U.S. Warm Records Crushing Cold Records by Over 5-to-1 Ratio in 2017

Brian Donegan
Published: April 19, 2017

Above-average temperatures continue to dominate the majority of the United States in 2017, with the number of warm records crushing cold records by a ratio of more than 5-to-1 through mid-April.

Only the Pacific Northwest and far northern Rockies have seen mean temperatures that are colder than average through this point of the year, according to data compiled by the Southeast Regional Climate Center.

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Year to date temperature departures through April 17.
(Data from Southeast Regional Climate Center)

Global surface temperatures in January, February and March were the third-warmest, second-warmest and second-warmest for those respective months, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies reported.

(MORE: Earth's Two Warmest Marches on Record Since 1880 Have Occurred the Past Two Years)

As of April 17, the central and southern Rockies, central and southern Plains, Mississippi Valley, Great Lakes, Ohio Valley, Tennessee Valley and interior Southeast have experienced temperatures the furthest above average this year.

It was the warmest year-to-date on record through April 17 in many cities, including Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Nashville, Louisville, Kentucky, Huntington, West Virginia, Columbus, Ohio, Meridian, Mississippi, Montgomery, Alabama, Greenville, South Carolina, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Temperatures in these cities are generally running 5 to 8 degrees above average for the year.

(MORE: Summer 2017 Temperature Outlook)

According to NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), there have been 27,882 daily warm records tied or set compared to only 5,158 daily cold records in the U.S. this year through Easter Sunday – approximately 5.4 daily warm records for every daily cold record.

Looking at monthly records, the ratio is even more lopsided so far in 2017, with 1,736 warm records and only 124 cold records, a 14-1 ratio, NCEI's data shows.

U.S. year to date daily and monthly records summaries through April 16.

Tallying together both the daily and monthly records, there have been 29,618 total warm records and 5,282 total cold records, a ratio of 5.6-to-1 through this point in the year.

Meteorologist Guy Walton, formerly with The Weather Channel, wrote in a recent blog post that there have been more daily record highs than daily record lows in the U.S. for 28 consecutive months now, which is "also in association with the latest warmest 12-, 24-, 36-, 48- and 60-month periods going back from March 2017, since 1895."

The ratio of U.S. daily record highs to daily record lows is currently greater than 6.5-to-1 for this year, Walton added.

Some of the most unusual warmth this year occurred in February, when Chicago recorded multiple 70-degree days in that month (Feb. 18 and Feb. 20) for the first time in history, not to mention the Windy City's snowless streak in January and February when not a single day in either month featured at least one inch of snow on the ground.

February was also when Denver reached 80 degrees earlier than it ever has in a calendar year, on the 10th of that month.

(MORE: Here's When You Can Expect Your First 80- and 90-Degree Temperatures)

The early-year warmth caused vegetation to bloom much earlier than average across a large swath of the nation, according to the Daily Spring Leaf Index Anomaly, compiled by the USA National Phenology Network.

Vegetation emerged up to three weeks ahead of schedule by Feb. 20 from the Deep South to the Ohio Valley, as illustrated by the dark red shadings in the below image from that day.

(MORE: Spring Has Arrived Earlier Than Usual in Much of the United States)

Spring leaf index on Feb. 20. Areas shaded dark red had seen vegetation emerge much earlier than average by that point in the year.
(USA National Phenology Network)

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