DES MOINES, Iowa – There are mild winters, and there are bitterly cold winters, but quantifying them is a little more nuanced.
Luckily, State Climatologist Harry Hillaker, above, has compiled a meteorological summary of this past winter, and if your intuitions were that it was particularly cold, you’ve got it exactly right.
“Overall, [this winter ranks] 9th coldest in 141 years of state records,” says Hillaker. “The coldest midwinter season and the coldest in 35 years, and actually just two winters – ’35-’36 and ’78-’79 – in the last century were colder than this one. The others that were higher up on the list were back in the 1880s, which was a nasty decade for very cold weather in Iowa. So it’s quite unusual.”
Hillaker also notes that another defining feature of the past winter was its persistence; colder temperatures began all the way back in mid-October, and still haven’t really let up, even with relatively warmer temperatures in the last few days.
That kind of persistence is also a key to the closest thing we have to an educated guess at the moment on what to expect during this year’s growing season.
“Whatever you had a preponderance of, you’re historically likely to see more of that,” Hillaker says. “We’ve had a very cold winter obviously, so that would somewhat increase the odds of the spring being cooler than usual. In fact, there’s even a bit of correlation even into the summer season as well.”
Hillaker is careful to point out that looking that far ahead isn’t a guarantee that this year will be cooler than normal.
“But there’s always exceptions” says Hillaker. “It doesn’t work out that way every time.”