Midwest Weather Summary: January 2020

February 10, 2020 // Article by: Zach Graff

The trend of above normal temperatures with little shots of cold air continued into the start of the New Year across the entire Midwest as areas observed average temperatures of 6-9 degrees above normal. The above normal temperatures were accompanied by frequent disturbances which led to well above average precipitation amounts. From Chicago to Columbus, precipitation came in at a staggering 150-200% above the mean for the month. For snow lovers, this could have been a record setting month in terms of snow if we had cold air to work with. Subsequently, east of Chicago saw very little snow, coming in at only 5-25% of normal for the month, while Chicago itself saw 50-75% of their normal snowfall.

The month started rather warm with afternoon temperatures soaring into the upper 40s to lower 50s. The mild weather was accompanied by a storm system that brought 0.50 – 1.00” of rain from Indianapolis to Columbus. Cold air filtered down in the wake of this system on the 4th, which allowed rain to flip to snow across the Midwest. Indianapolis, Dayton and Columbus only saw coatings of snow and sleet, while Chicago received a few moderate to heavy bursts of snow which amounted to 0.5 - 2.0” of snow. The 5th through the 7th was dry with above normal temperatures and highs in the 40s before cooling down into the upper 30s on the 8th. On the morning on the 9th, Chicago was cold enough for light freezing rain showers that caused a few areas of patchy ice. However, that same day, temperatures rebounded significantly with temperatures in the 50s!

The warm weather was here to stay as temperatures continued to climb and reached the upper 60s to lower 70s from Indianapolis to Columbus on the 10th and 11th. This warm stretch came with moderate rain, which amounted to another 1-3” of rain particularly east of Chicago. That being said, Chicago flipped back to winter on the 11th with morning patchy freezing drizzle transitioning to light to moderate snow which amounted to 1.0 - 2.5 inches. Colder air remained in place on the 12th in Chicago and Indianapolis, allowing for another brief round of snow and sleet which led to patchy ice and a coating - 0.5” snow. Areas to the east like Columbus and Cincinnati remained warm in the 40s and 50s. In the wake of this system, dry weather and above normal temperatures followed on the 13th and 14th. On the 15th, some mixed showers of freezing drizzle and snow moved through the Chicago area, which only led to some patchy ice and coatings of snow. Much cooler temperatures then filtered into the region on the 17th-20th with even some nighttime lows in the single digits! With an active pattern still in place, cold air led to rounds of snow and freezing rain across the entire Midwest. Chicago ended up with the most snow from these systems with 2.5 - 5.0” of snow and 0.10 - 0.30” of ice on the 17th, while areas like Indiana and Ohio saw only coatings of snow and ice. On the 21st and 22nd, another storm moved into the Midwest but like previous storms, it only affected Chicago… with another widespread 1.0 - 2.5” of snowfall.

The remainder of the month from the 24th – 31st remained rather active in the wintry precipitation department, particaurly due to freezing drizzle. A system first moved through Chicago on the 24th before moving into the Indiana and Ohio on the 25th and 26th. Once again, Chicago had the most snow with up to 3”, while areas east only saw coatings – 0.5” along with coatings of ice. The month ended with numerous rounds of freezing drizzle and snow showers. This led to patchy ice and coating to 0.5” amounts of snow across the Midwest.

Overall, the month of January was particularly wintry in Chicago compared to areas east towards Indianapolis, Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus. If you combined all the snow from the climate stations from these areas you would still fall well short of the total snowfall from the Chicago O’Hare airport this month of 10.8”.