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T-shirt weather

High temps, lack of moisture could spell trouble in long term

December 4, 2012
By BRANDON L. SUMMERS ( , Messenger News

The temperature was over 60 degrees on Monday, warm for early December.

"We've been going 20, 25 degrees above normal for the last several days," Jeff Johnson, National Weather Service meteorologist, said. "Our normal high right now is about 40."

The reasons for the warm weather, Johnson said, are a southerly flow and ridging aloft.

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"Southerly winds bringing warm air from the south, a lack of polar or arctic air from Canada," he said. "The weather pattern sets up sometimes that way, and that's what happened."

This has happened every year for the last four years, Johnson said.

"If you look at the last four years, it's happened all of them. We've been at 60 at least one point in December," he said. "It's not unprecedented. It's just what can happen around here in late fall. You can get periods of mild weather."

According to Johnson, this isn't part of a greater, long-term trend. It is a short-term weather pattern.

"You can't tie it to a long-term trend," he said.

Matt Cosgrove, Webster County Conservation director, said the warm weather has impacted the local environment.

"From the wildlife perspective, it shortens up their winter," he said. "The fat reserves they've gained over the fall typically, even if we have a rougher winter, at least the duration won't be as long. So from a wildlife standpoint, it makes it a lot easier for them to get through a winter here in Iowa."

A lack of snow means there will less moisture available in the spring, Cosgrove said.

"Going into the fall here, with already the dry weather we've had all summer long, we really could have used a wet fall and definitely a wet winter," he said. "It's yet to be determined what winter's going to bring, but we could definitely use some snow to replace some of that soil moisture we lost throughout this dry period."

He added, "That could have a very serious impact, certainly on our rivers, lakes, streams, that sort of thing next year, if we don't see a decent snow amount over the winter."

The mild late autumn temperatures have corresponded with greater weather events, Cosgrove said.

"Not just here, but nationally we're seeing bigger rainfall events, more severe weather activity," he said. "That's what we're seeing, although over the last few years is this current dry spell we're in now, but we are seeing more severe weather when it does occur."

The warmer days have also positively affected recreation, Cosgrove said.

"From that standpoint, it's been great," he said. "People are being able to be out and use the trails and do things they normally wouldn't be able to do in December. But our winter activities are lacking. Certainly without snow there's no sledding or ice fishing."

While today and yesterday are warm weather days, the temperature will become more normal later in the week, Johnson said.

"Thursday through Sunday we're looking at seasonable temperatures," he said. "There's a few chances of precip(itation) out there, but no big storms on the horizon. That's probably the biggest thing, we continue to run below normal precipitation and the drought continues."



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