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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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
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NativeSun:
Enjoy the warm weather while you can,a gas CO2 that makes up only 0.039% of the atmosphere is not the driver in the climate change debate. Something else is causing this, the Sun the ENSO phases Methane maybe etc. The main reason for climate chane by humans would be there are over 7 billion people on this small planet. Over time nature will take care of the climate change.
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.)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13551
23 MahFL "Awe god I hate the heat, and yes I live in Florida....duh !"

Move to Iceland, wait a few years, and you can hate the heat there.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Also remember that the loss of snowpack creates a reduction in river flow volumes in the summer and early fall, which is critical in areas of typically low rainfall (i.e., they depend on the surface water and flow for irrigation, domestic use, etc.). You cannot assume that new areas will open up to agriculture and/or habitation just because they get a bit warmer - but you can note the crises that result from drought (in currently habitable/farmed areas) stemming from warming, whatever the cause (and yes, I am one who believes that man's activities contribute to global warming).
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:


Man is only one that has a soul unlike the other inhabitants.... according to a book
everything is connected from the smallest to the biggest and with us all comes the realm of complex life forms which inhabit the planet we call earth
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54353
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.

: )


All dogs go to heaven right?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:




Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:


Man is only one that has a soul unlike the other inhabitants.... according to a book


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.

: )
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645

Energy from the Sun Has Not Increased



Global surface temperature (top, blue) and the Sun's energy received at the top of Earth's atmosphere (red, bottom). Solar energy has been measured by satellites since 1978.

The amount of solar energy received at the top of our atmosphere has followed its natural 11-year cycle of small ups and downs, but with no net increase. Over the same period, global temperature has risen markedly. This indicates that it is extremely unlikely that solar influence has been a significant driver of global temperature change over several decades.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
Quoting Patrap:


Man is only one of the inhabitants here.




Man is only one that has a soul unlike the other inhabitants.... according to a book
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Energized!! Be carefull...

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Quoting Neapolitan:
 Only two things make us humans unique in the history of the planet: our intelligence, and our ability to harm everything and everyone on Earth.

* lack of intelligence.....;)........
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
City of Toronto.
Today..A mix of sun and cloud with 60 percent chance of showers and
risk of a 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
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: 54353
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
I wish it were so, but no. First, nature produces the earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, and floods that kill, so there's no reason to believe that what nature does is necessarily going to be beneficial. After all, we're just temporary residents on this rock, and we're not promised any more a future than the other millions of species before us that flared briefly then went extinct. Only two things make us humans unique in the history of the planet: our intelligence, and our ability to harm everything and everyone on Earth.

Second, while latitudes farther north will be come better suited to agriculture as the climate warms, latitudes farther south will become unsuitable through desertification, etc. At best, then, it'll be a wash.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13551
we just got this

Watches
City of Toronto
11:01 AM EDT Thursday 15 March 2012
Severe thunderstorm watch for
City of Toronto issued

Persons in or near this area should be on the lookout for adverse weather conditions and take necessary safety precautions. Watch for updated statements.

Please refer to the latest public forecasts for further details and continue to monitor the situation through your local radio and television stations or Weatheradio
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54353
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.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
Quoting MahFL:
Awe god I hate the heat, and yes I live in Florida....duh !


Sorry to hear that.

; )
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
Thanks Dr Masters.


The south doesnt really have a chance at breaking records, those are closer to 90. Last year around this time it was in the mid 70s

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9731
co2now.org


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
Anyone who says 42 degrees above average is a "normal variation in weather patterns" needs a psychologist to examine them. Especially because it isn't just one place on one day. It's multiple places on multiple days.

I still can't find anything good about this warmth (except that it is really pleasant to be outside in...

Where are the climate change denialists now? Wait.... that's right! They're outside enjoying the warmth!

Oh the irony.....

Mark my words: Law of Physics: each action has an equal and opposite reaction. We may not be complaining now, but we are soooooo going to regret what is going on right now in the short-term future...

As my mom always told me: "You make the bed, you lie in it too". And boy, have we made a bad bed to lie in.

2012, my friends. We will be seeing shortly the results of our actions in the last 100 years.

68 and sunny at 11 AM on March 15th in Fairfax, VA
Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3475
Awe god I hate the heat, and yes I live in Florida....duh !
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3 Neapolitan "Once again we're hearing professional meteorologists use terms such as 'unprecedented', 'obliterated', and 'never seen before', and almost certainly not for the last time."

Yep, unprecedented obliterations never seen before is now the new normal.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting RitaEvac:


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


Man is only one of the inhabitants here.


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
Enjoy the warm weather while you can,a gas CO2 that makes up only 0.039% of the atmosphere is not the driver in the climate change debate. Something else is causing this, the Sun the ENSO phases Methane maybe etc. The main reason for climate chane by humans would be there are over 7 billion people on this small planet. Over time nature will take care of the climate change.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

from solarham.com

Updated 3/15/2012 @ 14:30 UTC

CME Impact / Aurora Watch

The ACE Spacecraft detected a sharp increase in solar wind speed to near 800 km/s. This indicated the arrival of an incoming CME shock past the spacecraft. A geomagnetic sudden impulse measuring 27nT was just detected shortly afterwards by the Boulder, Colorado Magnetometer at 13:09 UTC and this signaled that the interplanetary shock had swept past our planet. Geomagnetic Storming may soon be possible. The Bz component of the Interplanetary Magnetic Field is now pointing south. Stay Tuned. Remember, you can follow all of the updates on SolarHam Facebook and by clicking "LIKE".

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
Quoting Patrap:


Maybe read # 1 thru.. : )

A number of agencies around the world have produced datasets of global-scale changes in surface temperature using different techniques to process the data and remove measurement errors that could lead to false interpretations of temperature trends. The warming trend that is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change is also confirmed by other independent observations, such as the melting of mountain glaciers on every continent, reductions in the extent of snow cover, earlier blooming of plants in spring, a shorter ice season on lakes and rivers, ocean heat content, reduced arctic sea ice, and rising sea levels.


Man can't survive in those freezing conditions, better to be warm
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
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


Maybe read # 1 thru.. : )

A number of agencies around the world have produced datasets of global-scale changes in surface temperature using different techniques to process the data and remove measurement errors that could lead to false interpretations of temperature trends. The warming trend that is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change is also confirmed by other independent observations, such as the melting of mountain glaciers on every continent, reductions in the extent of snow cover, earlier blooming of plants in spring, a shorter ice season on lakes and rivers, ocean heat content, reduced arctic sea ice, and rising sea levels.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
normal spring clean up starts on april 15 with planting and pruning done on may 1st we are or will be two months early with this process come next week holding off on the planting maybe till first week of april just to be sure dont want to load up on the flowers just to have a cold blast killem off
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54353
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

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The Flow................




NWS North American Surface Analysis
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
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
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:


It's just a heat bubble that travels around the planet, nothing else, move along
my grass is turning green small bushes are budding some trees as well yesterday in the setting sun the chinese apple tree is putting forth the little rose colour flowers another week of temps like this and iam afraid we will be in full bloom
landscapers start spring clean up here on monday prune and blow the property everything is coming to life and fast
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54353
The heat isn't just here in the U.S.; Europe is in the midst of a recordbreaking heat wave, as well, with hundreds of high temperature records being set or tied this week. Many places that just four weeks ago shivered in the teens or single digits are today enjoying the 60s, 70s, and even a few 80s, all far earlier than usual.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13551
Quoting Jax82:
Its also interesting that just last year Europe and Russia saw that extreme heat wave for an extended period of time. Seems the pattern has shifted to our neck of the woods. Everyone is getting a piece of the heat.


It's just a heat bubble that travels around the planet, nothing else, move along
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Its also interesting that just last year Europe and Russia saw that extreme heat wave for an extended period of time. Seems the pattern has shifted to our neck of the woods. Everyone is getting a piece of the heat.
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1261
Thanks for a terrifying update Doc!
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Snow shovels and salt will be on sale this year. Buy stock in AC units and Sunscreen!
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1261
A while back I suggested something along the lines of thunderstorm recon. Mostly just because I wanted to learn more about thunderstorm turbulence (was a good way to start a weather conversation on a weather deprived weather blog).

So anyways, today we flew over some not so intense thunderstorms that were popping up in Southern Ontario and man, was the turbulence ever epic! Best ride since I went to Cedar Point last summer. The updraft and downdrafts were surprisingly powerful at the mid levels while we were climbing out, especially for such tiny storms.
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Welcome to da new Eart'
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645
So the meridional nature of the upper level winds will lower the chance of severe weather. That's good, for sure--unless you're a storm chaser. ;-)
Quoting JeffMasters:
...it is improbable that the intensity of the [current] heat would have been so great unless we were in a warming climate.
Quite improbable, I think. After all, we've had La Ninas, a locked-in MJO, and a positive NAO before, right? Once again we're hearing professional meteorologists use terms such as "unprecedented", "obliterated", and "never seen before", and almost certainly not for the last time.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13551
Nice and warm
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How do we know the Earth's climate is warming?




Thousands of land and ocean temperature measurements are recorded each day around the globe. This includes measurements from climate reference stations, weather stations, ships, buoys and autonomous gliders in the oceans. These surface measurements are also supplemented with satellite measurements. These measurements are processed, examined for random and systematic errors, and then finally combined to produce a time series of global average temperature change.

A number of agencies around the world have produced datasets of global-scale changes in surface temperature using different techniques to process the data and remove measurement errors that could lead to false interpretations of temperature trends.

The warming trend that is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change is also confirmed by other independent observations, such as the melting of mountain glaciers on every continent, reductions in the extent of snow cover, earlier blooming of plants in spring, a shorter ice season on lakes and rivers, ocean heat content, reduced arctic sea ice, and rising sea levels.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128645

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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.