Sure, the one time the local meteorologist is right is when he calls for an early winter! When I called for "a colder and drier month of November in Champaign-Urbana" I had no idea just what sort of fresh early winter hell awaited us.
Indeed November was cold in the Midwest; very cold at times. The rankings aren't out yet, but I'd imagine November 2019 finds itself in the top 10 for coldest Novembers on record in the state of Illinois.
In Champaign-Urbana, the month of November finishes with an average temperature of 36.2 degrees, 5.1 degrees colder than average. Precipitation was quite low even with a late rally, finishing at 1.91" total, only a little over half of the monthly average of 3.68". Of that precipitation, 2.1" fell as snow.
November 2019 started out cold and got colder as we headed into the middle of the month. The core of the coldest air settled into the region from November 11-15. We set consecutive record lows of 12, 0, and 1 degree November 11-13. On November 12th the afternoon high temperature only climbed to 12 degrees which also set a record for the coldest high temperature on that date.
Slowly the pattern began to break and we eventually climbed into a near-average temperature pattern for the last 10 days or so of the month. In fact, 7 of the last 10 days in November were warmer than average. Small victories. We even touched 60 degrees briefly on November 25th as thunderstorms moved through Central Illinois, but avoided Champaign-Urbana.
During the early November cold spell, precipitation was hard to come by. The biggest outbreaks of cold air are often accompanied by very little precipitation, as cold arctic air is very dry by nature. Bitterly cold air simply doesn't hold much moisture, and with reinforcing shots of cold, dry arctic air blasting into the Midwest there wasn't much opportunity for precipitation.
The arctic front that brought the round of record-setting cold air did deliver our first round of lingering accumulating snow in Champaign-Urbana. While we received spotty snow accumulations over Halloween, this was the first snow that stuck around for several days, adding to the early winter vibes. The official measurement for that November 11-12 snow was 1.5" in Champaign-Urbana.
Precipitation remained quiet until the end of the month as the jet stream became amplified delivering a pair of poorly timed major storm systems to the central U.S. during the busy Thanksgiving travel weekend. While blizzard conditions blanketed the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest, our impacts were less noticeable here in Champaign-Urbana. The storm systems brought rain showers and 60 mph wind gusts to the area the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, some sleet the night of Thanksgiving, and then more rain and mixed precipitation through the rest of the holiday weekend.
Where are we headed? It's a bit hard to say, and I'm definitely coming at this from a place of low confidence. The typical clues that we look to for guidance this time of year are in a bit of flux right now, and with contradictory and often-changing signals it's hard to know for certain where we're headed one week to the next until it's already knocking on our door.
For now, the pattern has quieted down in the wake of the Thanksgiving week storm systems. That means a dry stretch for us in Central Illinois and relatively stable temperatures into mid-December. While we may not plunge into the arctic basement any time soon, there's also no strong signal we'll be basking in December warmth either.
There is some signal that perhaps we turn more active in mid to late December. Could that mean some well-timed snow in Champaign-Urbana? If you're hoping for snow in C-U, you'll be waiting at least a short while as there are no major Central Illinois snow-producers on the 7 to 10 day horizon.
For now, my best guess is we end up very near average in both the temperature and precipitation categories for the month of December in Champaign-Urbana. This will take another late-month rally in the precipitation department which again, for the wishful thinkers out there, could mean some well-timed holiday snow.
For context, the average temperature is 29 degrees and the average total monthly precipitation is 2.73" with an average of 6.6" of snow.
Andrew operates Chambana Weather, where he publishes daily weather information for Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities.
Champaign-Urbana monthly climate statistics are courtesy of the Illinois State Water Survey.
Photos by Andrew Pritchard