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An out of balance weather pattern leads to record-setting events

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While another record-breaking winter storm crippled parts of the eastern U.S., many areas of the Southwest saw record-breaking warmth and a continued lack of precipitation. In fact, record reports documented by National Weather Service (NWS) offices soared during the past few days (Fig. 1). Fully one-third of NWS offices nationwide reported record events in their area of responsibility during the past three days.

These primarily involve daily records. Seasonal records and near records (of which there are many) make for another story.

Note that any record report needs to be compared to long-term data. In some places (like Philadelphia), records date back more than a century (actually since 1872). In other places, record-keeping may have begun only recently. It is not always easy to ascertain the length of the weather record history in weather statements or news reports. Such information was included here, where it was reported.

Although there was an icy mix across parts of the Deep South (along with significant power outages), during the past few days, it has been the snow that has made the headlines.

Philadelphia, PA just shattered a 130-year old record by notching its fourth six-inch or greater snowfall in a single winter season. Philadelphia’s snowfall during the winter of 2013-2014 is now in the top five snowiest winters since official record-keeping began.

The Philadelphia area also set some daily snowfall records during this week’s snowstorm. Some of these included:

• Philadelphia, PA – 10.4 inches on Feb. 13 (old record 10 inches in 1899)

• Allentown, PA - 17.8 inches on Feb. 13 (old record 3.4 inches in 1993)

• Wilmington, DE – 9.5 inches on Feb. 13 (old record 2.6 inches in 1978)

Other nearby records included:

• Asheville, NC – 7.1 inches on Feb. 12 (old record 2.8 inches in 2010) – period of record dates back to 1869

• Islip, NY – 8.1 inches on Feb. 13 (old record 0.4 inches in 2001)

• LaGuardia, NY – 7.7 inches on Feb. 13 (old record 4.5 inches in 1950)

• Kennedy, NY – 5.5 inches on Feb. 13 (old record 3.0 inches in 1950)

• Newark, NJ – 9.4 inches on Feb. 13 (old record 3.3 inches in 1950)

• Bridgeport, CT – 9.5 inches on Feb. 13 (old record 4.2 inches in 1950)

• Worchester, MA – 10.5 inches on Feb. 13 (old record 9.0 inches in 1897) – period of record dates back to 1892

The day before the storm began its truly excessive snowfall production, record snowfalls were reported across the South. These included:

• Huntsville, AL – 3.9 inches on Feb. 12 (old record 2.0 inches in 1960)

• Greensboro, NC – 7.0 inches on Feb. 12 (old record 1.2 inches in 2010)

Near the record snowfall zone, where temperatures were a bit warmer, heavy rain and melted “wet” snow contributed to 1.77 inches of liquid precipitation on Feb. 13 at Baltimore’s BWI Airport. This broke a daily precipitation record of 1.65 inches (set in 1972).

Prior to the onset of the snowstorm, low temperature records tumbled across New York State. Watertown, NY saw its low temperature dip to minus 27 on Feb. 12 (old record was minus 25 set in 1979). Islip, NY reported 10 degrees (tying a record set in 1992).

It was quite the opposite story out west (California eastward to Texas). There, with an upper level ridge in place, temperatures reached record highs. There are too many such record reports from Feb. 14 to list here, but here are a few of the more significant high temperatures reported:

• Elsinore, CA – 90 degrees (old record 88 in 1898) – period of record dates back to 1897

• Big Bear, CA – 67 degrees (old record 61 in 1971) – period of record dates back to 1960

• Mount Palomar, CA – 73 degrees (old record 71 in 1957) – period of record dates back to 1901

Mount Palomar also reported a record high minimum temperature of 55 (old record 52 in 1957).

At Lancaster, CA, an 84-degree reading on Feb. 14 eclipsed the daily record high temperature of 82 (set in 1971). Palmdale, CA reported 84 degrees on Feb. 14. This broke the record for the day set in 1971. At both locales, these temperatures tied the monthly record for the month of February (set a day earlier).

Phoenix, AZ tied its record for Feb. 14 at 85 (last set in 1957). Flagstaff topped its record of 64 (set in 1957) with a 66. Flagstaff’s records date back to 1899.

In the Lone Star State, Corpus Christi, TX reported a 91 and Del Rio, TX reached 92 (both topping the previous daily records of 88 set in 2005 and 2000, respectively). The temperature at San Antonio, TX climbed to 92 (breaking the old record of 90 set in 1886).

© 2014 H. Michael Mogil

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