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Topsy-Turvy Temperature Regime for U.S. this May

By: Christopher C. Burt, 10:30 PM GMT on May 13, 2013

Topsy-Turvy Temperature Regime for U.S. this May

A strong surge of warm air is flowing into the central U.S. early this week dramatically rising temperatures from near record cold to near record heat at some locations. Meanwhile Alaska continues to be much colder than normal while Washington State much warmer than normal. Here is a brief review of the extremes.

The NWS office in Fairbanks, Alaska announced that the five week period of April 3 through May 7 was the coldest in station history (temperature records began in 1904) with an average of just 19.9°F (previous coldest such period was 20.6°F in 1924). As of today (May 13) the city has not seen an above normal daily temperature since April 2nd. A record daily low for May 13th was set with a 22° reading (old record 26° in 1938). Further north, temperatures fell below zero (-6°F at Killick Pass and -5°F at Antigun Pass) on May 13th as well. The 10° at Bettles beat its previous record low for the date by a full 10° (old record 20° in 2007) and is the coldest temperature ever recorded here so late in the season.

Meanwhile, Washington State enjoyed a record warm spell between May 5-11. In Seattle (at the Sea-Tac Airport site) the temperature rose from a daily record low of 37° on May 1st to record highs of 80° on May 5, 87° on May 6, and 80° on May 11. The 87° on May 6 was the warmest ever recorded so early in the season. Yakima, Washington saw an amazing string of six consecutive days above 90° from May 6-11. The average high for this period is 70°. Like Seattle, May 1st was a record or near-record cold morning in Yakima with a 26° reading just shy of the all-time May record of 25° (set on May 1, 1954). By May 10th the temperature peaked at 97°, the 3rd daily record high in a row (94° on May 8, 95° on May 9) and was also the warmest ever measured so early in the season. It was also the warmest temperature recorded anywhere in the U.S. for that day.

At this time a dramatic warm up is taking place in the central U.S. Chicago saw a low of 36° this morning (May 13) above its record for the date (30° in 1938) but by Tuesday it is expected to be as warm as 87°, a 51° rise in one day which, if it occurs, will be one the greatest one-day warm ups in the city’s history. The greatest was 58° from 0° on February 13, 1887 to 58° on February 14, 1887. Rockford, Illinois saw a near record low of 33° on May 13 (record is 32° set in 1938) and is expected to hit close to 90° on May 14 (record is 92° in 2007). The greatest one-day temperature rise in Rockford’s history was 63° (from 30° on April 9, 1930 to 93° on April 10, 1930). Bismarck, North Dakota measured 23° on May 12th (record for date was 20° in 1888) and reached a high of 91° on May 13 (tying record of 91° in 1932). Pierre, South Dakota saw a record daily low of 25° on May 12 which warmed up to 93° on May 13 (short of the record high of 99° set in 1941). The temperature rose 70° in Aberdeen, South Dakota from the low of May 12th (22°) to the high of May 13th (92°) and the story was just about the same in Huron where 26° on May 12 (1° short of the record 25° set in 1971) rose to 93° on May 13 (record 95° in 1894). Fargo, North Dakota which hadn’t seen its temperature rise above 50° all winter and spring until April 26th (the latest on record for such), spiked up to 93° on May 13th. It was just 24° the day before (May 12th).



Surface temperature map and wind flow for the Upper Midwest at 1 p.m. CST on May 13th. Note the almost 55° spread in temperatures from the Lake Superior area to the central Plains.

The warm surge will be much welcome for the folks in Michigan. Sault Ste. Marie measured 5.9” of snowfall on May 11-12, one of its greatest May snowfalls on record (the snowiest month of May was in 1927 when 7.9” accumulated). Gaylord, Michigan (in the north-central portion of the Lower Peninsula) had a high of just 35° on May 12th, the coldest daily high ever measured during the month of May. They also picked up 2.0” of snow.



Huge wet flakes of snow accumulate in Kalkaska, Michigan on May 12. This was one of the heaviest, latest snowfalls the area has ever seen. By Wednesday or Thursday the cold and snow should be just a memory as temperatures are expected to soar into the 70°s here. Photo by Sarah Robinson for The Weather Channel.


I will post my monthly Global Weather Extremes blog for April this Wednesday, sorry for the delay!

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

Quite a contrast.

"Fargo, North Dakota which hadn%u2019t seen its temperature rise above 50 all winter and spring until May 3rd (the latest on record for such), spiked up to 93 on May 13th. It was just 24 the day before (May 12th)."

A lot hotter than Houston!
The temperature changes are striking but are they all that rare?

Certainly wild to me on the east coast.
Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
The temperature changes are striking but are they all that rare?

Certainly wild to me on the east coast.


The Plains often see wild temperature swings, but when a site goes from a record or near-record low to a record or near-record high over the course of 36-40 hours (and the site has a long POR) then you know it must be a fairly rare occurrence!
Quoting bappit:
Quite a contrast.

"Fargo, North Dakota which hadn%u2019t seen its temperature rise above 50� all winter and spring until May 3rd (the latest on record for such), spiked up to 93� on May 13th. It was just 24� the day before (May 12th)."

A lot hotter than Houston!


An error in my blog there (now fixed). Actually Fargo hit its first 50° reading on April 26th not May 3rd. Still quite astonishing nevertheless!
Great blog Chris..
Amazing facts..!!

Quoting weatherhistorian:


An error in my blog there (now fixed). Actually Fargo hit its first 50° reading on April 26th not May 3rd. Still quite astonishing nevertheless!
And this still set a record for the latest 50F first occurrence at the site.  Historical trivia:  the previous record was set in 1881, the "Long Winter" year described in the Little House on the Prairie series.  (And by the way the grasshoppers in that series, the Rocky Mountain Spotted Locust,  became extinct in the early 1900s)



Cynics say you know you're in the midwest when you need both your furnace and AC the same day.

Every Spring there is a pool in Fairbanks betting on when a barrel placed on the Tanana river will either fall through or move at least 100 yards downstream (defining spring breakup).   I wonder if this has happened yet.  Normally it happens the last days of April or first days of May if memory serves right.

Update.. hasn't happened yet as of May 14, 2013

By the way I had frost on the  open field grass and car tops this morning in Riverdale, MD, an inner DC Metro suburb.   Previous precedents for this exist in the DC area though.
"The 10° at Bettles beat its previous record low for the date by a full 10° (old record 20° in 2007) and is the coldest temperature ever recorded here so late in the season."

Looks like Bettles just broke it again with 8°F this morning.
Sunday:

RECORD EVENT REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OMAHA/VALLEY NE
710 AM CDT SUN MAY 12 2013

...RECORD LOW SET IN OMAHA...NEBRASKA...

AT 412 AM THE TEMPERATURE IN OMAHA REACHED 32 DEGREES...ESTABLISHING
A NEW RECORD LOW FOR MAY 12TH. THE PREVIOUS RECORD WAS 33 DEGREES
SET IN 1878.

Yesterday (Tuesday):

RECORD EVENT REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OMAHA/VALLEY NE
453 PM CDT TUE MAY 14 2013

...RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE IN OMAHA NEBRASKA TODAY...

THE TEMPERATURE REACHED 101 DECREES AT 348 PM AT OMAHA EPPLEY
AIRFIELD TODAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD HIGH OF 96 DEGREES THAT
WAS SET IN 1915. THIS IS ALSO THE EARLIEST 100 DEGREE READING ON
RECORD BREAKING THE PREVIOUS RECORD SET ON MAY 29 1934 WHEN WE HIT
102.
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