CHAMPAIGN — The final numbers aren’t in yet, but last month is likely to be the fourth-warmest September on record in Champaign.
It would also be the warmest September since 1998, said Illinois State Climatologist Trent Ford.
“The September average temperature in Champaign (not including Monday) is 71.9 degrees, which is 5.7 degrees above normal,” he said.
The average high recorded by the Illinois State Water Survey in September was 83.3, also more than 5 degrees above normal.
“It’s been a very warm September,” Ford said.
Until this past weekend, it was also a relatively dry September, with less than 2 inches of rain.
Nearly as much drenched Champaign over the weekend.
“We almost doubled the monthly rainfall over the weekend,” said Jeff Frame, an associate professor at the UI Department of Atmospheric Sciences. “And that dry period stretched back into July.”
Indeed, much of Champaign, Vermilion, Ford and Iroquois counties were either considered abnormally dry or in moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
But that was last updated Thursday, and Ford expects the weekend rain to change the drought situation in this week’s report.
“We did receive quite a bit of precipitation in northern Champaign County, Ford County,” he said. “It looks like over the last week, this area, northern Champaign County, got between 1.5 and 2.5 inches of rain. As you move north, Ford and Livingston counties got about 4 inches.”
The weekend storms were caused by a large high-pressure system in the southeastern U.S., Frame and National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Baker said.
Air flows clockwise around a high-pressure system, so warm and humid air was pumped from the Gulf of Mexico and Texas into the Midwest.
“What that’s been able to do is bring us numerous waves of heavy rainfall and thunderstorms,” Baker said.
The storms were good “from a drought-monitoring standpoint,” Ford said. “But I’m not sure what that means for folks trying to get into the fields and get their crops dried down.”
For Mark Pflugmacher, who farms across northern Champaign County, the rain knocked some of the leaves off the soybeans, which should help them “ripen up more even.”
But for corn, he said “it didn’t really help much.”
For many farmers, their corn is mostly done growing, and they’re waiting for it to become dry enough to take to a grain elevator.
“The rain would have been very helpful in July,” said Pflugmacher, who started harvesting a bit last week.
Only 4 percent of Illinois corn has been harvested, down from 45 percent a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And only 1 percent of Illinois soybeans have been harvested, down from 32 percent this time last year.
Local farmers were hit by a rainy spring, which led to late planting, and a dry summer, stunting growth.
About 45 percent of Illinois corn and soybeans are considered to be in good or excellent condition; at this time last year, that figure was 80 percent.
After a couple more days of high heat, more storms are expected Wednesday night into Thursday morning, Baker said.
“Once that comes through, we’ll cool down to temperatures that are more fall-like and more near normal this time of year, to lows in the mid- to upper-40s and highs in the mid-60s or so,” Baker said.
Frame said he’s looking forward to a more “autumnal feel.”
“I like having the windows open at home,” he said. “Obviously, when it’s 90 degrees and humid, you can’t really do that.”