America's Freakiest Winter Heat Waves

By Nick Wiltgen
Published: January 26, 2014

America’s Freakiest Winter Heat Waves

When you hear the words “winter heat,” you probably immediately think of your house’s furnace, your apartment’s radiators or a cozy fireplace.

But with the global climate growing warmer in recent decades, winter heat is increasingly becoming an outdoor phenomenon too.

This winter is no exception. Despite the brutal wind chills and sensational “polar vortex” headlines, the U.S. has actually logged far more monthly record highs than monthly record lows since winter began on Dec. 21.

We’ve had two record-breaking heat waves this winter. One was in the Southeast Dec. 21-22, when temperatures surged in advance of Winter Storm Gemini. All-time December highs were tied or broken at Norfolk, Va.; Augusta and Savannah, Ga.; and Jacksonville, Fla. All four cities climbed into the low to mid 80s.

(MORE: Historic Rainfall, Record Highs in December 2013)

The other is one of our picks for the seven freakiest winter heat waves in U.S. history. Our picks are based on traditional astronomical winter (roughly Dec. 21 to March 21) rather than the meteorological winter (December, January, and February, or “DJF”) we sometimes use.

You'll notice all seven winter heat waves on our list are relatively recent. We did pore over weather data spanning over 100 years. But in most regions of America, there is such a clear warming signal in the winter months that the most bizarre episodes of winter warmth have all come in the past 30 years or so.

NEXT: We begin with one of the West’s biggest winter warmups.

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