The record high in Iowa in 2013 was 106 degrees — back in May — and the record low a minus 27 just last week. State Climatologist Harry Hillaker says temperatures in Iowa for 2013 have averaged out to slightly below normal. “Rainfall wise, almost right at normal, but as usual, that doesn’t tell the whole story,” Hillaker says. This past spring was very wet and the late summer and early fall were dry, which means precipitation levels for 2013 in Iowa average out to be average, according to Hillaker.
“Overall, though, this year was quite a bit wetter than 2012, thanks to that wet spring,” Hillaker says. “…Going into winter this year with more soil moisture in the ground than we had at this point last year and actually even at this point two years ago as well, so we’re in a little bit better shape in soil moisture now than the last couple of years, but still quite a bit drier than what would be usual going into the winter season.” The months of May and April were the wettest ever recorded in Iowa, while August and September were very dry, but don’t rank as some of the driest ever.
Hillaker says there were pockets of southeast Iowa that were exceptionally dry this summer. “The Burlington area, for example, had just a trace of rainfall for the full month of August which was easily a record low for that area of the state,” Hillaker says, “and there were, you know, scattered areas of the state that set some records as far as low totals in July and August and maybe in a few cases in September, but nothing where the state average was quite that low.” Hillaker uses the phrase “consistently cool” to describe the temperatures recorded in Iowa this past year.
“Got off to a January-February period that was a little bit milder than unusual for mid-winter, but still nothing really out of the ordinary, but then a really cold spring season — especially March and April — and a relatively mild summer as well ’til we got rather late into August where the summer heat finally returned and had a rather warm end to the summer into the early fall,” Hillaker says. “More recently, November and December, of course quite a bit colder than usual once again.” The temperature dropped to 27 degrees below zero on Christmas Eve in Osceola.
“That was easily our lowest temperature of the calendar year and actually, our lowest temperature anywhere in Iowa in almost three years,” Hillaker says. The year’s record high — of 106 degrees — was recorded in Sioux City on May 14th. “Which is about two weeks earlier than we’ve ever seen a temperature that high in the state, but that ended up being the highest reading of the whole year, actually by quite a ways,” Hillaker says. “Most of the state didn’t see triple-digit temperatures.” Hillaker says that 133-degree variation between highs and lows is unique on the planet.
The only other place besides the upper Midwest that sees such wide temperature swings is in Russia. Hillacer says the climates in these two areas are “so contrasting” because they in the middle of a large land mass, without the “moderating” influence of oceans or large lakes. Russia actually straddles two continents and Hillaker says South America isn’t as large as North America, so that’s why temperatures in the southern hemisphere don’t vary that much.