The month of January has been undoubtedly a warm month, with only a handful of days falling below average. The warm trend continued Sunday afternoon after highs reached 33 degrees, only three degrees above average, but still above. The warming trend will continue as we round out the end of the month with highs remaining in the low to mid 30s. It won’t be extremely warm this week, but if you look at January as a whole temperatures have averaged nearly 6.5 degrees above average.
The trend of warmer winter days has become more common in recent years. In a recent report from Climate Central, the number of days temperatures are below average during the winter months are becoming less and less, with Rockford averaging 3 fewer cold days during winter cold outbreaks. The cold snaps are still occurring, but they are not lasting as long as they were 20, 30 or even 40 years ago. If we look back to 1970, there has been a slow, but steady, decline in the amount of consecutive days where temperatures have been below average. While it hasn’t been record breaking here in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin , record warmth was felt across the northeast last week. Globally, 2019 was the second hottest year on record and the 2010’s were the hottest decade on record globally.
The heat may be noticed more during the summer months when highs reach extreme record warmth, but winter is actually the fastest warming season. The warmer days may seem nice to some, but the impacts of those warm days are being felt more and more, and having impacts across the globe. The colder temperatures are important for limiting the pest population, however many parts of the country have experienced an expansion of the mosquito population in recent years. Areas that also rely on winter tourism are feeling the effect of the warmer winters from lack of snow for ski resorts, to not enough ice for ice fishing.