What happened to the snow?

By WEEK Producer

February 7, 2013 Updated Feb 7, 2013 at 8:04 PM CDT

CENTRAL Ill. -- For the second year in a row, Mother Nature seems to have taken a winter vacation from Central Illinois. Only about 4 1/2 inches of snow has fallen when we should have already seen a foot more.

Chris Miller of the National Weather Service in Lincoln says the back to back mild winters are unusual but not unprecedented.

"The last time this happened was back in the mid-1990's, in 1994-'95 and then the following winter of '95 and '96 and then back in the late 1960's. So, it's not all that unheard of," explained Miller.

It's not an El Nina that's responsible. Miller says don't go calling it climate change, either.

"The main reason its happened is all the cold air has been bottled up near the pole and back toward the northern part of Russia and that's changed out jet stream," Miller said. "That's allowed our jet stream to be more from a west or southwest flow and that's caused warmer air to feed up into the region."

Whatever the reason, farmers like Matt Hughes are relieved that his 2,600 acres in McLean County have seen about two more inches of rain than normal, especially after last year's drought.

"In fact, rain is better than snow," said Hughes. "The old rule of thumb is it takes about 12 inches of snow to get an inch of rain, and it's hard to get that 12 inches of snow."

The soil in Hughes' fields can hold groundwater as deep as eight feet under the surface. That serves as sort of a bank for farmers. This time of year they need the snow and rain to replenish that reserve.

"We've got a long way to go to catch up on ground water," said Hughes. "Most of the droughts the amount of rainfall gets the attention but a drought is really more about the heat than it is the rainfall."

Of course, it could all change with the next weather forecast.