For much of the East and Midwest, summer-like temps have people sweating. After an odd winter that saw tulips sprouting in January in Iowa and a March snowstorm that caused more than 20 deaths from Texas to the Great Lakes, temperatures turned hot this week.
The temperature in Albany, New York hit 89 degrees Tuesday, 32 degrees above the normal high and 1 degree above the previous record set 106 years ago, says meteorologist Bob Kilpatrick of the National Weather Service. ?It?s freezing one week and roasting the next,? says resident George Smith. ?Last week, it was freezing, and I thought, ?What’s going on? It?s supposed to be spring.??
New York City posted a 92-degree high, breaking the 1896 record for the day of 88. New Jersey?s Newark International Airport passed its record of 82 during the morning and kept going to 92. Williamsport, Pennsylvania, hit a record 90, as did St. Louis. It was 95 degrees at Pamplin Historical Park near Petersburg, Virginia, and Washington’s Reagan National Airport hit a record 92.
Pittsburgh broke by 1 degree its old record of 85 degrees set in 1896, and Fargo, North Dakota, which smashed by 7 degrees its old mark of 82 set in 1913. In the Adirondacks, Lake Placid students went swimming at the village beach, in waters that still had a thin layer of ice hours earlier.
On Monday, Sioux City, Iowa, hit 96 degrees, the highest ever recorded there this early in the year. In McCook, Nebraska, it hit 97. The story was the same in Chicago, where the temperature reached 88, breaking the old record of 84, set in 1976. Minneapolis got up to 91 degrees, beating the previous record set in 1913 by nine degrees. In the Great Lakes, spiking temperatures on Tuesday caused the remaining snow packs to melt rapidly and fill streams with runoff, swelling water levels. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York have all been suffering under drought emergencies that the heat wave has only made worse.
Christine Jones, manager of an ice cream shop in Sandusky, Ohio, says, ?The lines were to the door and we?re short staffed. Everybody has on shorts, tank tops and bathing suits.?
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Officially, forecasters blame this week?s record-breaking temperatures across much of the United States on an unusually persistent ?Bermuda high? over the western Atlantic Ocean. However, the new records are also part of a worldwide warming trend. The warm front covering most of the eastern two-thirds of the nation this week has shattered more than 70 warm-temperature records from the northern high plains to New England and down through the Mid-Atlantic states, according to the National Weather Service.
With a severe storm forming over the Rocky Mountains, forecasters say it?s possible that the nation will experience dramatic weather extremes on Friday, with Colorado and Wyoming suffering heavy snows while the East roasts in 90-degree temperatures.
Much to the surprise of meteorologists, the high, warm air over the Atlantic has persisted almost continuously since last fall, preventing the frigid Arctic air that normally sweeps south during the winter from reaching the United States. The National Weather Service had predicted a colder-than-normal winter, but almost exactly the reverse turned out to be the case.
The three-month period of November to January was the warmest-ever November-to-January cycle in the United States and the second warmest globally. Three of the last five months — November, January and March — have set global records as the warmest November, January and March since world record-keeping began in 1880.
Climate experts have no explanation as to why the current Bermuda high that is warming much of North America has persisted so long. But the unusual warmth of the past several months also has been evident throughout much of Asia, Eastern Europe and West Africa, where the Bermuda high would have no effect.
Globally, nine of the 10 warmest years since record keeping began have occurred since 1990. The warmest year ever was 1998, and the second warmest was 2001. Normally, at this time in the spring, there is still snow pack or frozen ground in the northern United States. That?s not so this year, says National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Reynolds. Without the residual effects of winter to absorb the heat, the air has warmed even more than it would otherwise.
The record-breaking warmth recorded in parts of Russia and China this winter was even more dramatic than the high temperatures recorded in the United States, says Jay Lawrimore, chief of the climate-monitoring branch at the National Climatic Data Center. ?There is a long-term trend toward warmer temperatures not only for the U.S., but for the globe as a whole,? Lawrimore says. ?We?re not just seeing warmer-than-normal conditions, but record-breaking temperatures or near-records with the records being established only a couple of years ago.?
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