CHAMPAIGN — Despite the record-breaking heat of the last week, one local record apparently will remain standing: most consecutive record-setting days.
When the temperature hit 79 degrees Monday afternoon, it marked the sixth consecutive day of a record high in Champaign-Urbana. The previous high for March 19 was 77 degrees in 1921.
But the all-time local record for consecutive record temperatures — nine straight days of record heat from July 5, 1936, to July 13, 1936 — appears to be safe. The National Weather Service forecasts a high of 83 degrees on Wednesday, two degrees short of the record of 85 degrees set in 1907.
"Wednesday will probably be a little bit more difficult, due to the fact that the record is so high that day. But we won't be too shy of it," said Matt Barnes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Services in Lincoln.
Tuesday's record high, however, is 79 degrees, set on March 20, 1921, and the weather service's forecast high is 81.
The week-long wave of warmth is already a record for March. No other period in March weather records has more than two days of consecutive highs from the same year.
The local record warmth started on March 14 with a high of 81 degrees, followed by 81 on March 15, 79 on March 16, 81 on March 17, 80 on Sunday and 82 on Monday. The high of 78 degrees on March 13 tied the record for that date.
"The jet stream is running well to the north, well into Canada right now. Typically at this time of the year it would be a bit further south, occasionally dipping down and giving us outbursts of colder weather. Right now it's more of a summertime pattern, well into Canada and keeping all the cold air way to the north," Barnes said. "We've had days and days of the same air mass in place and it's just warmed up over time. The southerly flow and the sunshine just naturally warms things up.
"The really unusual thing about this is the longevity of it. Occasionally in March, we'll have temperatures that rise up into the 70s, and there may even be an 80-degree day. But the unusual thing is the number of consecutive days that this weather pattern has persisted."
Further, as of Monday the mean high temperature for the month has been 63.5 degrees, more than 13 degrees above normal. All but four days this month have seen highs of 53 degrees or more.
The average low this month is 38 degrees, 8 degrees above normal. The temperature has been below freezing only seven days this month, the low of 21 degrees on March 5.
One concern among central Illinoisans this spring is that the mild temperatures of the last several months will create a bug bonanza.
"For the most part it will make no difference," said Phil Nixon, an Extension entomologist with the University of Illinois. "Insects don't start developing until they reach about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. So the mild winter temperatures that we as warm-blooded animals think are mild are really no difference to the insects versus single-digits and teens. It doesn't make a whole lot of difference to them."
Insects aren't affected by cold temperatures unless they are "20s and 30s and 40s below zero, not single digits. So from the insect's point of view this winter was no different than others."
Some central Illinois insects, he said, "will start dying off as larvae underground if the soil is frozen a foot deep for at least three weeks, but that takes a lot colder temperatures than what we have in a normal winter."
The biggest impact on summer insects, Nixon said, is the spring weather.
"Insects are susceptible to a variety of fungal diseases which are specialized on insect. And fungal diseases do better under cool, damp conditions in the spring. So if we have a wet, cooler May then we're going to have a lot fewer insects. If we have a warm, dry May then as many don't die off and we'll have a fairly large number. What's going to happen to the bugs this summer is yet to come."
And those tiny black bugs that invaded the area last week? Nothing to worry about, he said.
"We have them every spring," he said. "What happens, though, is that we don't have as many at one time. These are fungus gnats and they feed on decaying debris from the fall before. The adults come out under warmer conditions. Usually they come out over a span of several weeks. I see them every spring, but they come out in smaller numbers over several weeks.
"Usually you have weeks in the 50s and 60s. It doesn't go from 40 degrees to the high 70s or 80s. I think what happened is that the number of fungus gnats that come out in a month-long period came out in one week. That's why people saw so many of them and why it was so obvious to them."
Meanwhile, all National Weather Service forecasts — 8- to 14-day, one-month and three-month — foresee continued above-average temperatures in central Illinois.
The shorter-term forecast by the weather service's office in Lincoln says that high temperatures will cool to 67 degrees by the weekend, but that is still more than 10 degrees above the daily normals.
"The upcoming weekend and early next week look to be mild, not quite as warm as we are currently, but above normal for this time of the year. There's nothing cold on the way," Barnes said.
Barnes was reluctant to predict, however, that central Illinois has seen its last frost of the year.
"It would be very unusual if we had. I'm sure there will be some more bouts of colder weather during April. We won't be consistently warm, but the trends are for it to be above normal," he said.