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Snow was lackluster this winter as La Niña favors an active pattern into spring, NWS says

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 11:58 AM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Snow-lovers haven’t had a lot to love this winter because this has been one of the driest winters when it comes to snowfall. In fact, Meteorological Winter (December 2021-February 2022) at the Chicago Rockford International Airport had 15.7 inches of observed snowfall. That’s a bit more than 13 inches below normal.

We spoke with Kevin Birk, a Meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Chicago who says the Rockford area is in a hole by itself when it comes to winter snowfall. He says, “You guys have missed on some of the bigger storms. Here, we aren’t too far from average. It’s kind of a tale of two stories.”

It’s been a very different story when comparing the Rockford area to Romeoville, a difference of about 70 miles from point to point. Romeoville has seen near-normal amounts of snowfall as most of the weather makers’ biggest impacts were always just south of us. “I was looking at the snow anomalies not only across Illinois but across the region and there’s just this big hole if you will right across northwestern Illinois, you guys are right in it,” Birk says.

One of the biggest reasons why our season has been so different is a phenomenon called La Niña. This occurs in the eastern Pacific Ocean due to trade winds that are stronger than usual causing cooler water to surface in the eastern Pacific. It causes big temperature swings going from very cold to very warm, just like we’ve seen this winter. It also makes our jet stream turn more active.

With stronger trade winds in the Pacific, it causes cooler water to surface in the eastern...
With stronger trade winds in the Pacific, it causes cooler water to surface in the eastern portions of it.(Ethan Rosuck, WIFR)

This season, the jet stream overall has been right overhead and weather systems are carried along with it. But as they moved through the midwest this year, each area of low pressure hit just to our south and that’s where the biggest impacts were.

With those stronger trade winds, it causes a more active jet stream to be right overhead.
With those stronger trade winds, it causes a more active jet stream to be right overhead.(Ethan Rosuck, WIFR)

Birk says, “Typically in these La Nina events, we do tend to see above-average or a more active across the central United States. We have seen that, just not in parts of the area.” For us, anytime we’ve gotten snow, it melts fast because we turn warm quickly. We’ve also been in a drought since April 2021 and need a more active pattern. As La Nina is at its peak and will weaken in the months ahead, that calls for above-average temperatures and above-normal precipitation being slightly favored.

Birk agrees to say, “As we head into March and even into April, we still do think that we’ve got chances to stay in this active pattern that could bring more precipitation to the area.” With meteorologists and climatologists on board with this, it’s promising news ahead of the spring planting season. But the roller-coaster swings, don’t expect those to go away anytime soon.

“The area, slightly favored for warmer than average conditions certainly doesn’t mean we’re not going to see cold weather. We may be able to see those wind swings, which isn’t atypical, especially for the springtime,” Birk says.

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