CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Much of the Midwest experienced the hottest March on record this year and Illinois had its warmest winter since 1895, a pair of climate-study agencies at the University of Illinois said Tuesday.
All that warm weather has some farmers and gardeners planting weeks ahead of schedule. It also comes with a warning: No matter how unlikely it may seem, April in Illinois and its neighbors could still bring plant-damaging cold.
In all, according to Midwestern Regional Climate Center, nine Midwestern states had their warmest March ever: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Average temperatures in the states ranged from 57.6 degrees in Kentucky to 42 degrees in Minnesota. The records that were broken had been set in either the mid-1940s or 1910 in all nine states.
And in Illinois, according to the state's Water Survey, the January through March period was the warmest stretch of winter since 1895, with an average temperature of 40.9 degrees - more than nine degrees above normal.
State Climatologist Jim Angel said much of the country had an unusually warm March.
"It's pretty much from the Rockies to New York there that we've had the above-normal temperatures," Angel said. "So it's been pretty extraordinary."
All that warm weather has farmers and others heading to their field well ahead of schedule.