Iowans are finally getting some relief from a long string of bitterly cold weather. Temperatures this week are forecast to rise above freezing and State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says it could bring a little bit of snow melt.
“Ever since that first snowfall on December 6, much of the northwest two-thirds of the state hasn’t been above freezing except for very short periods of time,” Hillaker said. “A lot of areas haven’t been above 35 degrees for about five or five-and-a-half weeks now.” The average statewide temperature over the first 11 days of the month was one-below-zero.
Hillaker says temperatures are averaging 18-degrees below normal, making 2010 the fourth coldest start to a year in Iowa history. Only 1979, 1942 and 1912 produced colder average temperatures over the first 11 days of January. Iowa’s also had three significant snowfalls since early December and the cold air hasn’t allowed for any melting. Hillaker says a slight warmup would alleviate concerns of flooding.
“The optimal thing to have happen would be several, fairly brief periods of warmer weather during the daylight hours and then freezing up again at night…just keep that alternating freeze and thaw going on so we’re releasing that water very gradually,” Hillaker said. Northwest Iowa has received the most snow this season. Hillaker says it’s difficult to measure because of all the drifting, but there’s 18 to 30 inches of snow pack in some parts of northwest Iowa.