Extremes characterize "normal" Iowa weather year

2013 was 25th coldest year in 141 years of record keeping, climatologist says

Josh Smith and Brogan Smith, 4, pick themselves up after sledding at Jones Park in Cedar Rapids last week. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
Josh Smith and Brogan Smith, 4, pick themselves up after sledding at Jones Park in Cedar Rapids last week. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

Precipitation statistics could lead future cursory analysts to jump to the mistaken conclusion that 2013 was a pretty normal year.

While this year’s statewide average precipitation was just 0.14 inches above normal (35.41 inches vs. 35.27 inches), back-to-back record wet months in April and May – with a combined statewide average of 15.57 inches -- made it seem otherwise.

That surfeit of moisture was balanced out by a mid-to-late-summer drought that seemed all the drier in contrast.

This year was also “on the cool side,” according to State Climatologist Harry Hillaker, who pegged it as the 25th coldest in 141 years of record keeping.

With an average temperature of 46.4 degrees, it was 1.5 degrees cooler than normal, and it featured cooler-than-normal average temperatures in every month except August, September and October.

Its chill was most pronounced in March, April, November and December, respectively, the 17th, 9th, 37th and 18th coolest in the past 141 years, according to Hillaker.

This year seemed even cooler when contrasted with 2012, whose 51.9-degree average temperature was the third warmest on record.

It also seemed even wetter in comparison with last year, when the statewide average rainfall measured 26.54 inches, making 2012 the state’s 19th driest year.

Though the statewide average precipitation was normal, there were extremes. Precipitation was 12 inches above normal in northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County, while it was 8 inches below normal in northwest Iowa’s Sac County, Hillaker said.

The cool, wet spring delayed the planting of crops and caused more than 613,000 Iowa acres that had been intended for corn to remain unplanted.

In late June, just when much of the state seemed one heavy rainfall away from catastrophic flooding, the weather abruptly turned dry, prompting discussion of a flash drought.

A statewide average of 3.34 inches fell in July and August, making that two-month period the fourth driest July and August on record.

Statewide, August was the seventh-driest on record, its 1.57-inch average barely more than a third of the normal 4.2 inches.

The state’s hottest 2013 temperature, 106 degrees, was recorded May 14 in Sioux City; its coldest, -27 degrees, Dec. 24 at Osceola.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.