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The Nation’s temperatures are just too hot, too cold and just right

Water vapor satellite image with observed high temperatures on afternoon of May 16, 2014.  Upper wind flow and surface temperatures are closely linked.
Water vapor satellite image with observed high temperatures on afternoon of May 16, 2014. Upper wind flow and surface temperatures are closely linked.
NOAA/CIRA

The weather during the past few days could easily be compared to the fairy tale, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” However, the extremes in temperature are quite real, albeit unusual.

Much like Goldilocks discovered by tasting the bear’s porridge (an oatmeal-like dish), “too hot,” “too cold” and “just right,” could also be likened to recent U.S. temperatures.

The map of high temperatures observed on May 16 (Fig. 1), tells the story.

Across the desert Southwest into southern California, the temperatures were simply, “too hot.” Los Angeles Airport, CA (LAX) reported a high temperature of 91 degrees, some 25 degrees above the seasonal 30-year average of 68. The mercury at San Diego, CA (SAN) peaked at 91, 23 degrees above average. Phoenix, AZ (PHX) reported 104 degrees, 9 degrees above the seasonal average of 95.

During the preceding three days, similar extreme warmth blanketed an even greater area of the southwestern U.S. For example, on May 13, the high temperature at San Francisco Airport, CA (SFO) reached 92, also 25 degrees above average for mid-May.

On the other hand, places from the upper Midwest and the Great lakes southward to Georgia experienced abnormally chilly weather. The 46 degree reading at Chicago, IL (ORD) reached a level 24 degrees lower than its seasonal average for the day of 70. The high temperature at St. Louis, MO (STL) was 15 degrees below average; Minneapolis, MN (MSP) reported 15 degrees colder than average; and Atlanta, GA (ATL) logged a 10-degree below average reading.

There were a few places where the temperature was, “just right,” meaning within a few degrees of average and “comfortable” to most people. Seattle, WA (SEA) reached a high temperature of 68 (3 degrees above average). Boston, MA (BOS) reached 73 (7 degrees above average), a welcome relief from the very chilly readings associated with a “back door cold front” days earlier. Naples, FL (APF) saw its high temperature rise to 85 (3 degrees below seasonal average). The comfort factor here involved dew points that had tumbled into the lower 40’s, along with relative humidity readings in the mid 20’s.

There is a direct link between the wind patterns shown on the water vapor satellite image (Fig. 1) with the plotted high temperatures (and departures) for May 16. High temperatures are under upper level ridges and low temperatures are under upper level lows or troughs.

Rainfall across the U.S. also fits the, “too much,” “too little,” and “just right” categories. That, however, is another story (stay tuned).

© 2014 H. Michael Mogil