Most downtown Columbus pedestrians wore shirts or blouses Monday, as unseasonably warm temperatures approached record highs.
Monday’s unofficial high of 69 degrees would make it the second-warmest Dec. 3 on record. The warmest was 73 degrees set in 1982, according to the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. The second-highest was 67 degrees set in 1970.
The balmy conditions were the result of high pressure located southeast of Indiana that pumped warm and moist air into the region on southerly winds, according to the National Weather Service.
However, a cold front was expected to approach south-central Indiana overnight. Forecasters said this weather system is expected to bring periods of rain, as well as afternoon highs mostly in the 50s for the rest of the week. The front is expected to stall out over the Indiana-Kentucky border by Friday, keeping rain in our forecast through the weekend.
The good news is that below-freezing temperatures are not expected to return until next week. That’s unusual, considering that the average temperature for central Indiana in December is 31.6 degrees, while the average December precipitation is 3.17 inches of rain, with 6.9 inches of snowfall.
Meteorologist Mike Koch, with the National Weather Service, said above-normal precipitation and temperatures are in the 30-day forecast for the rest of December.
“But after that, the long-range predictions don’t really have a good feel for the rest of the winter,” Koch said. “We don’t have any El Nino or La Nina this year. That’s why there’s no clear signal.”
El Nino events are large climate disturbances rooted in the Pacific Ocean that often result in drier conditions in the Midwest, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website. La Nina is a coupled ocean-atmosphere phenomenon often associated with higher-than-average precipitation for Indiana.
If the above-normal precipitation levels continue through February, it will help create good planting conditions next spring for area farmers.
Many remain concerned that the annual rainfall in Bartholomew County remains 15 to 26 inches below normal, depending on the location said Bartholomew County Purdue Extension Office Educator Mike Ferree.
“If we could get 3 to 4 inches a month, that amount would get us pretty close to where we need to be,” Ferree said. “We need our soil moisture recharged and more rain for our ground water supplies, especially for irrigation.”
Ferree said the precipitation needs to fall evenly over the winter months, not all at once during a short period of time.