News & Events

Waubonsee Professor Previews Spring Forecast

The official start of spring comes this month – Sunday, March 20. Waubonsee Assistant Professor of Earth Science, Karl Schulze, who teaches classes such as Meteorology and Climate and Global Change, took a moment to tell us what we can expect here this spring.

Spoiler alert: No groundhogs were used in the making of this spring forecast.

Dr. Karl Schulze

March is off to a promising start, so can we expect an "early" and warm spring this year, or what are your predictions for the overall spring forecast?  

Professor Schulze:

The temperatures have been above normal for the entire winter, and the spring is certainly off to a warm start. I can't see any reason why we should suddenly drop to below normal for an extended period of time. 

Even though temperatures in the middle 60s is awesome for early March, we need to remember that the 30-year average temperature (or "normal high") should only be in the middle 40s. 

While I expect the spring to continue to be above normal as a whole, we can't rule out a few day stretch here or there where the temperatures can drop to below normal.

How will El Nino and other factors impact our weather in the coming months?  

Professor Schulze:

The current expectations are for El Nino to weaken later this spring or early summer, so its effect on our weather will gradually diminish. 

In addition, El Nino has its biggest impact on Illinois weather during the winter season, so it normally doesn't have much of an influence once we enter spring and summertime.

Are there any other significant factors that forecasters need to consider or that could change the expected weather patterns?  

Professor Schulze:

When meteorologists attempt to do a seasonal outlook or forecast, one element is El Nino or La Nina. From there, other important factors include soil moisture, amount of ice on the Great Lakes, the amount of snow cover in Canada, etc. 

When it comes to soil moisture this year, we are near normal.  If you recall the hot, dry summer of 2012, we had temperatures in the 80s on St. Patrick's Day, and the dry ground allowed the heat and dryness to continue into summer.  We don't have much ice cover on the Great Lakes this year, which should allow for warmer lake temperatures later this spring and perhaps less prominent lake breezes in Chicagoland this summer.  So given the current trend and all these other miscellaneous factors, it seems like spring should continue being warmer than normal as a whole.

Is there anything helpful that the average person might want to consider regarding the spring. For example, if it starts out unseasonably warmer, is it safe to plant earlier?  

Professor Schulze:

I wouldn't plant any earlier. 

Although the spring as a whole is expected to be above normal in terms of temperature, that doesn't mean we won't have another blizzard, or another cold Canadian air mass moving in, to cause a hard freeze and the loss of sensitive plants. 

In the Waubonsee neighborhood, we still have a 50 percent chance of seeing temperatures at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit all the way through April 29 (on average).  Maybe that date can move up a little this year, but since the length of our growing season is plenty to enjoy those flowers, I see no reason to rush and plant them early.