The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track global extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Unprecedented Northeastern January Warmth
Dear Diary. Weather wise, January 2023 was quite unusual across most of the United States. Given that the planet still had an El Niño ocean pattern in the Pacific, it was surprising how wet California was, experiencing multiple atmospheric river storms. Usually, strong El Niños are dry for the Southwest. That wet jet stream southwestern pattern ejected very mild air east of the Rockies. At mid-levels of the atmosphere (500 millibars) cold troughs in the West, of which the Pacific storms were associated with, do not allow cold troughs to dig into the East while they are present, which are traditional teleconnections as far as meteorological wave dynamics go. We need to get occasional cold troughs to dig into the East to have typical cold January weather there, and guess were lacking during January 2023.
Obviously, climate change played a part in United States January weather, as it now does everywhere and at all times. The weather pattern that I’ve been describing produced some eyepopping warm statistics for the Northeast. Here is a Washington Post article describing this unprecedented warmth that led to many ski operators being frustrated and many people scratching their heads:
January’s warmth was unprecedented in much of the Northeast
Boston felt like Washington. Washington felt like Atlanta.
By Ian Livingston and Jacob Feuerstein
February 1, 2023
January temperatures (Midwestern Regional Climate Center)
Throughout much of the Northeast, January was hardly recognizable as temperatures soared to records amid little to no snow. In Philadelphia, New York, Boston and many other cities, temperatures were 8 to 11 degrees above normal — much more like March than midwinter.
Boston’s temperatures resembled a typical January in Washington, while Washington best matched Atlanta.
The extreme temperatures were reminiscent of some of the most abnormally warm months on record, including December 2015 and March 2012. Climate change is helping to fuel the warmth in these exceptional months, which have become more common in recent years.
January 2023, by the numbers
Most locations from the Carolinas to Maine recorded one of their top five warmest Januaries. In the following locations, average January temperatures set records:
- Newark: 44 degrees (previous record: 42 degrees in 1932).
- New York: 43.5 degrees (previous: 43.2 degrees in 1932).
- Islip, N.Y.: 41.1 degrees (previous: 39.1 degrees in 1998).
- Bridgeport, Conn.: 39.9 degrees (previous: 36.9 degrees in 2017).
- Worcester, Mass.: 34.7 degrees (previous: 34.6 degrees in 1913).
- Montpelier, Vt.: 29.1 degrees (previous: 27.3 degrees in 1990).
Every day in January was above average for temperatures in New York. (Lee Goldberg/Twitter)
A number of other locations had their second-warmest January, including Atlantic City; Philadelphia; Binghamton, N.Y.; State College, Pa.; and Detroit. Boston; Providence, R.I.; Hartford, Conn.; Baltimore; Washington; Norfolk; and Richmond posted one of their top five warmest Januaries.
In New York and Philadelphia, temperatures were above the norm every day in January, amid streaks of 35 straight above-average days.
The lowest temperatures of the month were hardly cold. In New York, the low of 28 degrees was the warmest on record, topping 25 degrees in 1937. A typical January might see the mercury fall to 10 degrees.
January temperature rankings across the Northeast. (Southeast Regional Climate Center)
Philadelphia also fell only to 28 degrees, similarly topping the previous warmest low of 25 degrees from 1937.
Boston managed to dip only to 23 degrees, surpassing 2002’s record-warm low of 22 degrees. Its low temperature averaged over the month managed to stay above freezing.
Washington dipped only to 29 degrees, tying its warmest January low from 1937.
It was also mild farther inland. In Albany, capital of the state of New York, every day in January featured a high temperature of at least 30 degrees for the first time on record. Syracuse also saw its warmest January low on record. In Ithaca, N.Y., every nightly low temperature was at least two degrees above normal.
Why was it so warm?
While January 2023 may be most remembered for the ceaseless deluge of rain that eased California’s drought conditions, the same jet stream configuration also flooded the United States with mild, Pacific air. At the same time, high pressure over the eastern United States and western Atlantic forced storms to track west of the Northeast and draw mild air northward from the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.
Human-caused climate change also played a role by intensifying the warmth. Winter is the fastest-warming season in most of the Northern Hemisphere, including the Northeast.
Among the warmest of the warm
Historical data show this past January was one of the most exceptionally warm months in the history of the Northeast.
In New York, the mean January temperature at two stations, LaGuardia Airport and Central Park, was at least 10 degrees above average. At both sites, only one recent month has ever seen a bigger departure from the norm: the infamously balmy December 2015. That month, the mean temperature was more than 12 degrees above average.
Other eastern U.S. cities also saw upper-echelon departures:
- Washington was almost nine degrees above average, the fifth-highest departure from normal since 1936. December 2015 was the most unusual.
- In Philadelphia, the month was more than 11 degrees above average, the second-most in its modern record. Only December 2015 was more exceptional.
- Hartford had a January that was about 10 degrees above average, the second-highest departure to December 2015, since 1945.
- In Boston, it was the fourth most unusually warm month since 1943. Again, December 2015 was the first. January 2020 was the third.
- Syracuse recorded its sixth-most unusually warm month, dating to 1942.
- The site at Portland, Maine, site has records to 1947, and January registered the second-highest departure from normal, after December 2015.
- Detroit recorded the second most unusually warm month on record, dating to 1948. Only March 2012 was more impressive versus normal.
Forecast lows for Saturday, with potential records boxed. (weatherbell.com)
Interestingly enough, most of the locations highlighted here will see colder weather in the first few days of February than they saw in all of January. It will surely come as a shock — albeit a brief one — to those accustomed to this winter-without-a-winter.
The month opened with the first accumulating snow of the season in Washington, Philadelphia and New York. By Saturday, wind chills will dip to zero or even below zero in these cities.
The core of the cold, however, is expected farther north. Temperatures are set to drop below zero in Boston, Hartford, Albany and Binghamton. New York should dip into the single digits, while the D.C. area tumbles into the teens. When factoring in the wind, parts of New England will feel as cold as minus-30 to minus-60. Classic weather whiplash.
By Ian Livingston Ian Livingston is a forecaster/photographer and information lead for the Capital Weather Gang. By day, Ian is a defense and national security researcher at a D.C. think tank. Twitter
Here are some “ET’s” recorded from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, and some extreme temperature outlooks, as well as any extreme precipitation reports:
Here is some new January 2023 climatology:
Here is more climate and weather news from Saturday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
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Guy Walton… “The Climate Guy”