Mar 20, 2012
People from the Midwest and Northeast have been stepping out to record-setting temperatures this month. Meteorologists are calling the temperatures unprecedented.
Deke Arndt, who leads the climate monitoring branch of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., said, "This will be a March event that we'll look back on as one of the big March events of modern history." And Jonathan Martin, chairman of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at UW-Madison, adds, "This is to me the most unusual weather event I've witnessed in my lifetime."
Weather maps show many areas with temperatures at 30 degrees above normal days in a row.
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\u201cCompare today's "average" high temperatures to the forecast highs. Is this May or March? https://t.co/m0HlEb8T\u201d— The Weather Channel (@The Weather Channel) 1331811902
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Andrew Freedman: Climate Central
Historic March Heat Wave Sets New Milestones
The March heat wave continues to shatter longstanding records from the Upper Midwest to the Northeast, with more than 2,200 warm temperature records set during the month so far. It's quite possible that this March heat wave will be considered an unprecedented event in the U.S. historical record, which extends back to the late 19th century, based on the margin by which records are being exceeded, the wide geographic scope of the heat wave, the duration of the event and the time of year when it is occurring.
"This will be a March event that we'll look back on as one of the big March events of modern history," said Deke Arndt, who leads the climate monitoring branch of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.. "If it's not unprecedented, it's definitely very impressive."
According to the HAMweather website, 1,192 record daytime highs were set in the U.S. from March 12-18, along with 708 high minimum temperature records. This compares to just 66 coldest maximum temperature records, and only eight records for the coldest overnight low temperature. More records are likely to be set today through the end of this week, when a cooler airmass finally moves eastward (as it does so, it may spark rounds of severe weather). This data may be missing some records set after March 15, since there have been some problems obtaining data from the National Climatic Data Center's website.
According to the CapitalClimate blog, so far this month warm weather records have been outpacing cold records by a lopsided ratio of 19-to-1. Since January 1, the ratio has been closer to 14-to-1.
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"This will be a March event that we'll look back on as one of the big March events of modern history."
Today may mark the seventh straight day of 80 degree temperatures at O'Hare, something that's never happened before in March. Or in April, for that matter. "It is extraordinarily rare for climate locations with 100+ year-long periods of records to break records day after day after day," the local office of the National Weather Service said in a statement on Sunday morning, following a Saint Patrick's Day that shattered 141 years of records.
And the Windy City is not alone. In International Falls, which threatened suit when a Colorado city tried to steal its "Nation's Icebox" moniker, the mercury went to 77 degrees on Saturday -- which was 42 degrees above average, and 22 degrees above the old record. It's possible, according to weather historian Christopher Burt, that no station with a century of weather data has ever broken a mark by that much.
Here's how Jeff Masters, founder of the website WeatherUnderground and probably the internet's most widely read meteorologist, put it from his Michigan base: "As I stepped out of my front door into the pre-dawn darkness I braced myself for the cold shock of a mid-March morning. It didn't come. A warm, murky atmosphere, with temperatures in the upper fifties -- 30 degrees above normal - greeted me instead. Continuous flashes of heat lightning lit up the horizon, as the atmosphere crackled with the energy of distant thunderstorms. I looked up at the hazy stars above me, flashing in and out of sight as lightning lit up the sky, and thought, this is not the atmosphere I grew up with."
Indeed, later in the day an F-3 tornado wrecked a swathe of homes and businesses just west of Ann Arbor, the earliest such storm Michigan has ever seen. "Never before has such an extended period of extreme and record-breaking warm temperatures affected such a large portion of the U.S. in March, going back to the beginning of record keeping in the late 1800s," Masters wrote.
For 25 years climatologists have been telling us to expect exactly this kind of weather -- such extremes become ever more likely as we warm the planet. It's not just heat; it's also drought and flood. Last year the US suffered through more multi-billion-dollar weather disasters than any other year in history. And it's not just the US -- in 2010, the world's largest insurance company said there was no way to explain the rapid planetary spike in extreme weather except for global warming.
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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) map shows temperature anomalies for the month so far:
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McKibben: "For 25 years climatologists have been telling us to expect exactly this kind of weather -- such extremes become ever more likely as we warm the planet."
The Capitol Times: Record streak of records ends, but more on the way
"This is to me the most unusual weather event I've witnessed in my lifetime," Jonathan Martin, chairman of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at UW-Madison, said in an interview.
Before this month, Madison's weather history had recorded only five days in March where the temperature climbed past 80 degrees. In the last week alone, there have been three, he said.
"This is simply unprecedented," Martin said. "I think that the longevity of this particular warm streak, the time of year it comes at, and the record high temperatures that we've set, are simply remarkable."
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WGN-TV Chicago meteorologist Tom Skilling:
"An unheard of seventh consecutive record-level temperature is forecast Tuesday, and Wednesday is likely to bring an eighth," Skilling says. "On the verge of replacement Tuesday is March 20's 91-year-old record high of 76 degrees set in 1921. The day's predicted late June-level high of 83 degrees would be an eye-popping 35 degrees above normal."
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WZZM Michigan: Warmest March day ever forecast Tuesday
For the past week, West Michigan's basked in record warmth. Temperatures have skyrocketed 35 degrees above average into the 70s and even low 80s, feeling more like June than mid March.
Tuesday is the first day of spring, but it will feel more like summer with a temperature reading we've never seen in March. The 13 On Target Weather team is forecasting a high of 86 degrees today in Grand Rapids. That would be not only a record high for the date, but the warmest temperature ever in the month of March.
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