When people ask what it’s like to live in Chicago, I tell them, “Seven months a year, it’s the greatest city in America.”
The other five, of course, are often bitterly cold, snowy, and windy. And living there in the dead of winter, you learn to climb flights of steps coated in inches-thick sheets of ice that last all winter. Your hair ices over if you spend too long outdoors, brittle strands snapping off at a touch. You can go weeks in January and February without spending a comfortable second outdoors. When March rolls around, 25 degree weather becomes an excuse to break out the lightweight jacket.
But Chicago is having a weird winter this year. So far this February, the city has experienced 18 days at about 40 degrees — a very unusual weather pattern in the Midwestern lakeshore metropolis — and one five-day period between February 18 and February 22 where the high temperatures were 67 degrees, 70 degrees, 67 degrees, 69 degrees, 65 degrees, and 67 degrees.
That’s not the most shocking part. Chicago is a wildly snowy city, where schools regularly stay open through snowstorms that would completely shut down other urban centres. It’s typical for the entire city to be coated in un-melted snow for a whole winter, with a massive melt coming in spring.
But this year, Chicago has gone the entirety of January and February without any snow on the ground — and isn’t expected to before the month closes Tuesday night. According to the local National Weather Service Station, that’s a first in the city’s 146-year record.
Of course, the unusually warm weather hasn’t been concentrated in Chicago. NOAA hasn’t yet released its official report on the month’s weather (usually the third coldest, after January and December), but much of the East Coast and Midwest has experienced unusual or record-breaking warmth. Thousands of warmth record were set across the country between February 17 and 24, with just 41 cold records in the same period.
Still, a snowless January and February in Chicago is a truly shocking development.
Chicago’s about to do something its never done in 146 years of record keeping: go the entire months of Jan & Feb with no snow on the ground.
— NWS Chicago (@NWSChicago) February 26, 2017