A look at weather extremes and the big-picture climate connections.

High Temperature Records Set in the Plains

Longstanding high temperature records were annihilated yesterday in eight states, most especially in North and South Dakota, which are typically among the nation's coldest places at this time of year.

It was warmer in Rapid City, S.D., with a high of 73°F yesterday, than it was in Miami, where the temperature topped out at 69°F. Mitchell, S.D., reached 68°F, an all-time record high for the month of January (recordkeeping began there in 1896).

Record temperatures recorded from January 4-6, 2012. Credit: HAMweather

Aberdeen, S.D., reached 63°F, which was also the warmest temperature ever recorded there during the month of January, and the list goes on. 

Climate studies show that because of global warming, there are now many more record highs being set in the U.S. each year compared to record lows. In 2011, the ratio was about three warm temperature records to every cold temperature record.

The National Weather Service said on its Sioux Falls, S.D., website that one sign pointing to the unusual nature of the warm weather was the fact that old records were exceeded by huge margins, as much as 17 degrees warmer than previous records, the agency's website states. As noted by the Weather Channel's Twitter account, the high temperature of 61°F in Minot, N.D., — an all-time January record — was the average high temperature in April, according to The Weather Channel.

The warm weather so far this winter is raising the risks for anyone venturing out on frozen lakes, rivers or ponds in the region. The Weather Service warned that ice cover is "significantly less than what would be considered normal for this time of year. Reports of thin ice across west and central North Dakota have been received with actual open water on some rivers and lakes."

 

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