Extreme Temperature Diary- Saturday January 27, 2024/ Main Topic: “Whiplash Warmth” Returns to North America

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Washington soars to 80 degrees, its highest January temperature on record – The Washington Post

Washington soars to 80 degrees, its highest January temperature on record

It’s the earliest in the year the District has reached 80, by several weeks

By Ian Livingston

Welcome to June in January and record-shattering winter warmth in Washington.

Temperatures surged about 35 degrees above normal Friday, as highs climbed well into the 70s to near 80 across the region, breaking records that stood for decades.

Reagan National Airport, the official observing site for Washington, reached 80 degrees, the highest observed in January since record keeping began in 1872.

Friday’s temperature reached 80 degrees earlier than any other year by several weeks. The previous mark was set in 2018, when Washington hit 80 degrees on Feb. 21. In an average year, Washington doesn’t post its first 80-degree high until March 28.

Because of human-caused climate change, winter temperatures in the 70s or higher have become much more common in recent decades in the Washington region.

It’s unusual to reach 70 degrees in January in our region, something that happens about once every few years on average.

The surge of warmth pushed temperatures about 45 to 50 degrees higher than a week ago when it snowed 3 to 5 inches.

Washington’s previous January record high was 79 degrees, reached on this date in 1950. The last time it hit at least 70 in January was in 2020. Warm days are more probable in December and February, especially in recent decades because of the long-term increase in temperatures.

Friday’s record is comparable to or even warmer than those set further south this year, including in Tallahassee (80), Austin (77), New Orleans (77) and Phoenix (77).

Dulles International Airport also set a January record high Friday, soaring to 79 degrees. Records there date to 1963. Only five days ago, the airport dipped to a frigid 7 degrees amid a siege of Arctic air that has since been displaced by a surge of warmth from the Gulf of Mexico.

Then there’s the humidity. Dew points — a measure of the moisture in the air — climbed into the mid-60s, which is close to unheard of during the middle of winter. That’s sufficient humidity to fuel severe thunderstorms in spring and a stark turnaround from dew points in the single digits early in the week.

Dew point records are incomplete, but 66 degrees is the highest during the month in a database maintained by the Iowa Environmental Mesonet, with hourly data going back to 1937.

The humid air kept Thursday night’s and Friday morning’s temperatures much warmer than normal.

A wind off the chilly Potomac River allowed Washington to fall to 52 degrees this morning, despite most of the area staying near or above 60. Dulles only dipped to 64 degrees, which would top the previous warm minimum for the date by 24 degrees, and mark the warmest low recorded in January.

Elsewhere across the region, Baltimore fell one degree short of its daily and monthly record, with a high of 78 degrees. Charlottesville reached 80 degrees, while Annapolis climbed to 77.

Further south, Charleston, S.C., reached 83 degrees, tying its January record high.

Outside South Florida and parts of the Carolinas, high temperatures in the Washington region were the warmest in the nation.

This warmth was projected by computer models more than a week ago, but its magnitude exceeded even the most aggressive forecasts.

This early taste of late spring and early summer won’t last long. Highs this weekend will dip into the 50s and then the 40s. However, the forecast for the next week to 10 days suggests that temperatures will generally be somewhat above normal.

Jason Samenow contributed to this report.

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

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