Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Heat Wave Sizzles On, Toppling More Than 2,000 Records

Climate

Climate Central

By Andrew Freedman

Records continue to fall across much of the U.S., as the extraordinary March heat wave rolls onward. The warm weather, with daytime high temperatures close to 40°F above average in some places, set the stage for severe thunderstorms that spawned rare, damaging March tornadoes near Detroit.

The warm weather is the result of a weather pattern that has become stuck in place, known as a “blocking pattern,” with a stubborn, sprawling area of high pressure in the eastern U.S. that is pumping warm air northward into the Great Plaines, Midwest, Ohio Valley and Northeast. The West, on the other hand, is cool and stormy, with mountain snows and valley rains associated with a big dip or “trough” in the jet stream. As this trough slides slowly east, it may set the stage for an outbreak of tornadoes in the Plains late this weekend, as the cool air collides with the warm and more humid air that lies to the east.

 

During the past week, more than 1,200 temperature records were set. During March so far, more than 2,000 daily record-high temperatures have been set in the U.S., and warm temperature records outpaced cold records by a ratio of about 9-to-1.

On March 15 alone, 593 record daily high temperatures were set or tied, along with 445 record warm low temperatures. This compares to just 10 record cold high temperatures, and only 2 record cold overnight lows. In Chicago, temperatures have soared past 80°F four days in a row—the earliest that has ever occurred, breaking a record set in mid-April, 1896.

The National Weather Service issued a statement saying: "It is extraordinarily rare for climate locations with 100+ year long periods of records to break records day after day after day... though it is very difficult to precisely quantify just how rare it is because as the period of record grows the likelihood of seeing so many consecutive record-breaking days decreases."

In a long-term trend that has been found to be inconsistent with natural variability alone, daily record-high temperatures have recently been outpacing daily record-lows by an average of 2-to-1, and this imbalance is expected to grow as the climate continues to warm. According to a 2009 study, if the climate were not warming, this ratio would be expected to be even. Other studies have shown that climate change increases the odds of extreme heat events.

Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., said the heat wave is comparable to severe summer heat events in terms of the number of records that have been broken, even though temperatures aren’t as hot as they would get during a summer heat event.

“The number of warm maximum temperature records rival the heat waves that have affected the U.S. in the past,” Crouch said, noting that Nevada is the only state in the lower 48 that has not set a daily high temperature record this month.

The warm weather provided the fuel for severe thunderstorms in Michigan, with multiple tornado touchdowns reported near Detroit. One tornado that touched down in Dexter, Michigan was rated an EF-3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. It demolished homes, but fortunately did not result in any fatalities. 

As noted by WeatherUnderground’s Jeff Masters, this was the earliest that such a powerful tornado had occurred in the state since reliable records began in 1950.

The National Weather Service released a statement saying that Chicago and Rockford are on pace to "not only break... but shatter" their records for the warmest March.

Here are some of the noteworthy records set on March 15-17. 

  • Minneapolis: 79°F on March 16, the warmest it's ever been s early in the year, and 39°F above average.
  • Rockford, Ill.: 82°F on March 15, breaking the old record of 73°F set in 1995. This was the earliest 80-degree reading on record for this location. Rockford set another daily record on the 16th with a high of 80°F, and on the 17th, with a high temperature of 82°F.
  • Chicago: 81°F on March 15, breaking the old record of 74°F set in 1995. Chicago has been running nearly 12 degrees above average for the first half of March. On March 16 and 17, Chicago hit 82°F, which was the earliest it had ever been that warm. The previous record was set on March 27, 1945, and 82°F is the typical record high for June 24, the National Weather Service reported.
  • Bismarck, N.D.: 81°F on March 16, the warmest all-time March temperature on record. (H/T Jeff Masters.)
  • Madison, Wisc.: 82°F on March 15, breaking the old record by 13 degrees, tying the record for the warmest temperature on record during the month of March, and setting the record for the earliest 80-degree day, beating the old date by nearly two weeks.
  • Williston, N.D.: 68°F on March 15, beating the old record of 67°F set in 1996.
  • Minot, N.D.: 64°F on March 15, exceeding the old record of 62°F set in 1938.
  • International Falls, Minn.: 71°F on March 16, which was their earliest 70°F reading. The temperature reached 77°F on March 17, which set an all-time monthly record, beating the old monthly record by 4°F.
  • Moline, Ill.: 81°F on March 15, the warmest it's ever been there so early in the year. This broke the previous record of 80°F on March 12, 1990.
  • Dubuque, Iowa: 78°F on March 15 and 16, the warmest it's ever been there so early in the year, going back to 1874. This record was short-lived, however, since it was toppled on March 17, when the temperature reached 81°F
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa: 75°F on March 15, 79°F on March 16, and 82°F on March 17, which was the earliest 80-degree reading on record.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Oregano oil is an extract that is not as strong as the essential oil, but appears to be useful both when consumed or applied to the skin. Peakpx / CC by 1.0

By Alexandra Rowles

Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.

However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro meets Ronaldo Caiado, governor of the state of Goiás on June 5, 2020. Palácio do Planalto / CC BY 2.0

Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has presided over the world's second worst coronavirus outbreak after the U.S., said Tuesday that he had tested positive for the virus.

Read More Show Less
Although natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, it is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Skitterphoto / PIxabay

By Emily Grubert

Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved two Lysol products as the first to effectively kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces, based on laboratory testing. Paul Hennessy / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a list of 431 products that are effective at killing viruses when they are on surfaces. Now, a good year for Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser just got better when the EPA said that two Lysol products are among the products that can kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveils the Green New Deal resolution in front of the U.S. Capitol on February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Judith Lewis Mernit

For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.

Read More Show Less
About 30,000 claims contending that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are currently unsettled. Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

Bayer's $10 billion settlement to put an end to roughly 125,000 lawsuits against its popular weed killer Roundup, which contains glyphosate, hit a snag this week when a federal judge in San Francisco expressed skepticism over what rights future plaintiffs would have, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Hundreds of sudden elephant deaths in Botswana aren't just a loss for the ecosystem and global conservation efforts. Mario Micklisch / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Charli Shield

When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.

Read More Show Less