November is feeling more like September across much of the southern and eastern United States, with temperatures running well above average from the Rockies to the Eastern Seaboard. Unseasonable warmth looks to carry toward Thanksgiving, the lengthy spate of mildness coming on the heels of the Earth’s warmest October on record, according to data from European and Japanese research centers.
The data shows October came in at about 3 degrees above the long-term average or about 0.7 degrees above the next warmest year, and the planet has all but secured its warmest year on record.
Even though November started with a chill across the Lower 48 states - in sharp contrast to Asia, where it’s been exceptionally warm - the script has flipped this week.
Myriad records are in jeopardy on Tuesday, with highs expected to peak in the mid-90s in parts of Texas and above 80 degrees in the Tennessee Valley. More records are likely Wednesday across the Midwest and lower Appalachians before the heat shifts toward the Interstate 95 corridor on Thursday.
Thereafter, a slight cool-down is expected into the weekend before another warm-up overtakes the Plains into the start of the next workweek. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, moreover, is predicting a high likelihood of above-average temperatures over much of the central and eastern Lower 48 during the next two weeks.
Records that have fallen so far
On Monday, the heat was building over the Plains and Midwest. Here’s a sampling of some of the records set:
- Lubbock, Tex., hit 88 degrees, breaking the previous record of 85 set in 1975.
- Childress, Tex., hit 91 degrees, breaking the previous record of 87 set in 1945.
- Evansville, Ind., hit 78 degrees, tying the record of 78 set both in 1915 and 1916.
- Little Rock hit 83 degrees, breaking the previous record of 81 set in 1915. The average high temperature is 65 degrees.
- Nashville hit 79 degrees, which also ties a record set in 1915. The average high temperature is also 65 degrees.
On Tuesday, the heat was sliding east, peaking in intensity over the Mississippi Valley. Memphis will flirt with records in the mid 80s, Nashville will probably break a record at 81 degrees and Knoxville should tie a record at 79. In Huntsville, Ala., a record-tying 82 degrees is predicted.
Mid-80s are predicted across Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, coming within a degree or two of records.
A few 90s are slated to pepper the map in Texas, like in Abilene, which will likely eclipse the record of 89 set back in 1963; bookkeeping there dates to 1885. Lubbock could tie another record at 89 degrees, and Childress could lurch to 93 - surpassing the previous record by 90 degrees.
In the Panhandle, Amarillo was looking at a high of 86, coming just eight days after the city reported a morning low of 22 degrees.
On Wednesday, the greatest temperature departures from average will shift into the Midwest and Tennessee Valley, with highs ranging 25 to 30 degrees above average along the Ohio River. Nashville will probably set a record at 84, Lexington, Ky., should hit 78, also a record, and St. Louis is forecast to tie a record at 82 degrees. That would be 22 degrees above St. Louis’s average high of 50 degrees.
Mid-80s will be common from Memphis southeastward across the Deep South, with 80s in the Carolinas. Raleigh will flirt with a record at 80 degrees.
By Thursday, the heat will be primarily relegated to the Mid-Atlantic and interior Southeast. Washington, D.C., could approach 80 degrees, even though the average is closer to 60. If it hits 80, it would mark the fourth latest in the year on record. Charlotte is expected to hit 81, flirting with the record of 82. Columbia, S.C., will peak in the mid-80s. Atlanta could tie a record at 80 degrees; the city’s average high is 66.
The overall pattern
The heat is caused by a dome of mid-level high pressure, or warm, sinking air, which has been slowly pushing across the country. That sinking air squashes cloud cover and allows for sunshine, helping temperatures to soar.
A counterclockwise-spinning surface low pressure system, meanwhile, is traversing the Great Lakes. That’s helping strengthen southerly winds, bolstering temperatures even more.
Since the start of the year, the United States has had 27,255 instances of weather stations setting calendar day record highs, compared to 19,574 record cold maximum temperatures. That’s a ratio of roughly 1.4 to 1. For overnight lows, the warm to cold record ratio is even more dramatic - 2.5 to 1.
This inequity is even more dramatic for monthly and all-time (for any calendar day) records. Consider there have been a total of 178 all-time record highs in the United States this year, but only eight stations with all-time record cold maximum readings. That’s a ratio of 22 to 1.
If it seems like warm weather makes headlines more often than cold weather, it’s because there’s more of it.
In an unchanging world, we’d expect a roughly even balance of warm and cold temperature records. But in an era earmarked by a swiftly-warming atmosphere because of the burning of oil, coal and gas, there’s no more balance. Earth’s climate is skewed hot, and we see it in the daily numbers.