The weather in December has followed a trend that’s familiar to Iowans this year. State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says this month will average slightly warmer than normal, despite some bitterly cold temperatures around mid-December.
“Temperatures down as low as minus 29 degrees at Rock Rapids back on December the 18th, so episodes of very cold weather, but the first week and also the last 10 days or so of the month have been much above normal, so basically canceling out that cold period, so overall kind of an average month for temperatures,” Hillaker says.
Some unusually warm conditions arrived last weekend. “The warm spot came on Christmas night. In southeast Iowa, Keokuk got up to 60 degrees just before midnight the end of Christmas Day,” Hillaker says.
This month will also enter the books as slightly wetter than normal, with a statewide average of 1.5 inches of precipitation. Sections of northeast Iowa helped boost those numbers after getting over 20 inches of snow in December.
Hillaker says the average statewide temperature for 2016 was 51.7 degrees. “Probably will go into the books as the fifth warmest year on record in Iowa,” Hillaker says. “The most recent warmer one was four years ago in 2012, which was about one degree warmer yet than this year.”
In addition to being warmer than normal, the weather in 2016 will be remembered for record-or-near-record flooding. “A large area of the state from the Forest City/Mason City area eastward through Charles City, Decorah, New Hampton, Cresco — those areas — all had their wettest year on record this year,” Hillaker says, “and actually broke the record by quite a large amount in many places.”
Many areas of north-central and northeast Iowa recorded over 50-inches of precipitation during the year. “The highest total I’m aware of at the moment came at Charles City: 58.59 inches of precipitation there for this year and the (previous) record amount was 51.35 (inches) set in 1999 in that location,” Hillaker says.
Meanwhile, it was a relatively dry year over sections of southern Iowa. “This would be places such as from roughly about the Lamoni area, maybe as far north as Oskaloosa and then back down southeastward toward Burlington, but many areas more than a foot rainfall less-than-usual this year,” Hillaker says, “so quite a contrast to the rest of the state.”
A total of 43 tornadoes touched down in Iowa this year. “That’s four less than the recent period average, but I guess the good news in that is most of those were on the weaker side in terms of strength of tornadoes,” Hillaker says. “There were just two that were rated EF2 on the tornado-intensity scale and both of those were on July 17th, both in Benton County.”