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Unseasonably warm weather likely to continue

December 29, 2011 at 01:20 PM

Prairie State Outdoors

Ice anglers, skiers and eagle watchers will have to be patient.

The National Weather Service predicts this unseasonably mild winter will continue for at least the next couple of weeks, with highs near 50 expected today and into the New Year’s weekend, according to James Auten, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Lincoln office.

“We’re going to stay mild and we’re not going to get any cold episodes over the next two weeks, which means that when we do get precipitation, it will be rain,” Auten said.

On average, Springfield receives about 4 1/2 inches of snow by the end of December, he said. So far this year, only one-tenth of an inch has accumulated.

The last time it snowed less than an inch by the end of December was 1994, according to the weather service. That winter, an inch didn’t accumulate until Jan. 6, 1995.

Southern Illinois received a blanket of wet snow earlier this week, receiving about two inches before the snow turned into rain.

The mild weather is caused by a combination of La Nina — an ocean-atmosphere phenomenon that affects the weather — and a change in airstream patterns that keeps chilly, Arctic winds away from the Midwest, Auten said.

The La Nina pattern originates in the eastern Pacific Ocean off the west coast of South America, near the Equator. During a La Nina episode, the sea surface temperature drops.

“That temperature in that area has an effect on the weather pattern and the flow of storms across the Pacific and into the U.S.,” Auten said.

Also factoring into the unseasonably warm, wet winter is a change in airstreams.

“It’s almost like there’s multiple streets in the atmosphere that the systems flow through, and normally there’s one that moves across the United States,” Auten said. “When that happens, then the colder air that’s up over the Arctic is not allowed to get down into the United States.”

But don’t hurry to put the gloves and galoshes in the back of the closet.

Jim Angel, state climatologist with the Illinois State Water Survey in Champaign, said snow can be expected during even the mildest winters.

“They’re kind of thinking this pattern is going to continue all through the winter months here,” said Angel of the nation’s forecasters. “I would also caution, though, that doesn’t mean we’ll never have to lift a snow shovel again. We almost never totally miss winter, but sometimes it can be short.”

~ Rhys Saunders, The State Journal-Register

Warm weather cools business at ski area
ANDALUSIA, Ill. (AP) - This winter’s unusually warm weather has cost one Illinois ski park $250,000 so far. 

The Rock Island Argus reports (http://bit.ly/tXsA0v) that Ski Snowstar Winter Sports Park in the Quad Cities area opened Monday. That’s 16 days behind schedule. 

Normally, Snowstar doesn’t open until the temperature falls below 25 degrees three days in a row. But park managers decided to use snow machines to open about 10 of the park’s 16 ski runs this week. 

Closing the park during ski season costs about $15,600 a day. The park has already lost about 25 percent of this season’s expected profits. 

That delay also cut into the jobs of about 240 seasonal employees. 

Temperatures are expected to stay above freezing this week.

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