Warm temperatures won’t last, but continue to break records

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Warm temperatures won’t last, but continue to break records

Students take advantage of the warm weather and play frisbee on the quad on Monday.

Students take advantage of the warm weather and play frisbee on the quad on Monday.

Brian Bauer

Students take advantage of the warm weather and play frisbee on the quad on Monday.

Brian Bauer

Brian Bauer

Students take advantage of the warm weather and play frisbee on the quad on Monday.

This February has featured unseasonably warm weather, especially in recent days. Monday will be the fourth day in a row the temperature either set or tied a record high, said Jeffery Frame, assistant professor in atmospheric sciences.   

Monday’s high temperature was 71 degrees in Champaign, which matches last year’s record. Historically, the average high on February 20th in Champaign is 39 degrees with an average low of 22 degrees, according to The Weather Channel. Frame said these recent high temperatures more resemble the average high temperature in early May.

“We’re being spoiled here for February,” Frame said. “It feels like finals are next week.”

Frame attributes these high temperatures to a big ridge of high pressure in the upper atmosphere, bringing warm air. But despite the spike in temperatures, Frame does not believe it will last.

“Right now, it looks like there’s pretty good indication that we’ll have a strong cold front on Friday, which will knock temperatures down to seasonal averages for next weekend,” Frame said.

However, students are enjoying the change and plan to take advantage of the sunny days.

“It’s pretty nice, I hope winter goes away. I’m not a fan of winter,” said freshman in engineering Piotr Swiech.

LAS sophomore Oscar Medrano said that this chain of warm days probably signals the end of winter.

“The weather has been weird. From now on, it’s probably going to start getting warmer. It’ll be nice,” said Medrano. “There will be more people on the quad and more drunk people on the streets at night.”

Frame disagrees with Medrano, saying we’re not out of the woods in terms of snow.

“We likely haven’t seen our last snow of the year; we’re not done with cold temperatures,” Frame said.

Frame predicted that temperatures will be near record highs until Thursday, with a cold front arriving on Friday.

“Beyond that, it gets more uncertain,” Frame said. “I’m not seeing any sustained periods of weather like this through the first half of March.”

Although they are enjoying the weather, some students worry about the possible consequences of these high temperatures.

“I’m from Chicago, so I’m alarmed that it’s February and this warm.” said Stefanie Anderson, freshman in Engineering. “As nice as this feels, I would like it if winter took its natural course because it is surely affecting the environment.”

James Angel, Illinois state climatologist, sees possible consequences for farmers and wildlife.

“I’m a little concerned because the warm weather can trick trees, shrubs, and perennials into ‘waking up’ too early, only to get nipped by frost later on,” Angel said in an email.

While trees and bushes on campus likely won’t be negatively affected, Angel said the weather could pose a big problem for crops.

“It could be a real problem for apple and peach orchards in Illinois,” Angel said. “We have lost entire crops in past years under similar circumstances (warm February-March, followed a frost in April).”

While some may attribute this big jump in weather solely to climate change, Frame describes this unseasonably warm weather differently.

“The average temperature of the Earth has warmed 2 to 3 (degrees) Fahrenheit in the last 130 years,” Frame said. “The easier way to look at this, in the early 20th century, a high would be 68 Fahrenheit today. The extra CO2 we pumped into the atmosphere changed it to 71 Fahrenheit.”

“It’s not because of climate change we’re at 71 instead of 40, we’re at 71 instead of 68,” Frame said.  

Even though students remain hopeful that winter is gone for good, Frame doesn’t predict an early spring.

“In terms of looking ahead to spring break, April and May, there’s not a whole lot of predictive value,” Frame said. “This doesn’t mean it’ll be a warm or cold spring.”

Jessica Berbey and Andrea Flores contributed to this report.

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