Weather for 2020 Iowa caucuses not expected to be repeat of 2016's snowstorm

Alex Sosnowski

Meteorologists say that even though there won't be a repeat of stormy winter weather for the 2020 Iowa caucuses, the pattern may have some tricks up its sleeves with major temperature fluctuations expected.

The Iowa caucuses will occur on Feb. 3, 2020, and the Democratic Party will follow a new slate of rules that may add confusion to an already complicated process in order to have the ability to do a recount if needed, according to the Iowa Public Radio.

However, the weather should pose fewer problems this year when compared to 2016.

"In 2016, the Iowa Caucus was held on Monday, Feb. 1. On that Monday night, a winter storm began to impact the state, with snow beginning in southern and western portions of Iowa during the evening hours and spreading northeastward throughout the night," AccuWeather Meteorologist Derek Witt said.

"The snowy weather continued into Tuesday, with blizzardlike conditions across Iowa for the day after the caucuses," he said. "The bulk of the inclement weather did not occur during the day of the caucuses, but history has shown that people may choose to not go out and vote simply because they don't want to travel in bad weather."

Voter turnout, and thus election results, have been linked to weather conditions in past research conducted by AccuWeather. In a 2016 analysis of overall weather trends and voting data, utilizing L2 as a resource, AccuWeather found that uncomfortable conditions, such as frigid or hot and muggy weather can deter swing voters. Additionally, women were found to be more sensitive to cold conditions than men, and younger voters, aged 18 to 24, have higher turnout rates when the weather is sunny and warm.

"This can influence election results, as those more inclined to vote or those who are very passionate about an issue will be more likely to go out and brave the elements than those on the fence or those who aren't as concerned with politics," Witt added.

Former Iowa Democratic Party political director Travis Brock leads a caucus training meeting on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Ottumwa, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Thermometers are likely to read in the 40s and perhaps the 50s F across Iowa this weekend as a series of weak storms moves eastward along the Canada/United States border.

"Gusty west to southwest winds will direct the warm air across much of the Plains and Mississippi Valley," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

The winds are likely to be more of an annoyance and not likely strong enough to have a major influence on ground travel or cause other problems like power outages.

Later in the weekend to early next week, colder air is expected to sag southeastward across the northern Plains and the Upper Midwest, and temperatures may fluctuate as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit by caucus day.

The overall speed at which that cold air moves across the central Plains and the rest of the Midwest is likely to depend on the strength and track of a storm along the Atlantic coast.

"If the storm tracks right along or west of the coast and strengthens substantially, then it may quickly draw cold air in across Iowa and the central Plains [in time for the Iowa caucuses]," Anderson said.

"On the other hand, should the storm track way out to sea, it may suggest that cold air will be slower to arrive, and that cold air would be less aggressive in making southward progress over the Central states," he added.

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At this time, it is more of a matter as to whether light jackets versus winter coats may be needed for those venturing out to attend caucus gatherings.

It is possible that a larger temperature variation is in place across Iowa, depending on where the boundary between the warm and cold air sets up. Temperatures on either side of the boundary could vary by 20 to 40 degrees.

The lowest temperatures, perhaps as low as the teens and 20s and even lower AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures are more likely in the northwest, as temperatures could climb as high as the 50s to near 60 in southeastern parts of the state for a time on Monday.

If a cold front set to usher in the new air mass is faster, much of the state may be in the 20s and lower 30s with RealFeel® Temperatures in the teens on Monday. If the front is slower, it may continue to feel like springtime with widespread 50- to 60-degree temperatures.

Normal high temperatures for the beginning of February in Des Moines, Iowa, are right around the freezing mark, 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Overnight lows typically dip to around 15 F.

"While many will call that cold, Iowans are used to wintry chill like that during that time of year," Witt said.

As the forecast evolves for the East Coast storm, most likely so will the forecast for Iowa on Monday.

In the meantime, forecasters say precipitation is not entirely out of the cards for Iowa despite the fact that a major storm is not anticipated to impact the region.

If a front moves quickly across the state, there might be a few brief rain or snow showers. However, a slow-moving front would produce long-lasting drizzle and perhaps more dangerous freezing drizzle in some areas.

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