JOLIET – More than three times the average snowfall – to this point in the calendar – has fallen in the Joliet area so far this month.
Yet winter didn’t officially start until Wednesday morning.
But for meteorologists, winter begins Dec. 1 and ends March 1. This three-month span is the coldest stretch in the Northern Hemisphere.
To meteorologists, it’s not a surprise that three measurable snowfalls have hit the area. It isn’t normal, however.
National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Birk said Tuesday that not only has the area surpassed its average snowfall to this date, but it also has surpassed the average accumulation for the entire month of December.
Birk said the average snowfall as of this point in the calendar is 5.1 inches and the average December snowfall amounts to about 8.2 inches.
But three early-season snowfalls have blasted through those averages.
Joliet Weather Center Director Jeremy Hylka said he’s recorded 15.2 inches of snowfall so far in Joliet. The first snowfall – on the first weekend of the month – was 7.1 inches, the second snowfall was 5.1 inches and the third – this past weekend – dropped 3 inches on the area.
Hylka said that though he didn’t have specific data on hand, he’s sure it’s the most snow the area has seen in recent years for this early in the season.
Though there’s snow all over the area now, warmer weather in the forecast have left some wondering whether there will be a white Christmas on Sunday.
“That’s the $10 million question,” Hylka said.
He said it appears the jet stream is fluctuating and will return the arctic, bitter air that has blanketed the Midwest back to Canada. This should bring milder air to the Joliet area this week with high temperatures increasing by the day, until they hit the 40s on Christmas and higher on Monday.
“Our chance of a white Christmas is slipping away quickly because that snow cover will start to melt [when temperatures are above 32],” Hylka said.
The next storm slated for the area is expected to hit on Christmas Eve and Christmas.
“It’s a little early,” Hylka said. “But models are showing it may begin with a wintry mix of rain and snow, then rain on Sunday with the potential for thunderstorms. So we may have a thundery Christmas and even warmer temperatures on Monday.”
Birk said it’s possible some snow will still be left on Christmas morning, but it will certainly melt away if temperatures are consistently above freezing.
Although residents have experienced abnormal bitter cold and snowfalls above average this December, weather may be more mild over the next couple weeks. Birk said current models show temperatures in the 30s will continue through early January.
But after that, the weather may return to the cold January and February to which Joliet area residents have grown accustomed.
“It’s certainly possible we’ll trend back on the cold side of things,” Birk said. “That typical Chicago area weather for January and February.”