Remarkable week-long March heat wave hitting U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:02 PM GMT on March 14, 2012

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A highly unusual week-long heat wave is building over much of the U.S., and promises to bring the warmest temperatures ever seen so early in year to a large portion of the Midwest. The exceptional heat will also be exceptionally long-lasting: record-breaking temperatures 20 - 30 degrees F above normal are expected today through next Wednesday for much of the Midwest and Northeast U.S. The weather system responsible is a large upper-level ridge of high pressure that is "stuck" in place--a phenomenon known as a "blocking pattern." The jet stream is bending far to the south over the Western U.S., then bending far to the north over the Rockies and into Canada, and lies far to the north of the eastern U.S. Since the jet stream acts as the boundary between cold air to the north and warm air to the south, the current looping pattern is bringing colder than normal temperatures and snow to the mountains of the West, and summer-like warmth to the Eastern U.S. It is common for the jet stream to get stuck in a blocking pattern for a period of a week or more, but not in to this extremity. If the current model forecasts prove correct, a high pressure ridge over the U.S. bringing heat this intense and long-lasting in March will be unprecedented in the historical record, going back to 1872.


Figure 1. Is this March or June? Predicted high temperatures for Wednesday, March 14, 2012 over much of the Midwest are more typical of June than March.

Here are the hottest all-time recorded temperatures measured prior to March 20 for some selected U.S. cities. All of these records will be seriously threatened during the coming week:

Madison, WI: 77°F on March 7, 2000
Milwaukee, WI: 77°F on March 7 - 8, 2000
Minneapolis, MN: 73°F on March 7, 2000
Des Moines, IA: 82°F on March 11, 1972
Chicago, IL: 81°F on March 12, 1990
Detroit, MI: 80°F on March 8, 2000
Lansing, MI: 79°F on March 8, 2000
Muskegon, MI: 73°F on March 8, 2000
Grand Rapids, MI: 78°F on March 8, 2000
Flint, MI: 80°F on March 8, 2000

As you can see, the expected warm temperatures during the coming week will rival those recorded on March 8, 2000, when most of the Upper Midwest set all-time records for the warmest temperature ever measured so early in the year. That warm surge was caused by a ridge of high pressure that was not as strong as the one expected to build in during the coming week, and the March 8, 2000 ridge did not stick around long enough to generate more than two days of record-breaking high temperatures. A powerful low pressure system moved through Northern Wisconsin on March 8, 2000, dragging a cold front through the state that triggered a thunderstorm that spawned the earliest tornado ever recorded in Milwaukee County.


Figure 2. New daily high temperature records were set at 208 locations yesterday, according to our new Extremes web page, with data from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

Hot days in Minneapolis
In Minneapolis, Minnesota yesterday, the high temperature reached 67°F, which is the 7th warmest temperature measured so early in the year, and 27°F above the normal high of 40°F for the date. Since weather records in the city go back to 1872, we can expect that Minneapolis will experience a temperature of 67°F or higher this early in the year once every 20 years, on average. What's really remarkable is that the forecast for Minneapolis calls for a high temperature of 70 - 75° every day for the next seven days. Since 1872, there have only been nine days that the temperature has gotten to 70°F prior to March 20, with 73°F on March 7, 2000 being the hottest day. So, over the course of the next week, we are likely to break the all-time high for so early in the year, and add nearly double the number of 70°F-plus days. The situation is similar for much of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and surrounding states. With temperatures already averaging at least 5°F over much of the Midwest this month, it's very likely that this month will be the warmest March on record for at least seven states.

Unusual snows on the Oregon coast
As is often the case, record heat in one part of the country means that another part is experiencing unusual cold, due to a kink in the jet stream. On Monday, 6.0" of snow fell at Newport, OR, and 8.5" at Tillamook (about halfway up the coast between Newport and Astoria). According to statistics at the Western Regional Climate Center, the Newport snowfall was their greatest March snowfall on record (previous was 2.0" in March 1906) and the their 3rd greatest snowfall of any month since records began in 1893. The latest-greater snowfall at Newport was 11.0" on Dec. 3-4, 1972. This tied with another 11.0" snow in January 1943 as their greatest snowfalls on record. For Tillamook it was the biggest snow since 9.0" in January 1971 (but well short of their all-time snowfall of 19.0" in March 1951).

Jeff Masters

Too soon. Too soon for flowers. (Fieldofflowers)
Uh Oh. After a couple record breaking highs and a week of 60+ degree days in forecast, our spring flowers are springing out really early. This rain storm is only going to make this columbine and other things grow even more.
Too soon. Too soon for flowers.
CoastalSnow!! (kristinarinell)
after a day of high winds, high surf we now get snow!!!
CoastalSnow!!
Robin in Maple Buds (gardner48197)
Robin in Maple Buds

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Good night guys
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Uploaded by ve3en1 on Mar 14, 2012


A comet named "Swan" dove into the Sun early Thursday morning and it looks like it did not survive the plunge. Movie by STEREO Behind COR2

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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52173
TC Lua
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Space Weather Message Code: WARK04
Serial Number: 1892
Issue Time: 2012 Mar 15 0141 UTC

WARNING: Geomagnetic K-index of 4 expected
Valid From: 2012 Mar 15 0150 UTC
Valid To: 2012 Mar 15 0600 UTC
Warning Condition: Onset
Potential Impacts: Area of impact primarily poleward of 65 degrees Geomagnetic Latitude.
Induced Currents - Weak power grid fluctuations can occur.
Aurora - Aurora may be visible at high latitudes such as Canada and Alaska
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52173
Quoting KoritheMan:


I'm just good.

Yes you are
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Lol...I wouldn't lower my standards that much.


cry moar plz
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
You can have that job. (Watching press). Trying to keep track of my hyper younger brother was a walk in the park compared to that.


teehee
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Quoting nigel20:

You are the "usain bolt" of blogging


I'm just good.
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Quoting KoritheMan:

Me too, I just didn't say anything.

We're watchin you, press. We're a watchin you!
You can have that job. (Watching press). Trying to keep track of my hyper younger brother was a walk in the park compared to that.
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
Quoting KoritheMan:


Jealous?

Lol...I wouldn't lower my standards that much.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Ha! Beat you again!

You are the "usain bolt" of blogging
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Alright.


Jealous?
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Ha! Beat you again!

Alright.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Well, it's not even that. Lee caused a high majority of its damage as a remnant circulation.


Ha! Beat you again!
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More er, "Novelty"

Dark-Side Cosmic Burst & ANOTHER CME ON ITS WAY [March 14, 2012]

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Quoting washingtonian115:
Irene will most likley be the only one retired.Their were some bloggers stating that Lee caused around 1 billion dollors in damage.I don't see what the big deal is though since our prices are going up each year.

Well, it's not even that. Lee caused a high majority of its damage as a remnant circulation.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
Quoting washingtonian115:
Irene will most likley be the only one retired.Their were some bloggers stating that Lee caused around 1 billion dollors in damage.I don't see what the big deal is though since our prices are going up each year.


Not to mention all his damage was caused after he became post-tropical.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Not a chance, IMHO. The only viable candidate for retirement is Irene. And with close to 50 deaths and $10 billion in damage, I'd say she's a lock.
Irene will most likley be the only one retired.Their were some bloggers stating that Lee caused around 1 billion dollors in damage.I don't see what the big deal is though since our prices are going up each year.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Based on our admittedly limited historical database, no. However, theoretically a warmer planet should eventually lead to warmer oceans, which will in turn lead to more frequent El Nino's.

ETA: While I'm at it, I suppose it's only fair to mention that I don't think anthropogenic global warming is causing an increase in the frequency or intensity of Atlantic hurricanes, either. This is especially evident when you consider the rest of the globe. There does appear to have been an increase in the most intense hurricanes (Category 4 and 5) in recent years, but it has been confined entirely to the Atlantic waters.

I agree with you as most studies suggest that there will be a decrease in the number of TC due to increased wind shear as a result of global warming
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Based on our admittedly limited historical database, no. However, theoretically a warmer planet should eventually lead to warmer oceans, which will in turn lead to more frequent El Nino's.

Thanks for your reply
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Quoting nigel20:

That as well.
Well asked the question in the wrong way, I should have asked do you think there is an increase in ENSO warm and cold phase?


Based on our admittedly limited historical database, no. However, theoretically a warmer planet should eventually lead to warmer oceans, which will in turn lead to more frequent El Nino's.

ETA: While I'm at it, I suppose it's only fair to mention that I don't think anthropogenic global warming is causing an increase in the frequency or intensity of Atlantic hurricanes, either. This is especially evident when you consider the rest of the globe. There does appear to have been an increase in the most intense hurricanes (Category 4 and 5) in recent years, but it has been confined entirely to the Atlantic waters.
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Quoting nofailsafe:


And the ones that cross Florida end up in the Gulf. I.e. Fay and Katrina.

That as well.
Quoting KoritheMan:


First I need to know what you mean by "an increase in the ENSO cycle".

Well I asked the question in the wrong way, I should have asked do you think there is an increase in ENSO warm and cold phase?
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
2013 could be next


Nah, we won't make it there. Don't forget the Mayans!
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Mmmm with all this talk about Lee will he get retired?.We shall see.
Not a chance, IMHO. The only viable candidate for retirement is Irene. And with close to 50 deaths and $10 billion in damage, I'd say she's a lock.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13256
Quoting KoritheMan:

This is 2012, son. And you know what that means...
2013 could be next
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52173
I'm not sure whether this has been mentioned (if so, forgive the duplication, as I missed it): a second tornado from the March 2 outbreak has been upgraded to an EF-4 based on further analysis:

LOCATION...CRITTENDEN AND PINER IN GRANT AND KENTON COUNTY KENTUCKY
DATE...MARCH 2 2012
ESTIMATED TIME...430 PM EDT
MAXIMUM EF-SCALE RATING...EF4
ESTIMATED MAXIMUM WIND SPEED...175 MPH
MAXIMUM PATH WIDTH...ONE HALF MILE
PATH LENGTH...10 MILES
BEGINNING LAT/LON...38.791N/84.633W
ENDING LAT/LON...38.8324N/84.459W
* FATALITIES...4
* INJURIES...8

IMMEDIATELY AS THE TORNADO CROSSED FROM WEST TO EAST OF INTERSTATE
75...THE STORM STRENGTHENED TO EF4 LEVEL WITH WINDS ESTIMATED AT 175
MPH. WHILE A TOTAL OF FIVE SINGLE FAMILY HOMES WERE DESTROYED TO
THEIR FOUNDATIONS IN THE AREA...AT LEAST TWO OF THESE HOMES MET THE
EF4 CRITERIA OF SUFFICIENT FOUNDATION STRAPPING/BOLTING.

ALL 4 FATALITIES WITH THIS TORNADO OCCURRED WITHIN THE AREA OF EF4
LEVEL DAMAGE.

THE EF4 LEVEL DAMAGE WAS FOUND FROM THE EAST SIDE OF INTERSTATE 75
TO THE NORTH END OF OLD LEXINGTON PIKE...WHERE 2 HOMES AND MULTIPLE
OUTBUILDINGS WERE COMPLETELY DESTROYED. BOTH HOMES WERE BRICK
STRUCTURES WITH FOUNDATION BOLTING OR STRAPPING. THE EF4 LEVEL WINDS
CONTINUED ACROSS ROUTE 25/DIXIE HIGHWAY...AND ENDED NEAR THE BAGBY
ROAD AREA. AT LEAST 2 VEHICLES WERE CARRIED...WITH ONE CARRIED OVER
1800 FEET. TREES WERE STRIPPED OF NEARLY ALL BRANCHES...WITH MUCH OF
THE BARK ALSO STRIPPED.

This is only the second EF-4 ever recorded in Kentucky in March. (Note that the tornado that struck Henryville was the other EF-4.)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13256
Quoting nigel20:

Do you think climate change is causing an increase in the ENSO cycle or do you think it's just an active period?


First I need to know what you mean by "an increase in the ENSO cycle".
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Mmmm with all this talk about Lee will he get retired?.We shall see.
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Quoting KoritheMan:

Based on what?

Do you think climate change is causing an increase in the ENSO cycle or do you think it's just an active period?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

By saying "Lee hardly met that criteria" you're pretty much saying it met it, but barely.

Bad choice of words, Kori, bad choice of words.


You should become a wikipedia editor TAWX.

Some of hink rubbed off on me.. :P
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No I'm not.

hardly
[hahrd-lee]   Origin
hard·ly
   [hahrd-lee] Show IPA
adverb
1.
only just; almost not; barely: We had hardly reached the lake when it started raining. hardly any; hardly ever.
2.
not at all; scarcely: That report is hardly surprising.

3.
with little likelihood: He will hardly come now.
4.
forcefully or vigorously.
5.
with pain or difficulty.
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Quoting KoritheMan:

Precisely my point.

By saying "Lee hardly met that criteria" you're pretty much saying it met it, but barely.

Bad choice of words, Kori, bad choice of words.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241

Quoting Patrap:
Lee wasn't a hurricane, bro.

Neither was Tropical Storm Allison but she got retired.

Sometimes the lingering is as bad as a Rolling impact of greater force.
True enough. Lee had the potential to be another Allison as well, but its sudden transition to a subtropical storm prevented that.
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Quoting nigel20:

The caribbean should watch out as well...a large number of these storms that impact the caribbean go on to hit florida or the gulf


And the ones that cross Florida end up in the Gulf. I.e. Fay and Katrina.
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Lee wasn't a hurricane, bro.

Neither was Tropical Storm Allison but she got retired.

Sometimes the lingering is as bad as a Rolling impact of greater force.

Formed June 4, 2001
Dissipated June 18, 2001
Highest winds 1-minute sustained:
60 mph (95 km/h)
Lowest pressure 1000 mbar (hPa); 29.53 inHg
Fatalities 41 direct, 14 indirect
Damage $5.5 billion (2001 USD)
Areas affected Texas (particularly around Houston), Louisiana, most of the Eastern United States

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Quoting KoritheMan:

Based on what?
Based on a cold PdO.Notice during our warm PDO's we had strong El nino episodes(97-98 and 09-10).Their were other El nino episodes but I'm to lazay/tired to add them.
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Quoting Patrap:


I heard dat..
Me too, I just didn't say anything.

We're watchin you, press. We're a watchin you!
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Quoting presslord:
I thought neutrinos were some sorta Louisiana rodent


I heard dat..


..they nasty, but hey with nuff Dark Roux and nuff garlic, viola!
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Lee wasn't a hurricane, bro.
Precisely my point.
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Quoting KoritheMan:
All I know is, if I get anything from a Category 1 to a 3, you will get footage from me, fresh from my backyard. Lee hardly met that criteria.

Lee wasn't a hurricane, bro.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Yes Florida does...close to home formations, Neutral/weak El Nino...

The caribbean should watch out as well...a large number of these storms that impact the caribbean go on to hit florida or the gulf
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All I know is, if I get anything from a Category 1 to a 3, you will get footage from me, fresh from my backyard. Lee hardly met that criteria.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I expect to see more strong La nina episodes in the near future.
Based on what?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Yes Florida does...close to home formations, Neutral/weak El Nino...
I can see Katrina type formations occuring(I'm not talking about storms bobming out into cat 5's if that what you people are thinking).Rita formations are also possible.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I expect to see more strong La nina episodes in the near future.I really excited because I get to track more hurricanes. Florida needs to watch out this year.

Yes Florida does...close to home formations, Neutral/weak El Nino...
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Quoting nigel20:

I don't think so either
I expect to see more strong La nina episodes in the near future.I really excited because I get to track more hurricanes.
Quoting KoritheMan:
But yeah, it's really quite astonishing to have diurnally driven convection in the middle of March. Although I haven't seen any yet, the deep-layer ridge in place over the eastern US favors a substantial return flow. Such a setup is pretty consistent with popup showers and thunderstorms, including at times the severe variety. The NWS in New Orleans reflected this possibility also. Incredible.
Florida needs to watch out this year.
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But yeah, it's really quite astonishing to have diurnally driven convection in the middle of March. Although I haven't seen any yet, the deep-layer ridge in place over the eastern US favors a substantial return flow. Such a setup is pretty consistent with popup showers and thunderstorms, including at times the severe variety. The NWS in New Orleans reflected this possibility also. Incredible.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
That El nino will never get to full force like it did back in 09.

I don't think so either
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Quoting GainesvilleGator:
Gainesville, FL hit 85 degrees today. The Ave for this day is 74 with the record being 92. Weather.com had today down as "Partly Cloudy". The local Mets said 20% chance of rain. It felt like June as the heating of the day produced heavy rain with pea size hail from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM tonight. I didn't see that one coming. This is so not March.
I had mistaken this for being May.
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Quoting GainesvilleGator:
This is so not March.
This is 2012, son. And you know what that means...
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.