Annual Weather Summary 2015

Curt Reese, Jean Spohr, and Esther Jordan

2015 marks the 130th year of weather records at the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC).  Weather data collection started in 1885 and continues today.  Weather impacts our life every day; it can affect what clothing we wear, the activities we partake in, and our travel plans.  We often take for granted our weather forecasts; we trust that it will always be available.  What many people don’t realize is the team of people it takes to collect this important information.   

George Nelson oversaw weather collection and records at the WCROC from 1995 to February 2015; Curt Reese now holds this responsibility.  However, there are many others involved in the weather records at WCROC: Jean Spohr (30 years), Joel Ekberg (10 years) and Roger Gausman (2 years).  The Farm Animal Attendants at WCROC take weekend and holiday readings: Ron Erickson, Keith Graff, Becky Hacker, Matt Hilbrands, Wayne Lesmeister and Tim Rach.  Without the help of these individuals, the weather recordings could not be done.  

Winter weather station

Figure 1: Winter weather station at the WCROC

The weather data we collect goes to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is part of a large database for weather observations.  How do we collect this data?  The temperature is automated and downloaded daily.  Precipitation is measured manually.  During the winter months, we maintain a winter station located in the pine grove next to the WCROC Administration building where snow depth and precipitation is collected (Figure 1).  The four orange flags denotes where the snow board is.  Every morning after a snow event, the snow depth is measured and the snow board is cleaned of snow.  Snow that falls in the metal canister is brought back to the office and is melted and measured.  

Close up of frost tube

Figure 3: Frost measurement, 14 inches

Frost tube

Figure 2: Frost tube (PVC pipe) in the center

Another measurement we take is frost depth (Figure 2).  The PVC pipe in the center of the picture is the frost tube. Within this PVC pipe is a clear tube filled with water and green food dye.  When the water freezes, the dye stays in the liquid water (Figure 3).  One can see that there is 14 inches of frost at the time this picture was taken.  

We also collect soil temperatures at 2”, 4” and 8” depths and evaporation pan readings.  Temperature data is used to calculate Growing Degree days and Heating Degree Days.  Data is summarized each month and at the end of the year.  

2015 Annual Weather Summary

The mean annual temperature recorded at WCROC in Morris (Jan-Dec 1886-2014) is 42.1°F.  The annual temperature for 2015 was 44.7°F, which is 2.6°F warmer than the long term annual mean.  We had 32 days in both January and February with a minimum temperature of 0°F or lower, and 38 days for all of 2015 which compares to 62 for 2014.  For the year, 4 months had below average mean temperatures, however, the mean was close to normal.  January, September, November and December had notably higher average temperatures.  The departure from the mean temperature for these months was respectively 7.0°F, 6.7°F, 7.4°F and 6.6°F. 

In 2015 we had only 4 days of high temperatures exceeding 90°F.  High Temperature for the year was 96°F on June 10th.  This temperature breaks the record of 85 °F which occurred in 1995.  Low temperature for the year was -18°F which occurred on February 5 and 23.  

Total precipitation was 27.8 inches which was 3.58 inches above normal.  We received 20.65 inches of rain during the growing season of April to August.  Average is 15.90 inches.  For the winter of 2014-2015, (October – March) we had 32.6 inches of snow, average is 36.4 inches.  For the calendar year of 2015 we recorded 33.1 inches of snow.  In March we broke the high temperature record on 16th with a temperature of 71°F. 

Weather permitted early small grain and corn planting in the spring of 2015.  Wheat was planted on April 1 and corn was planted on April 15 at WCROC.  Planting and crop growth was slowed down by rain and cold temperatures from April 19th to the 25th where lows reached 21°F on April 23.  Frost was noted in the area on May 18th and 19th.  In May we recorded 7.76 inches of precipitation.  Precipitation recorded during May was the third highest amount for this month going back to 1886.  June was dryer then normal but near normal precipitation occurred in July followed by 6.31 inches of precipitation in August.  3.05 inches of precipitation was recorded on August 7 breaking the record for that date.  The previous record was 2.11 inches in 1986.  Warmer than average temperatures occurred in September and October which allowed crops to dry down and harvest to proceed quickly.  We accumulated 2486 Growing Degree Days from May to September for 2015. 

The growing season ended with the first killing frost which occurred on October 16 with a temperature of 25°F.  Heating Degree Day in 2015 totaled 8009.  Annual evaporation for May to September was 21.10 inches.  

Staff at WCROC would like to thank George Nelson for his 20 years of service to oversee the weather records at the WCROC.

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