Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.
By: Christopher C. Burt , 8:27 PM GMT on January 13, 2014
What a Difference a Week Makes!
A week ago, half of the eastern U.S. was in the grip of the most intense cold wave since 1996. The cold snap, however, was short lived and since then unusually mild weather has spread across virtually the entire contiguous U.S. It was 85°F (29.4°C) in Frederick, Oklahoma on Sunday January 12th. A daily record of 75°F (23.9°C) was observed in Oklahoma City. Temperatures in the Northeast shot up phenomenally fast following the 48-hour cold spell.
Wichita, Kansas saw its temperature rise from -5°F (-20.6°C) on January 6 to a record 70°F (21.1°C) on January 12th (the daily average temperature was 27°F below normal on January 6th and 20°F above normal on January 12th).
Climate data for Wichita, Kansas so far this January. NWS-Wichita.
The 85°F reading at Frederick was short of Oklahoma’s warmest January day on record (which was 92°F/33.3°C at Cloud Chief in January 1911) but astonishing given how cold the previous week was: 12°F (-11.1°C) on January 6th with a high of just 28°F (-2.2°C). Wichita Falls, Texas tied its daily high with 80°F (26.7°C) on January 12th following an 11°F (-11.7°C) reading on January 6th.
The rapid rise in temperature was pretty much a nation-wide event. Even in places that had been at the core of the bitter cold wave saw moderating temperatures. Chicago, which experienced one of its coldest days on record January 6 (official high was -2°F/-18.9°C, but that occurred at midnight, the actual midday high was only -11°F/-23.9°C) was up to 40°F (4.4°C) by January 10th, its first above freezing day since December 29th. The daily highs have been in the 40°’s since. In Maine, where the coldest temperatures were observed during the first three days of January, not during the so-called ‘polar vortex’ event, the temperature rose from a near state record low of -49°F (-45.0°C) at Van Buren on January 3rd to 45°F (7.2°C) at nearby Caribou on January 6th only to fall below zero when the cold front associated with the next cold wave passed and then back into the 40°s again currently.
The topsy-turvy month of January 2014 at Caribou, Maine. Van Buren, about 20 miles north of Caribou, fell to -49°F on January 3rd according to NCDC climate data. NWS-Caribou.
On Sunday January 12th, the lowest temperature observed anywhere in the contiguous U.S. was just -1°F (-18.3°) at Alamosa, Colorado and virtually every major weather site in the country (aside from Alaska) saw above freezing temperatures.
Meanwhile, a very significant mid-winter heat wave is developing over California this week. I’ll have an update on this and the drought situation on Wednesday.
Christopher C. Burt
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