Unprecedented early-year heat smashes all-time records in Midwest

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:04 PM GMT on March 15, 2012

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The first day of spring doesn't arrive until Tuesday, but Mother Nature has fast-forwarded past spring and gone straight to summer over the Midwest. Yesterday, large portions of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Indiana recorded their all-time warmest temperatures for so early in the year, including the cities of Chicago, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Lansing. Temperature records for these cities go back as far as 1863. Perhaps the most extraordinary record was set in Traverse City, Michigan, which hit 81°F--a temperature 42°F above the average high for the date, and four degrees warmer than any previous day so early in the year. Records go back to 1897 in the city.


Figure 1. Spring has arrived early in Sherrard, Illinois, and much of the Midwest, thanks to a record-breaking March heat wave. Image credit: wunderphotographer JourneysEnd.

Major airports that set all-time heat records yesterday

Chicago, Illinois hit 81°F; the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1872, and 35°F above average. This ties the record set on March 12, 1990.

Springfield, Illinois hit 83°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1879, and 32°F above average. This ties the record of 83°F on March 13, 1918.

Rockford, Illinois hit 79°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1893, and 33°F above average. Previous record: 78°F on March 7, 2000.

Peoria, Illinois hit 81°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1883, and 31°F above average. Previous record: 80°F on March 12, 1990.

Minneapolis, Minnesota hit 73°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1872, and 33°F above average. This ties the 73°F reading of March 7, 2000.

Grand Rapids, Michigan hit 80°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1892, and 37 degrees above average. Previous record: 78°F on March 8, 2000.

Muskegon, Michigan hit 77°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1896, and 35°F above average. Previous record: 73°F on March 8, 2000.

Traverse City, Michigan hit 81°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1897, and 42°F above average. Previous record: 77°F on March 7, 2000.

Lansing, Michigan hit 79°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1863, and 36°F above average. This ties the record of 79°F on March 8, 2000.

Indianapolis, Indiana hit 81°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1871, and 30°F above average. Previous record: 80°F on March 8, 1974 and March 13, 2007.

South Bend, Indiana hit 81°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1893, and 35°F above average. Previous record: 80°F on March 8, 2000.

Evansville, Indiana hit 82°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1871, and 25°F above average. This ties the record of 82°F set on March 10, 1990.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin hit 78°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1869, and 36°F above average. Previous record: 77°F on March 7 and 8, 2000.

Madison, Wisconsin hit 78°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1869, and was 36°F above average. Previous record: 77°F on March 8, 2000.

Green Bay, Wisconsin hit 75°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1886, and 37°F above average. Previous record: 74°F on March 8, 2000.

Dubuque, Iowa hit 75°F, the warmest it's ever been this early in the year, going back to 1874, and 37°F above average. This ties the 75°F reading of March 12, 1990.

Data for the previous records was taken from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

Why the record early-season warmth?
The unusual warmth is due to a loop in the jet stream that has created a large upper-level ridge of high pressure that is stuck in place over the Eastern U.S.--a phenomenon known as a "blocking pattern." Since the jet stream acts as the boundary between cold air to the north and warm air to the south, and the large loop in the jet places its axis far to the north of the eastern U.S., summer-like warmth has developed over the eastern half of the U.S. Conversely, colder than average temperatures have developed over the western third of the U.S. behind the southwards-dipping loop of the jet stream. There are at least three large-scale patterns working together right now to create an unusually strong high-pressure ridge over the eastern half of the U.S.:

1) La Niña. The on-going La Niña event in the Eastern Pacific has weakened considerably over the past month, but ocean temperatures there are still cool enough to affect the jet stream pattern, favoring high pressure and warm temperatures over the Eastern U.S., and low pressure and cold temperatures over the Western U.S.

2) The Madden-Julian Oscillation( MJO). The MJO is a 2-month cycle of thunderstorm activity that travels west to east along the Equator. The MJO is currently in phase with La Niña, and is helping create warmer temperatures over the Eastern U.S.

3) The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO.) The NAO is in its positive phase, which means the difference in pressure between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High is stronger than usual. This tends to increase the jet stream winds and keeps the jet from sagging southwards over the Eastern U.S.

While the blocking pattern responsible for the heat wave is natural, it is improbable that the intensity of the heat would have been so great unless we were in a warming climate. Climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has posted an interesting (as yet unpublished) paper discussing how the odds of such extreme heat events have shifted in recent years. I plan to discuss these concepts in more detail next week.


Figure 2. Predicted high temperatures for Thursday, March 15, 2012 over much of the Midwest are more typical of June than March.

The forecast
The summer-like heat continues today over the Midwest, with the greatest departures from average (30°+) expected over Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. This area of 30°+ above average temperatures will expand to stretch from South Dakota to New York on Sunday and Monday, then gradually shift eastwards, extending from Wisconsin to Maine by Wednesday. The jet stream loop is predicted to grow more pronounced this weekend, and reach a truly extreme configuration on Monday and Tuesday. On those days, the predicted strength of the upper-level ridge of ridge pressure along the northern tier of states, from Wisconsin to Maine, will be typical of what we see at the height of summer, during July and August. The GFS and ECMWF models are predicting the height at where a pressure of 500 mb is found will range between 5760 - 5800 meters on those days--7% higher than the typical mid-March 500 mb heights of 5460 meters. Record-breaking summer-like temperatures will last until at least Friday, March 23, for much of the Midwest and Northeast U.S.

Extreme jet stream patterns like this often lead to tornado outbreaks in the Midwest, at the boundary of where warm, moist air flowing north from the Gulf of Mexico collides with cold, dry air flowing south. Cold dry air aloft, combined with warm, moist air at the surface, makes the atmosphere unstable, since air rising in thunderstorm updrafts will be less dense than the surroundings, allowing the air to accelerate upwards and increase the intensity of the thunderstorm. This will be the case on Sunday, when NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has highlighted a potential risk area for severe weather from Texas northwards through Nebraska. Fortunately, the winds of the jet stream are expected to blow almost due south to north over the region by Monday, which may limit the amount of cold air aloft that can overrun the warm air at the surface, resulting in a more stable atmosphere and a reduced chance of severe weather compared to Sunday.

Jeff Masters

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in bloom today (TroyA2)
in bloom today

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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
Quoting TropicTraveler:


What is a toonie?
a two dollar coin
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
Quoting SPLbeater:


how did u fair in April?


On april 15, a supercell hit just south of me, had baseball sized hail, rained here,(although baseball sized hail did hit where about 700-100 kids were camping)
and on april 27, it rained moderately and thundered.
Boring.


So for me it was uneventful.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9731
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

We'll just go with quarter-sized to half-dollar sized hail..


What is a toonie?
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King City
Canada Radar

Base Reflectivity 0.00° Elevation
Range 60.7 NMI

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128749
oldest city in north america
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
Quoting SPLbeater:
hey guys. i at grandparents house so i got my frickin internet now :D

Hey SPL...how are you doing?
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Quoting Patrap:



Finland?

...or Sirius?

province of newfoundland the city of st.johns
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
Today is the 4th anniversary of the worst severe weather event i was a part of (and the 1st major 1 i remember). Sirens went off like 7 or 8 times. I

remember seeing a supercell with baseball sized hail just to the north of me, white on the outside, and black underneath, 60 000 ft tops but only 10

or 20 square miles. Unfortunately, i didnt see anything significant and was too busy to be able to follow radar.
Was almost in a High risk.



The night before was when a tornado hit Atlanta.


how did u fair in April?
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4486
City of Toronto
12:18 PM EDT Thursday 15 March 2012
Severe thunderstorm watch for
City of Toronto continued

Conditions are favourable for severe thunderstorms to redevelop over the areas after 2:00 PM this afternoon. The main threats are torrential downpours, hail up to toonie size and intense lightning.

This is an alert to the potential development of severe thunderstorms with large hail, damaging winds or heavy rainfall..Monitor weather conditions and listen for updated bulletins.

.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
I've had a wood stove for 40 years. The creosote that collects on the stove pipe used to be crispy and brittle. For the past few years it has been drippy and tar-like, no matter what kind of wood I burn. Has anyone else noticed this?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
hey guys. i at grandparents house so i got my frickin internet now :D
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4486
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
yes but iam not from here but someplace else



Finland?

...or Sirius?

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128749
Quoting RitaEvac:


Man can't survive in those freezing conditions, better to be warm


Eskimos !
Member Since: June 9, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 3547
Today is the 4th anniversary of the worst severe weather event i was a part of (and the 1st major 1 i remember). Sirens went off like 7 or 8 times. I

remember seeing a supercell with baseball sized hail just to the north of me, white on the outside, and black underneath, 60 000 ft tops but only 10

or 20 square miles. Unfortunately, i didnt see anything significant and was too busy to be able to follow radar.
Was almost in a High risk.



The night before was when a tornado hit Atlanta.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9731
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
Keeper, do you live in Toronto?
yes but iam not from here but someplace else
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
Quoting Patrap:
LASCO Image




Is that one more CME on the left?
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Quoting jeffs713:

Comparing August's forecast of SON to March's forecast of JAS is a bit apples to oranges. The 4-month lead doesn't account well for ENSO, and there are quite a few unknowns. It is kinda like comparing Saturday's forecast with the 384-hour GFS snapshot.


Last year's ECMWF'S MSLP forecast of lower pressures in Atlantic was spot on.
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March 9, 2012 – JAPAN – Figures compiled by the ABC reveal that since the massive earthquake in Japan a year ago the country has been rattled by more than five times as many tremors as usual. That includes 10 aftershocks of magnitude seven or greater. Using figures provided by Japan’s meteorological agency, the ABC found that there have been more than 9,000 significant tremors under and around Japan since last year’s March 11 earthquake. That compares with 1,300 for all of 2010. As well as 10 quakes of magnitude seven or greater in the past year, there were more than 100 that were more violent than magnitude six. Recent media reports suggest Tokyo has a 70 per cent chance of being hit with a major earthquake in the next four years.

Quake researchers warn of Tokyo's 'Big One' by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) March 8, 2012

A year on from one of the biggest earthquakes in recorded history, Japanese scientists are warning anew that Tokyo could soon be hit by a quake that will kill thousands and cause untold damage.

Greater Tokyo, home to 35 million tightly packed people, has seen a three-fold increase in tectonic activity since the magnitude 9.0 undersea quake that unleashed a killer tsunami last March.

Every day, an average of nearly 1.5 quakes are recorded in and around the city, one of the most populated places on Earth.

http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Quake_researche rs_warn_of_Tokyos_Big_One_999.html
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Anyone noticing the years of the record temperatures being broken that Jeff has been posting the last few days?

Today's collection - one from 1918, four from 1990, and eleven from this century.

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Quoting BobWallace:


Forest lands are not good at creating top soil. I think you'll find it hard farming Canadian rock.
We'll always have plenty of raw material for....
SOYLENT GREEN!

Member Since: September 9, 2010 Posts: 5 Comments: 1034
March 14 2012
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
March 14 2011
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Quoting greentortuloni:


Especially since the world gets wider as you go farther North. Northern Canada is huge!


Forest lands are not good at creating top soil. I think you'll find it hard farming Canadian rock.
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Keeper, do you live in Toronto?
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9731
Quoting Patrap:
I do believe, and Dr. Masters can correct me if Im incorrect, but all the evidence currently has shown that the Global Climate Models have, actually, underplayed the Warming as observed, so downstream, the actual's most certainly will manifest Higher temps Globally.

Food fer thought.


Remember how the fossil fuel industry financed a two year study of global temperature records in an attempt to show that warming was not happening?

Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California-Berkeley, and a "climate skeptic" led a team of scientists who examined all available temperature records.

They found that not only was the planet truly warming, but that the rate of warming was likely a bit faster than what other climate researchers commonly believed.

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Quoting JNCali:
Current Wundermap image

Does that look like summer or what.
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Quoting greentortuloni:


Exactly, that's why I like torturing animals. It doesn't matter since they don't have a soul.
and if i was near you i would do 10 times worse to you than you done to the animal
it is ok to take for ones needs but to take for nothing is something else
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
Current Solar Data (from NOAA)


CONUS Regional TEC Eurpoean Regional TEC
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128749
Quoting RitaEvac:
Makes you wonder if we should embrace it instead of people fearing it. As if the planet knows the population of man has tri-fold and knows to warm weather farther north and earlier to help feed the population. Maybe nature knows best


If it stopped here you might have a point.

But we're likely on a rocket ship to a new world. We've sentenced ourselves to a world of higher and higher temperatures even if we were to stop burning fossil fuels this very second.

As we warm our agriculture will move toward the poles.

North America, we give up the farmlands of the South and Southwest in exchange for the rocky land of Canada.

In South America and Africa, well, those continents taper as you move toward the poles. We get shoved into smaller and smaller areas.

There is no dirt underneath the ice cap of Greenland.

Somehow I don't think we can feed 9 billion people from a warmer Siberia....
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Here is the latest Magnetogram plot that updates every 2 minutes.
Data is measured in Kiruna, Sweden by The Swedish Institute of Space Physics.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128749
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
LASCO Image



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128749
Sheeesh, Holy Smolie's


SolarHam.com

A minor G1 Geomagnetic Storm (kp=5) is now in progress. This incoming plasma cloud hit at the wrong time for us sky watchers in North America, however northern parts of EU and Scandinavia should watch for Aurora once it is dark outside.

This plot contains the estimated 3-hour Planetary K-Index.
K-indices of 5 or greater indicate storm-level geomagnetic activity around earth.



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128749
Quoting greentortuloni:


Especially since the world gets wider as you go farther North. Northern Canada is huge!


You been looking at too many flat maps
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Current Wundermap image

Member Since: September 9, 2010 Posts: 5 Comments: 1034
Quoting RitaEvac:
Makes you wonder if we should embrace it instead of people fearing it. As if the planet knows the population of man has tri-fold and knows to warm weather farther north and earlier to help feed the population. Maybe nature knows best


Especially since the world gets wider as you go farther North. Northern Canada is huge!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


toonie sized hail??! Niiiiice

That is 28 mm, 2.8cm, or a little over and inch.
are 'puffy jackets' suggested also?
Member Since: September 9, 2010 Posts: 5 Comments: 1034
Thanks dr masters...good morning guys
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
The ECMWF MSLP March forecast is out and does not bold well for those who want to track many systems because it shows higher pressures in the Atlantic Basin,contrary to 2011 when the forecast was for lower pressures.

2011



2012


Comparing August's forecast of SON to March's forecast of JAS is a bit apples to oranges. The 4-month lead doesn't account well for ENSO, and there are quite a few unknowns. It is kinda like comparing Saturday's forecast with the 384-hour GFS snapshot.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


toonie sized hail??! Niiiiice

That is 28 mm, 2.8cm, or a little over and inch.

We'll just go with quarter-sized to half-dollar sized hail..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
Severe thunderstorm watch for
City of Toronto issued

Conditions are favourable for severe thunderstorms to redevelop over the areas today. The main threats are torrential downpours, hail up to toonie size and intense lightning.

This is an alert to the potential development of severe thunderstorms with large hail, damaging winds or heavy rainfall..Monitor weather conditions and listen for updated bulletins.



toonie sized hail??! Niiiiice

That is 28 mm, 2.8cm, or a little over and inch.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9731
FPCN11 CWTO 151506 AAA
Updated forecasts for Southern Ontario

City of Toronto.
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect.
Today..A mix of sun and cloud with 60 percent chance of showers and
risk of a severe thunderstorm. High 21 except 15 near Lake Ontario.
UV index 4 or moderate.
Tonight..A few showers ending after midnight then cloudy. Risk of a
severe thunderstorm this evening and after midnight. Fog patches
developing after midnight. Low 13.
Friday..Cloudy. Clearing near noon. Fog patches dissipating in the
morning. High 19 except 15 near Lake Ontario
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
Astronomy Picture of the Day


Explanation: What shines in the gamma-ray sky?

The answer is usually the most exotic and energetic of astrophysical environments, like active galaxies powered by supermassive black holes, or incredibly dense pulsars, the spinning remnants of exploded stars. But on March 7, a powerful solar flare, one of a series of recent solar eruptions, dominated the gamma-ray sky at energies up to 1 billion times the energy of visible light photons.

These two panels illustrate the intensity of that solar flare in all-sky images recorded by the orbiting Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. On March 6, as on most days, the Sun was almost invisible to Fermi's imaging detectors. But during the energetic X-class flare, it became nearly 100 times brighter than even the Vela Pulsar at gamma-ray energies. Now faded in Fermi's view, the Sun will likely shine again in the gamma-ray sky as the solar activity cycle approaches its maximum.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128749
Severe thunderstorm watch for
City of Toronto issued

Conditions are favourable for severe thunderstorms to redevelop over the areas today. The main threats are torrential downpours, hail up to toonie size and intense lightning.

This is an alert to the potential development of severe thunderstorms with large hail, damaging winds or heavy rainfall..Monitor weather conditions and listen for updated bulletins.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54479
Wow...

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Quoting Patrap:
I do believe, and Dr. Masters can correct me if Im incorrect, but all the evidence currently has shown that the Global Climate Models have, actually, underplayed the Warming as observed, so downstream, the actual's most certainly will manifest Higher temps Globally.

Food fer thought.


With surface temperatures only, the models have been pretty close. But things like sea level and arctic ice extent/volume, the models have underestimated the change by a substantial amount. Models have also underestimated the rate of onset of change for certain places, like mass loss for Antarctic and Greenland, as well as methane release from seas and permafrost.

Quoting Neapolitan:
You're entitled to your beliefs, of course, but you should know that thousands of climate scientists--highly educated people who spend their lives studying the data--disagree with you. (And remember, ratio isn't all that matters; after all, botulinum toxin can kill you while making up just 0.0000000000055% of your body weight.)


Great analogy. I bet it's small for cyanide too. It's the change, not the absolute amount. One must remember that the gas making up less than 0.1% of our atmosphere is responsible for big changes to how our climate would be at this distance from the sun.
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Quoting Patrap:


The programming runs deep, I understand.

I guess you never owned a Good Horse nor Canine as well.

U should read more than the "old" Dusty ones too.

: )


I actually thought that was crazy myself
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.