December Brings a Dynamic Weather Pattern for the Midwest

January 11, 2023 // Article by: Shawn McGarrity


The final month of the year has proved to be a dynamic one for the Chicagoland area, boasting anything from unseasonably warm to bitterly frigid temperatures. Despite the wild rollercoaster of temperatures throughout the month, the first month of meteorological winter proved to be below average in terms of snowfall, with only 3.2 inches falling, far from the typical 7.3 inches typically seen. Overall precipitation totals were a tad above average, measuring 2.16 inches compared to the normal 2.11 inches. Even with periods of warm weather this month, December trended slightly colder than normal, thanks in part to the bitter cold seen around the holidays. Average highs were 35.7°F (normal 36.6°), average low was 22.5°F (normal 24.4°F), and the overall average was 29.1°F (normal 30.5°).

Other than a seasonable first day of the month, December started off warm with highs in the low 50s for a few days with a largely dry set up other than a few spotty showers. Temperatures cooled to the low 40s beginning on the 4th, which remained the norm through the first half of the month. A mix of rain and snow on the 9th brought minimal snowfall for the region (mainly less than 1 inch), though areas to the north and west nearer the Wisconsin border managed to get up to 3 inches in some spots.

A system in the middle of the month brought the wettest day for the area, with 1.38 inches of rain falling at O'Hare on the 14th (with some spots locally over 2 inches). Areas to the northwest of the Chicagoland region managed to switch over to snow on the backside of the system, bringing a dusting to a few tenths of an inch of snow, and up to an inch in the Woodstock area. Intermittent snow showers persisted in the days that followed and brought pockets of locally heavier snow that produced about an inch in areas, during which time temperatures cooled from the 40s down to the low 30s, thereafter further cooling into the low 20s.

The final notable snowmaker of the month occurred on the 22nd, which produced 1 - 3 inches of snow across northern Illinois. An arctic front passed through during this time which ushered in frigid temperatures and gusty winds to the area, plummeting daytime highs to around 0°F. The coldest day, the 23rd, only managed to ‘warm’ to -1°F, the coldest day of the month. Temperatures remained bitter into the holiday weekend, holding in the teens both the 24th and 25th.

Snowfall totals from the 22nd thru 23rd. Courtesy of NWS Chicago.

A warmer air mass dominated the area for the final week of 2022, bringing highs to the upper 50s in only a matter of days from the frigid blast of Christmas weekend. The 29th managed to warm up to 59°F, the warmest day of the month. The year closed out dry before temperatures fell to the upper 30s by the 31st. 


Like much of the Midwest, December proved to be a dynamic month in terms of weather for the area, with temperatures swinging from bitterly cold to spring-like in the matter of days. Temperatures generally fared close to normal (trending only a few tenths of a degree cooler than normal), with the average high being 40.5°F (normal 40.4°), the average low 26.3°F (normal 26.2°), and the overall average was 33.4°F (normal 33.3°). Snowfall fell short of what is typical, with only 1.6 inches falling during the month at Indianapolis airport (noraml is 6.4 inches) and overall precipitation was a bit drier than normal, with 2.63 inches being measured compared to the normal 2.92 inches.

Aside from a seasonable first day of the month, a brief period of warmer weather settled into the area, bringing daytime highs to the mid 50s. This hint of milder temperatures wouldn’t last long, with highs returning to the 40s through the remainder of the first  half of the month. Other than a few nuisance rain showers on the 2nd and 3rd, the first several days of December were dry before an unsettled set up brought intermittent rain showers at times from the 5th to the 10th. 

A passing system on the 14th produced the wettest day of the month for the city, producing 0.97 inches of rain before ushering in some flurries on the backside that lingered through the 17th. Temperatures fell during this time to the 30s before briefly rebounding to the low 40s on the 20th, a return that would prove all but brief. 

Rainfall totals in the region from the 13th thru 15th. Courtesy of NWS Indianapolis.

After a period of quiet weather, an arctic front brougth snow and rapidly falling temperatures from the 40s down to below 0°F in the matter of hours on the 22nd. After producing some minor snow accumulation, the bitter frigid temperatures remained through the holiday weekend. The coldest day of the month, the 23rd, only managed to reach a high of 1°F, with highs in the teens remaining for Christmas.

A final swing of the pendulum brought unseasonably warm temperatures to the area for the final week of the year, bringing highs into the upper 50s both the 29th and 30th (the former of the two days was the warmest of the month, reaching 58°F). Though largely dry, a disturbance brought a decent amount of rainfall on the 30th (0.96 inches), which helped push an otherwise dry month closer to average. 


Unlike other portions of the Midwest, December proved to hold near if not a tad above average in terms of snowfall. In both Columbus and Cincinnati, monthly snowfall measured 5.8 and 5.6 inches respectively (both above the normal 5.1 and 4.1 inches). Despite the overperforming of wintry weather, the month fell short of overall precipitation amounts. Columbus and Cincinnati measured 2.02 and 2.69 inches respectively (normal is 3.13 and 3.73 inches). In regards to temperatures, December fared near average for the state, with the two cities averaging only a few tenths of a degree cooler or warmer than normal. In general, the overall average temperature for the month in Columbus and Cincinnati was 34.6°F and 35.4°F respectively (compared to 34.6° and 35.6°). Even though the month was near-average in terms of temperatures, readings ranged from well above normal to bitterly cold, though the extremes between the two balanced it out.

Other than a rather seasonal first day of the month, temperatures trended warmer thereafter, with highs in the mid to upper 50s. A passing front on the 2nd and 3rd did little to cool things off, though it did produce some rain. Unseasonably warm conditions persisted through the rest of the first week. A heavier round of showers passed through on the 7th, with Cincinnati being more impacted than Columbus (Cincinnati measured 0.84 inches of rain, its highest rainfall for the month). 

Drier conditions returned for the second week as temperatures returned to more seasonable levels in the 40s. A system on the 14th brought the wettest day of the month for Columbus, which saw 0.44 inches. Temperatures were mild during the event, reaching the mid 50s.

The pattern turned more wintry into the second half of the month as temperatures gradually fell from the 30s down to the upper 20s throughout the region. A bit of snow on the 17th brought a few tenths of an inch  (mainly in Columbus). An arctic front brought a rapid cooldown on the 22nd, with rain changing over to snow producing the snowiest day of the month for both cities. Columbus and Cincinnati measured 3.6 and 4.9 inches on the 22nd respectively, with temperatures falling below zero. For a few days into the holiday weekend, high temperatures struggled to get far into the teens before things gradually warmed thereafter. 

After less than an inch of snow fell on the 26th in southwest Ohio, temperatures rose to unseasonably warm levels. Many places managed to warm to the 60s on the 29th and 30th, with the warmest high of the month being 65°F on the 30th. One final system on New Years Eve brought a decent amount of rain, with Columbus and Cincinnati measuring 0.44 and 0.32 inches respectively.