.5”) and average temperatures close to 5°F above normal. October started much the same with over 3 inches of rain in the first week, which is more than the normal total for the entire month.
It ended up with a slightly below normal average temperature but the heavy snow on Halloween threw us all for a loop with bitter cold to boot. That frigid air only worsened as November began, and it reached its zenith on the 12th when Kenosha saw a high of only 18°F and a low of 6°F, nearly 30°F below normal!
A couple more rounds of snow accompanied the cold in November, but the pattern of very wet conditions concluded in October, since November had around half to ⅔ as much rain as normal. As we enter the final month of 2019, Fall stands as probably the most extreme season overall due in large part to the high rainfall in September and October.
With over 40 inches of rainfall this year so far, we have already reached one of the highest totals in Kenosha’s recorded history (normal being in the 30-35” range). I’ll expand upon Kenosha’s 2019 weather highlights in a forthcoming column, but what do we have to look forward to for the final month of the year? Most signs point to a relatively mild December with an unfortunate trend of above normal precipitation. Hopefully, for those dreading snow, that warmth means rain is the prevailing precipitation type, but we can’t get that specific with seasonal outlooks.
For the rest of Winter, it doesn’t look as forgiving. January and February have the potential to be quite cold and snowy. Long term outlooks are oftentimes unreliable so let’s hope that’s also the case this time for the beginning part of 2020!