Wettest year. Longest time without an inch of snow. Heat waves and droughts.
If it seems like the weather headlines have included the words "worst" and "most" lately, it's because the suburbs have seen a lot of weather extremes these past few years.
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Records topplePlenty of Chicago-area weather records have been broken in the past few years. Among them:
• A 1.1-inch snowfall on Jan. 25 broke a 335-day streak without any 1-inch snowfalls.
• January-June was the wettest on record. The 28.46 inches of rain that fell exceeded 2012's total rainfall of 26.91 inches. Between May 20 and June 28, there were no more than two days in a row without rain. April was the wettest in history, with more than 8½ inches.
Ÿ On April 19 the Des Plaines River near Des Plaines crested at a record 10.92 feet (flood stage is roughly 8.8 feet).
• March 14-22 had nine record high temperatures in a row, including eight days over 80 degrees. The mercury hit 87 degrees on March 21, when the normal high is 48. The average temperature for spring was 56.6 degrees -- almost 10 degrees above normal.
• July was the third-hottest ever, with an average temperature of 81 degrees, which included three straight days over 100 degrees (during the July 4 holiday).
Ÿ Oct. 29's wind, caused by remnants of Hurricane Sandy, created massive 16- to 22-foot waves on Lake Michigan.
• The Blizzard of 2011 on Feb. 1-2 set a record for the biggest snowfall within 24 hours, at 20 inches (the blizzard's total was 21.2 inches, ranking it as the third-worst in Chicago history).
• The most rain in one day -- 6.86 inches -- was recorded July 23 at O'Hare. By comparison, Lake Zurich had 6.63 inches of rain on June 26, 2013.
• It was the sixth wettest spring since record-keeping began in 1871, with 14.79 inches of rain. Average is 9.56 inches.
Plenty of Chicago-area weather records have been shattered -- for everything from a lack of snow to constant rain to scorching heat. And it's likely that such wild weather swings will continue, experts say.
The first six months of this year were the wettest in recorded history, with more than 28 inches of precipitation. That's more rain than we received all of last year, according to the National Weather Service.
In the past week alone, the suburbs saw a storm dump more than 6 inches of rain in some areas in a 3-hour span. Then we had sweater-wearing coolness Tuesday, with high temperatures reaching only into the mid 60s.
The Fourth of July weather forecast looks lovely, but remember: Last year at this time we were in the grips of an oppressive, record-setting heat wave that brought three straight days of temperatures over 100 degrees, followed by droughts that left suburban lawns charred brown.
A trend is emerging, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center. Based on decades of weather tracking, the NCDC says the Midwest is experiencing more "big heat and big rain." That means temperatures have been slightly higher and rainfalls have been heavier, agency spokesman Deke Arndt said.
"More of this decade's rain is coming in big single doses, compared to, say, the middle of the 20th century," Arndt said.
Local meteorologists say this is caused by "blocking" in the upper atmosphere that can lead to extreme ups and downs in the weather.
"We get these patterns now that tend to lock in over long periods of time," said Paul Sirvatka, professor of meteorology at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.
So when it rains, it rains a lot. When there's no snow, there's no snow for a long time. When it's hot, it's hot for extended periods.
Sirvatka said weather records are broken all the time, so that's not unusual. But climatologists are now studying the underlying cause of the recent weather trends.
"(The weather we've had) is not out of the realm of what is possible. Is it memorable? Is it extreme? Yeah. We're in a pattern where these extreme ups and downs are common lately," he said. "But that week of 80 degrees last March, that was unbelievable."
Blocking patterns are not new or constant, says Eric Priest, professor of meteorology at the College of Lake County. He hedges to say anything about our weather is out of the ordinary.
"It has to happens over decades before it's a trend," said Priest, who runs the college's two weather stations in Grayslake and Vernon Hills. "So if we had weeks of 80 degrees every March, then yes."
He said people tend to think short term -- during last year's heat wave, the global warming debate moved to the forefront. He remembers a cold spell in the 1970s in Ohio that had the media talking about another Ice Age.
But historically, these patterns end. Last year's Midwest drought is now a thing of the past, he noted.
"Localized flooding from thunderstorms is not that unusual," Priest said. "During any period of rain like that, it's the luck of the draw who gets the most rain."
Rick Kuhl, deputy director of Buffalo Grove Public Works, says his town suffered some of the worst flooding he's seen in his 37½ years last week. To his amazement, most of the rain that flooded streets at 6 a.m. had receded by 10:30 a.m.
"Things are just changing. Is it global warming? I don't know," said Kuhl. "We hardly ever had hail before. Now, we're getting hail all the time. Nothing's real big, but the whole grass area turns white."
While it's been a rough couple of years weather-wise, Kuhl believes the weather is cyclical and doesn't think people should worry about it.
"It's not the end of the world, believe me," he said.