STEVE'S "WILD" WORLD OF WEATHER...
When I'm wondering about weather folklore and historical events this is the man I go to. With more than 50 years of statistical and observational research, he's the dude! When it comes to lunar cycles, woolly bear caterpillars, insects, bugs, and animals, he tracks them, records them, and establishes ties to weather patterns. Only one person takes climatology to a level like this. He even has a lifetime achievement award from the National Weather Service for his devotion to data and science. His name is Steve Gottschalk by way of Lowden, Iowa. He's a knowledgeable and interesting man. I'm grateful to him for lending his unique perspective to the site. Steve's "wild" world of weather can be found regularly right here on TSwails.com. Take it away Steve!
December 100 Years Ago
According to the state's climate records, December of 1922's average temperature was near normal with 24.0 degrees. Some northern stations in the state had 12 days with 0 degree readings while Keokuk had just 1 day. The coldest reading during the month was -25 at Decorah, Nora Springs and Rock Rapids on the 18th. The warmest reading was 65 at Thurman on the 29th.
The average precipitation for the month was 0.37" making it one of the state's driest on record. The greatest monthly total was 0.97" at Wescott and the least was a trace at 4 different stations. The freezing rain that fell on the 6-7th lasted for several days causing a lot of automobile and pedestrian accidents
The average snowfall for the month was 2.2" which was 4.0" below normal. The greatest monthly total was 8.0" at Milford and the least was a trace at 8 different stations.
The highest wind gust was 46 mph from the N.W. at Sioux City on the 11th. The Mississippi River closed at Dubuque on the 13th.
Can Fergie The Cat Predict The Weather?
My daughter's family got a kitten on Christmas Day last year. She was yellow and white colored and they called her Fergie. When she got older she started running around the house and being wild on certain days. My daughter texted me when Fergie was acting up and I started keeping track in a journal. On the 18 days she was wild the weather was windy or there was some precipitation or both. She has a perfect record so far. Some times it's just hours before the event and other times, it's the day before. I will continue to keep track of her predictions.
Two Memorable December Snowstorms
On Dec. 14-15, 1987, a snowstorm swept across portions of the state with the heaviest totals across the eastern sections. Thunder and lightning accompanied the snowfall with winds gusting to 42 mph on the 15th blowing and drifting the snow. Some of the heavier totals in the area were:
Clinton - 12.5"
Lowden - 10.4"
Vinton - 8.5"
Dubuque - 8.3"
Maquoketa - 8.0"
Cedar Rapids & Iowa City - 6.0"
The average monthly snowfall total for state was 9.7". The greatest monthly total was 26.0" at Waukon.
The 2nd storm occurred on Dec. 2-3, 1990. The eastern half of the state received the greatest amounts. Easterly winds gusted to 50 mph or higher blowing the heavy, wet snow into 6 foot drifts. Thunder and lightning accompanied the snowfall. Some of the heavier totals were:
Dubuque - 15.0"
Lowden - 14.5"
Columbus Jct. - 12.0"
Tipton & Anamosa - 11.0"
Iowa City - 10.0"
Cedar Rapids - 9.8"
The average monthly snowfall for the state was 11.8" which is 6.6" above normal. Northwood had the greatest total with 27.9", Dubuque - 18.8", Lowden - 16.5", Cedar Rapids and Clinton - 13.3".
The month ended 4.0 degrees colder than normal. At 6 p.m. on the 20th, the temperature ranged from 45 degrees at the Quad Cities to -11 at Hawarden in N.W. Iowa. On the 22nd the wind chill was down to -67 at Mason City. On the morning of the 23rd, the thermometer was down to -34 at Algona.
Our Decembers Are Getting Warmer
Going through Iowa's temperature records for the month of December I found that the 1930's (1930-39) were the warmest with an average of 26.2 degrees followed by 2010-19's average of 25.8. The coldest decade was the 1980's with a monthly average of 22.1 degrees, this was followed by the 1870's average of 22.5.
The 4 decades from the 1880's through 1919 saw the monthly average remain rather stable with the average hovering between 23.2 to 23.5 degrees. The 1930's to the 1950's were the warmest 30 year period with an average of 25.6. The 1960's to the 1980's were cooler with an average of 23.0 degrees. The 1990's were warmer again with a monthly average of 25.3, the early 2000's(2000-09) were cooler with an average of 23.2 and the period 2010-19 was warmer with 25.8 degrees. The average for the 2020's(2020-21) was 29.6 degrees. Here are the December averages by 30 year periods:
1873-1899 - 23.2
1880-1909 - 23.4
1890-1919 - 23.3
1900-1929 - 23.5
1910-1939 - 24.5
1920-1949 - 25.2
1930-1959 - 25.6
1940-1969 - 24.7
1950-1979 - 24.1
1960-1989 - 23.0
1970-1999 - 23.6
1980-2009 - 23.5
1990-2019 - 24.8
2000-2021 - 24.9
An Old Country Almanac For The Week Of December 8-14th
Dec. 8th - On this day in 1946, unseasonably warm weather across the state with the temperature hitting 70 degrees at Corning, Mt. Ayr, Marshalltown and Oskaloosa.
Dec. 9th - Dec.8-9, 2009, a winter storm sweeps the state with average snowfall totals of 10.2". Knoxville received 17.0" and Belle Plaine - 16.0". Considerable blowing and drifting blocked many roads. Look for colder temps., rain or snow and wind.
Dec. 10th - On this day in 1977, there were blizzard conditions and bitter cold across the eastern 2/3's of the state. Below 0 temperatures with 50 mph winds drove the wind chills down to -70. Some power lines were blown down and 10 foot drifts closed roads and stranded motorists.
Dec. 11th - Dec. 10-11, 2000 a snowstorm sweeps the state. Cedar Rapids received 10.5" and Anamosa - 10.1". Look for warmer temps., some rain or snow and wind.
Dec. 12th - Dec. 11-12, 1961 heavy snow and blizzard conditions with 7" to 10" from S.W. to N.E. across the state. Marshalltown received 10.0" and Dubuque - 9.0". Traffic was at a standstill.
Dec. 13th - the Geminid Meteor Shower is tonight. It's St. Lucy's Day - "Lucy light, the shortest day, the longest night." The 13th was the shortest day day of the year in the old calendar.
Dec. 14th - Ember Day, whatever the weather is like today it will be for all of January. On this day in 1975, a rare December tornado sweeps the rural areas south of Maquoketa inflicting F1 damage. Other locations saw straight line wind damage from severe thunderstorms.
Well, that's all I have for you in this edition. Until next time, on the "wild" side of weather, I'm Steve Gottschalk.