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Early December Heat Wave Breaks Many Records

By: Christopher C. Burt, 9:37 PM GMT on December 05, 2012

Early December Heat Wave Breaks Many Records

December has started off as one of the mildest on record for most of the U.S. east of the Rockies. Many cities broke or tied their all-time December monthly records for warmest day on Monday, December 3rd and at least 500 towns and cities broke at their daily record highs at some point between December 1st and December 5th. Here is a brief recap.

There are too many locations to list so far as daily record highs so I mention below a selection of locations that broke or tied their all-time December monthly heat records.





The daily temperature maps for December 3 (top) and December 4 (bottom) show the extraordinary warmth that engulfed most of the lower 48 states earlier this week. There were hardly any locations that fell below freezing, coast-to-coast. Maps from Weekly Weather Maps, NOAA.

ALL-TIME MONTHLY RECORDS SET OR TIED ON DECEMBER 3

Kansas City, Missouri: 74° (tied old record Dec. 5, 2001 and Dec. 6, 1939)

Springfield, Illinois: 74° (tied old record Dec. 28, 1984 and Dec. 3, 1970

Quincy, Illinois: 74° (old record 71° on Dec. 3, 1970 and Dec. 9, 1940)

St. Joseph, Missouri: 72° (tied old record Dec. 6, 1939)

Kirksville, Missouri: 71° (old record 69° on Dec. 11, 1949)

Ottumwa, Iowa: 71° (tied old record Dec. 4, 1998)

Des Moines, Iowa: 69° (tied old record Dec. 28, 1984)

Waterloo, Iowa: 67° (tied old record Dec. 5, 2001)

Cedar Rapids, Iowa: (tied old record Dec. 4, 1998)

Rockford, Illinois: 69° (old record 67 Dec. 5, 2001)
This was also Rockford's second warmest day in "meteorological winter" (Dec-Feb). Warmest was 70° on Feb. 25, 2000.

Urbana, Illinois: 71° (tied old record Dec. 4, 1998)

Lamoni, Iowa: 68° (tied old record Dec. 28, 1984 and 4 other occasions)

Waterloo, Iowa: 67° (tied old record Dec. 5, 2001 and Dec. 4, 1998)

Madison, Wisconsin: 65° (old record 64° Dec. 5, 2001)

Traverse City, Michigan: 64° (tied old record Dec. 3, 1962)

While Chicago O'Hare (70° on Dec. 3rd) did not set a December record high (which is 71° set on, it was only the third 70-degree-plus December day on record there, dating to 1871.

ALL-TIME MONTHLY RECORDS SET OR TIED ON DECEMBER 4

Watertown, New York: 69° (old record 68° date unknown)

Syracuse, New York reached 70° just short of their monthly record of 72° set on two previous occasions.

Binghamton, New York reached 64° short by 1° of their monthly record of 65° set on two previous occasions.

Corpus Christi, Texas reached 89° short of their monthly record of 91° set on Dec. 5, 1977.

Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois came very close to breaking their all-time state monthly heat records when Keokuk, Iowa reached 73° on Dec. 3, just short of the 74° set at Thurman on Dec. 6, 1939. Janesville, Wisconsin hit 68° on Dec. 3, short of the 70° state record set at Kenosha and West Allis on Dec. 5, 2001. Lacon, Illinois hit 77° on Dec. 3, short of the 79° measured at Cairo in December 1982

Snowless Streak Continues

Des Moines, Iowa has now broken its longest snowless streak on record with 278 consecutive days with no measurable snowfall as of Dec. 5. The previous record was 277 days in 1889. Chicago has now (as of Dec. 5) gone 245 days without measurable snow, approaching the record of 250 such set in 1999. Milwaukee, Wisconsin has gone 277 days without measurable snow, the record is 279 set in 1999.



U.S. snow depth maps for the past 3 December 4ths illustrate the snow drought the country is currently observing. Maps from NOAA.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Temperature Mini Blog

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Watertown NY (94790) 68F 6 and 7 Dec 1998 and 6 Dec 2001.

In the station 309000 69F was recorded on 6 Dec 2001
Chicago Midway airport recorded a high temperature of 72 degrees on December 3rd. Highest every for that station, with records going back to 1928


I just heard on the news that Chicago's longest snow drought was in 1994 not 1889??

"Friday marks the 271st day without measurable snow; 3rd longest snow drought on record here
Posted on: November 30th, 2012 1:16 AM by CWC Staff
10 4 73


Another record is being challenged---one which covers the number of days without measurable snow here. Friday marks the 271st such day. It last snowed here measurably back on March 4 when 0.3" accumulated.

If the current streak without measurable snow extends another 9 days, that will tie the Chicago area's longest period free of measurable snow which was recorded in November 1994; a tenth day would establish a new record"
At this point, we can say only an Apocalypse -The Day After style could prevent the 2012 to be the warmest on record in the 48 contiguous States.
I am curious to know what snow levels is Europe experiencing. Has climate change affected them differently, or are there any identifiable trends?
I live in Stuttgart, Germany and this winter is definitely colder than last year. The third week of October we had 7 inches of snow, which was more than all of last winter combined. Today we have a heavy snow warning with more expected next week. Temps have hardly risen above freezing for over a week now. I'm not sure about Europe overall. Last winter was a "non" winter but two winters ago was extremely bad. It just seems to vary greatly from year to year.
The most extreme December warmth I remember in the DC area was near the end of the first week in December 1998 when the DC area was in the 70s for several days peaking at 79. (Didn't quite make 80).
I've now used my AC every calendar month of the year in DC although in January 1998 (temps and dewpoints in the 60s, house in the low 70s and humid and newborn twins, one of whom was recovering from surgery, looking worrisomely hot and stressed) I wouldn't have if it hadn't been for the babies.

December 70s happen several times a decade in this area and our Mon/Teus highs of 71 and 72 are not that extreme. The rest of the month looks more temperate but probably mostly near to above normal.
That's only trustworthy for 10 days or so.


I've had the longest tomato season ever, from June 3 to Nov 15. Earliness was due to the extreme March warmth and my gambling on no
extreme freezes after. I planted one tomato March 15, (considered insane in the DC suburban area.. normal date is May 1) had to protect
against an advection freeze March 27 and radiation freezes several times to mid April but the plant thrived, set fruit in early April and produced record early June 3. Extreme heat in late June/early July killed my tomatoes (never happened before in 40 years) but a second planting in early July produced good fall ones.
Quoting airman45:
I live in Stuttgart, Germany and this winter is definitely colder than last year. The third week of October we had 7 inches of snow, which was more than all of last winter combined. Today we have a heavy snow warning with more expected next week. Temps have hardly risen above freezing for over a week now. I'm not sure about Europe overall. Last winter was a "non" winter but two winters ago was extremely bad. It just seems to vary greatly from year to year.


You have a short memory dude.
Last winter was a non-winter from December to about the first week of February.
Than, the second and third week of February 2012 saw the coldest wave overall in Europe (including Germany) since January 1987.
For two straight weeks temperature has barely touched the 0C in the whole Central Europe.
Some towns in Italy have recorded more than 3 METERS of snow (not in the mountains ).
weatherhistorian has created a new entry.
Last winter in central Europe had near-normal temperatures (a mild December and January being offset by a very cold February, especially the first half). The cold February was also very dry north of the Alps, though, so snowfall amounts were modest - different story south of the Alps where the eastern side of Italy got colossal accumulations from the Adriatic equivalent of lake-effect.