Extreme Temperature Diary- Wednesday February 28th, 2024/Main Topic: Climate Temperature and Weather Whiplash Strikes the U.S.

Extreme Temperature Diary- Monday February 26th, 2024/Main Topic: Eye Opening Spate of Record Warmth Across U.S. At End of February – Guy On Climate

Historic winter heat wave smashes records in central U.S., fuels tornadoes – The Washington Post

Historic winter heat wave smashes records in central U.S., fuels tornadoes

Six states posted their highest February temperature on record as did more than 130 cities and towns, including Minneapolis, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Detroit

By Ian Livingston

The central United States has just witnessed what was probably its most significant February heat wave on record, after scores of records were not just broken, but demolished.

Half a dozen states registered their highest February temperature on record as did more than 130 cities and towns, including Minneapolis, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Detroit. Multiple locations also posted their highest temperatures ever observed during any of the winter months. The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore described the spree of records as “insane” on X.

Temperatures climbed to 90 in Missouri, the mid-80s in Illinois, near 80 in Iowa and the mid-70s in Wisconsin. In Texas, temperatures reached the century mark. The record-breaking heat, as much as 40 degrees above normal, crossed the border into southern Canada as well; Quebec saw its highest February temperature.

In many cases, records were beaten by significant amounts.

Weather historian Maximiliano Herrera described the heat episode as “insanity, madness, mind blowing,” on X. He compared its magnitude to the most extreme heat events in U.S. history. “Records were brutalized with margins seen only a couple of times in history,” he wrote.

The heat also fueled an outbreak of damaging tornadoes in the Midwest, including what was probably Michigan’s farthest north tornado observed in February.

At the same time, it contributed to massive wildfires that erupted in Texas and other parts of the Plains.

A handful of additional warm weather records are predicted in the Northeast on Wednesday, but the same strong front that triggered the tornadoes is barreling east, bringing a dramatic drop in temperatures.

After a very brief pause in the unseasonable warmth, another strong pulse of exceptionally mild weather will likely threaten records again in the central United States late this week.

The amount of frigid winter air is near a record low, and shrinking

The El Niño climate pattern and human-caused climate change are helping to drive these exceptional spells of warm weather, clinching the warmest winter on record for the Lower 48 states.

The Climate Shift Index from Climate Central, a nonprofit climate communications group, suggests human-caused climate change made this latest heat event two to three times more probable.

Records smashed across the central United States

On Tuesday, record highs were set from Texas to New York, but the most significant warmth — relative to normal — focused in the Upper Midwest, where numerous locations notched their highest February and, in many cases, winter temperatures.

Some locations even set monthly records on back-to-back days.

Below is a list of many of the locations that broke records for the month, which have at least 100 years of weather observations:

  • Illinois: Springfield (80), Carbondale (79), Moline (79), Peoria (78), Quincy (78) and Rockford (78)
  • Iowa: Cedar Rapids (78), Des Moines (78), Waterloo (78), Burlington (77), Sioux City (77), Spencer (74) and Dubuque (72)
  • Michigan: Flint (74), Holland (74), Kalamazoo (74), Saginaw (74), Battle Creek (73), Detroit (73), Grand Rapids (73), Lansing (73), Alpena (70), Houghton Lake (69), Muskegon (67) and Sault Ste Marie (51)
  • Wisconsin: Milwaukee (74), Green Bay (70), Madison (70), La Crosse (69), Wausau (68) and Rhinelander (65)
  • Others: St Louis (86), Omaha (80), Norfolk, Neb. (76) and Toledo (73)

State records for February were set in Missouri (90), Arkansas (90), Illinois (86), Wisconsin (77), Michigan (75) and Minnesota (72), according to Herrera, although these numbers are preliminary and require review from the National Weather Service.

The first 100-degree reading of the year was also observed in Killeen, Tex., on Monday. It was three degrees shy of the U.S. February record.

The exceptional warmth extended into both Mexico and Canada. With a drought raging in Mexico, record highs approached 105 degrees. In Canada, which has been unusually warm for much of the winter, Quebec preliminarily established a new provincial high mark for February, with a temperature as high as 68.9 degrees.

The heat fueled tornadic thunderstorms

As the warm weather surged unusually far north, the Weather Service logged around a dozen reports of tornadoes through early Wednesday. The majority of the reports originated from northern Illinois, including the Chicago area, parts of southern Michigan and central Ohio. The Weather Service office serving the Chicago area issued 10 tornado warnings, the most on record during February. Travelers at O’Hare International Airport were briefly told to shelter away from windows as rotating thunderstorms passed.

Multiple towns and cities reported damage to homes and businesses from the storms.

probable twister that formed to the southeast of Flint, Mich., will be the farthest north in the state so early in the season if confirmed. The tornado swarm was also one of the most significant in the lower Great Lakes region this early in the year.

Earlier in the month, Wisconsin witnessed its first February tornado during another warm spell.

The storms also produced multiple reports of damaging winds and large hail from the southern Great Lakes to West Virginia. A few more intense storms could develop in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Wednesday as the potent front charges eastward.

Rapid temperature swings

The storm front that triggered the severe storms also brought about dramatic swings in temperature. On Tuesday afternoon, as the front plowed through Kansas, temperatures plunged into the upper 20s after soaring into the 80s the previous day.

Kansas City, Mo., reached 73 degrees around 2 p.m. Tuesday, and by 8 p.m. it had fallen to 30 degrees.

In Fargo, N.D., the temperature reached 61 degrees Monday afternoon, its second highest on record in February. The next day, the temperature plummeted to 6 degrees with a wind chill of minus-20, as winds howled over 50 mph amid heavy snow. Lows on Wednesday morning dipped to minus-5.

According to the Weather Service, temperatures across the Lower 48 ranged from a maximum of 100 degrees in Killeen, Tex., to minus-13 in Mackay, Idaho, on Monday. On Tuesday, high temperatures ranged from 99 degrees in Falcon Village, Tex., to minus-16 in Kelliher, Minn.

Although this cold front is bringing in sudden drops in temperatures, they are only falling about 10 to 20 degrees below normal — mainly in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest. Only a few cold weather records are in jeopardy.

More heat ahead

Record warmth is set to begin anew as soon as Thursday in parts of the northern Plains, with temperatures at least 20 degrees above normal heading eastward to begin March.

For the weekend, many of the same places in the Midwest and Great Lakes that just witnessed record winter heat are in for their first round of such during climatological spring, defined as March to May.

Highs are predicted to be 20 to 40 degrees above normal. That means more 80s and 90s in the south central states with 60s and 70s into the Great Lakes.

Temperatures may moderate in the east somewhat after the first 7 to 10 days of March, but the general pattern favors cooler and stormier weather in the West while high pressure anchored in southeast Canada should keep it on the mild side in the eastern half of the nation.

Jason Samenow contributed to this report.

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