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

()
in bloom today (TroyA2)
in bloom today

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Dexter is a village in Washtenaw County in the U.S. state of Michigan
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 159
Quoting Ameister12:
Severe thunderstorm north of Toledo needs to be watched. Could be producing a tornado.
Already got a tornado warning.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting Ameister12:
Severe thunderstorm north of Toledo needs to be watched. Could be producing a tornado.

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DETROIT/PONTIAC MI
545 PM EDT THU MAR 15 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN DETROIT/PONTIAC HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
SOUTH CENTRAL MONROE COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN...

* UNTIL 630 PM EDT

* AT 544 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO. THIS DANGEROUS
STORM WAS LOCATED NEAR TEMPERANCE...AND MOVING EAST AT 30 MPH.

* THIS DANGEROUS STORM WILL AFFECT MAINLY RURAL AREAS OF SOUTH
CENTRAL MONROE COUNTY.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TAKE COVER NOW. MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A
STURDY BUILDING. AVOID WINDOWS. IF IN A MOBILE HOME...A VEHICLE OR
OUTDOORS...MOVE TO THE CLOSEST SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER AND PROTECT
YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS.

&&

LAT...LON 4173 8359 4177 8358 4181 8340 4180 8340
4179 8342 4179 8344 4175 8342 4174 8342
4173 8343
TIME...MOT...LOC 2145Z 254DEG 25KT 4175 8352

$$

SC/KURIMSKI
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32250
Severe thunderstorm north of Toledo needs to be watched. Could be producing a tornado.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
This thing is moving towards Ann Arbor...

Dr. Masters lives in Ann Arbor.
Maybe he knows about it and decided to go chasing?
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
This thing is moving towards Ann Arbor...

Dr. Masters lives in Ann Arbor.


I know, not good for our chief
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
(supposedly a different tornado)Tornado touchdown north of Dexter Mill, 1.5" hail reported by police.

http://www.radioreference.com/apps/audio/?action= wp&feedId=3913
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
This thing is moving towards Ann Arbor...

Dr. Masters lives in Ann Arbor.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32250
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Just got a dead pixel in the center of the intense rotation. Last time I saw this West Liberty got hit.

It can sometimes mean that something has gotten hit and its debris.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32250
Quoting hydrus:
Just looked at the sky here in Middle TN. It looks just like July.. Unbelievable
Sounds like it too!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
This storm needs a tornado warning also. Has a very noticeable hook. WTF is going on?

I'm very confused. These tornadic storms shouldn't be happening today. It's very scary, too, since nobody is prepared for tornadoes today.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Just got a dead pixel in the center of the intense rotation. Last time I saw this West Liberty got hit.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting Ameister12:
My grandparents are aware of this tornado, now.

I'd really like to know how this happened. The environment doesn't support these strong tornadic supercells today.



If there is a tornado on the ground I hope that it misses all populated ares
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8130
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54272
Tornado touchdown reported in Dexter/Wiley area, moving east/southeast @ 15-20 mph
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
This storm needs a tornado warning also. Has a very noticeable hook. WTF is going on?
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DETROIT/PONTIAC MI
535 PM EDT THU MAR 15 2012

MIC161-152230-
/O.CON.KDTX.TO.W.0004.000000T0000Z-120315T2230Z/
WASHTENAW MI-
535 PM EDT THU MAR 15 2012

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR WASHTENAW COUNTY UNTIL 630
PM EDT...

AT 531 PM EDT...TRAINED WEATHER SPOTTERS REPORTED A TORNADO. THIS
TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR DEXTER...MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 15 MPH.

TRAINED SPOTTERS CONFIRMED A TORNADO TOUCHED DOWN JUST NORTH OF
DEXTER.

THE TORNADO WILL BE NEAR...
DEXTER AROUND 540 PM EDT.
DELHI MILLS AROUND 555 PM EDT.
BARTON HILLS AROUND 600 PM EDT.
ANN ARBOR AROUND 615 PM EDT.
DIXBORO AROUND 625 PM EDT.
YPSILANTI AND PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP AROUND 630 PM EDT.

THE WARNING INCLUDES AREAS SURROUNDING THESE LOCATIONS...
WILLIS... DIXBORO... YPSILANTI...
SALINE... SALEM... MILAN...
DEXTER... ANN ARBOR...

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TO REPEAT...A TORNADO IS ON THE GROUND. TAKE COVER NOW. MOVE TO AN
INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A STURDY BUILDING. AVOID
WINDOWS. IF IN A MOBILE HOME...A VEHICLE OR OUTDOORS...MOVE TO THE
CLOSEST SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER AND PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS.

&&

LAT...LON 4208 8380 4232 8400 4242 8398 4243 8355
4209 8354
TIME...MOT...LOC 2135Z 301DEG 13KT 4236 8389

$$

KURIMSKI
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
Quoting nigel20:


That's slightly worrying...

Looks like we could get a powerful Caribbean major this year; we haven't really had one of those since 2007.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Everybody should be scratching their head with this storm.

Gotta be Q.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DETROIT/PONTIAC MI
535 PM EDT THU MAR 15 2012

MIC161-152230-
/O.CON.KDTX.TO.W.0004.000000T0000Z-120315T2230Z/
WASHTENAW MI-
535 PM EDT THU MAR 15 2012

...A TORNADO WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR WASHTENAW COUNTY UNTIL 630
PM EDT...

AT 531 PM EDT...TRAINED WEATHER SPOTTERS REPORTED A TORNADO. THIS
TORNADO WAS LOCATED NEAR DEXTER...MOVING SOUTHEAST AT 15 MPH.

TRAINED SPOTTERS CONFIRMED A TORNADO TOUCHED DOWN JUST NORTH OF
DEXTER.

THE TORNADO WILL BE NEAR...
DEXTER AROUND 540 PM EDT.
DELHI MILLS AROUND 555 PM EDT.
BARTON HILLS AROUND 600 PM EDT.
ANN ARBOR AROUND 615 PM EDT.
DIXBORO AROUND 625 PM EDT.
YPSILANTI AND PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP AROUND 630 PM EDT.

THE WARNING INCLUDES AREAS SURROUNDING THESE LOCATIONS...
WILLIS... DIXBORO... YPSILANTI...
SALINE... SALEM... MILAN...
DEXTER... ANN ARBOR...

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TO REPEAT...A TORNADO IS ON THE GROUND. TAKE COVER NOW. MOVE TO AN
INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A STURDY BUILDING. AVOID
WINDOWS. IF IN A MOBILE HOME...A VEHICLE OR OUTDOORS...MOVE TO THE
CLOSEST SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER AND PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FLYING DEBRIS.

&&

LAT...LON 4208 8380 4232 8400 4242 8398 4243 8355
4209 8354
TIME...MOT...LOC 2135Z 301DEG 13KT 4236 8389

$$

KURIMSKI
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32250
My grandparents are aware of this tornado, now.

I'd really like to know how this happened. The environment doesn't support these strong tornadic supercells today.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Tornado Warning extended until 6:30 EDT according to dispatch.

Report of some trees down and homes hit.
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8130
babbit, no political speech just fact.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Really seems to have a tornado. You can see an area of green within the blue.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8130
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
SPC must be scratching there head with this storm.

Everybody should be scratching their head with this storm.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32250
Today is March 15th, just so everyone knows. I'm still lost thinking that it's mid June...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TheOnlyBravesFan:
Police from Washtenaw County Michigan reported to dispatch a report from public of seeing tornado touchdown.
SPC must be scratching there head with this storm.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Livingston county police (county to the north of Washentaw) spotted a funnel cloud, a visual by police of a funnel cloud.
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
Noting:-238. Xandra
So I was happily repairing an ancient Moorish tiled floor today when my attention was draw by a loud noise of a passing F 16 or something similar on its way to the base at "Moron de La Frontera," ( Please note after the arguments etc. we had last year ,this is a real place, with a real base on it, just down the road from me and even feature in W.Undergrounds list of weather sites!)
As I looked out of the gaping hole in the ancient wall I noticed that there was in front of me a "Poppy" growing wild and on the 15th of March a good month before I have ever seen one before!
If somebody can tell me how you lot attach photos? I will be happy to post one of the poppy, I might even be able to get a F 16 as a backdrop.
More seriously though, than trivia at work; this heat business is not good news for the Northern Hemisphere,28/c = 82/F here in Southern Spain today, no significant rain since April last year!
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Update: Funnel cloud sighted with rotating thunderstorm north of Ann Arbor.
Member Since: September 8, 2011 Posts: 8 Comments: 245
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32250
260. wxmod
Quoting aspectre:
wxmod "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?"
100 BobWallace "Might that come from cooler burning? Any chance the air intake on your stove is restricted?"

Definitely cooler burning caused by an overly slowed draw-through.
The draw-through slowing definitely caused by a restriction, though at least as likely in the chimney as in the intake.
Definitely looking at a strong probability of DEATH from carbon monoxide poisoning or from a chimney fire becoming a house fire if you don't get it fixed.


Aspectre,
Do you have a woodstove that you have been observing for forty years? This is not because of a slower air intake. The fire is and has always burned plenty hot. The problem is: I used to simply scrape the chimney cap off to clean it and now it is covered with tar-like drippy goo. If anybody out there has noticed a change in the way your wood burning stove burns in recent years, please comment.
I'm not saying you are wrong Aspectre, but couldn't the problem be that there is less oxygen in the atmosphere than there used to be? Or too much carbon dioxide?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Are you kidding me!? How did this happen? My grandparents live north of Detroit in Warren. I hope they'll be prepared. =(
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Police from Washtenaw County Michigan reported to dispatch a report from public of seeing tornado touchdown.
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
This thing is strengthening....
I really don't understand how this is even possible with only 20knots of shear. Must be using outflow from other storms.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
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.

Political speech.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
TC Lua
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8130
Watch out Dr. Masters, and all friends in Detroit Michigan area.
Member Since: January 30, 2012 Posts: 10 Comments: 224
This thing is strengthening....
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32250
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I honestly was not expecting this.

Wow.

How is this even happening?



It's almost certainly producing a tornado.
I think its using some of the outflow from the thunderstorm below it to do this. Crazy. Hope it stops before it hits Detroit.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting Birthmark:


Can you tell me where the info in the following is for?

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ncrfc/content/seasonal/rv i/rvi_display.php

That would be from Minneapolis south, that is for the lock and dams, which are from minneapolis south.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Does this storm have any shear to even work with?

Very, very, VERY little (less than 20 knots).
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32250
I was surprised to see that storm north of Ann Arbor rotating. It didn't seem like SPC was expecting much of a chance of tornadic activity today. You always got to be careful around the Great Lakes, though. The convergence with the lake breeze can sometimes be enough to provide a focal point for rotation.
Member Since: September 8, 2011 Posts: 8 Comments: 245
I honestly was not expecting this.

Wow.

How is this even happening?



It's almost certainly producing a tornado.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32250
Does this storm have any shear to even work with?
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842
Quoting Neapolitan:
Say, you're aware that cement is the 'glue' used to hold together the aggregate in concrete, are you not? And that, as such, any piece of machinery pumping concrete is, by definition, pumping cement? And that, colloquially, the two terms are interchangeable in some regions, even if it's not technically correct? Just thought you'd want to know...
I know about cement and concrete very well, I also know the types of cement. Technically I could be pumping water, aggregate, cement, plasticizers, water reducers, fly ash, retarders, fiber mesh, accelerators should I continue. You would just call it concrete.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
This storm has very strong rotation with it.

Hopefully there is not a tornado
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8130
Quoting nymore:
Northern Minnesota


Can you tell me where the info in the following is for?

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ncrfc/content/seasonal/rv i/rvi_display.php

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hurricanehunter27:
This storm has very strong rotation with it.
Oh snap its headed strait for Detroit.
Member Since: July 22, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3842

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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.

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