Home Audio What does the past winter tell us about the upcoming growing season?

What does the past winter tell us about the upcoming growing season?

To hear Brandon’s coverage of the past winter’s place in the record books with State Climatologist Harry Hillaker, click here.

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.”