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Publication Abstract

The Unusual Weather of 2009 in Illinois Created Major Economic Impacts Changnon, Stanley, James Angel, David Kristovich, 2010  Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, IL,  ISWS RI-120    Full Text Available

Abnormal weather conditions existed in Illinois during every month from March 2009 through November 2009. March–August conditions were exceptionally wet and cool with frequent cloudy skies. The fall months brought a dry September, a cold and wet October, and a warm and dry November.

Wet, cool spring conditions delayed planting of major crops and led to flooding along many rivers. Summer temperatures were nearly 3 degrees F below normal, reducing the use of air conditioning but delaying crop maturity. Summer 2009 was rated as the 8th wettest and 11th coldest in Illinois since 1895. A shift to warm and dry weather in September, followed by cool and wet conditions in October sustained flooding and delayed harvesting of Illinois crops. Conditions shifted again in November, becoming warm and relatively dry, so corn and soybean harvesting moved forward rapidly. In early December, most soybeans had been harvested, but 15 percent of the corn crop was still in the fields. The crop harvest in 2009 was rated as the slowest ever in Illinois.

The unusual weather during the 2009 crop season led to worries over production, yet near-record-high yields were recorded for corn (174 bu/acre) and soybeans (46 bu/acre). These large yields helped farm incomes, but delays in corn drying and tillage (preparing soil for future planting) increased costs. In addition, high yields across the Corn Belt lowered crop prices, which also decreased farm incomes.

Storms in 2009 were more frequent than usual and resulted in extensive property damage in Illinois. Included were four record-setting rainstorms and several hailstorms. Storms in northern Illinois produced large hailstones of 2 inches in diameter, frequent cases of high winds with gusts greater than 60 mph, and 18 tornadoes. More than $400 million in property losses were reported along with $120 million in crop losses from severe storms.

Flooding on most rivers occurred various times during March–November 2009. The Illinois River was above flood stage for 89 consecutive days, setting a new record. Heavy rains of 2009 helped bring Lake Michigan’s level up to near average for the first time since 2004. Wet and cloudy conditions affected human behavior, including a reduction in retail shopping. Construction and repair of highways and buildings were delayed, a negative outcome in a struggling economic time across the nation.

The unusual weather in 2009 persisted through December, and some of the 2009 weather impacts continued into the following months of 2010. Corn harvesting in northern Illinois continued into January 2010, soil tillage awaited drier conditions in the spring of 2010, and fertilizer applications in the fall of 2009 were delayed until 2010. Flooding on the Illinois River and several of its tributaries also continued into January 2010.

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