If you ask the citizens of Laredo, Texas what they think of Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction, they’d laugh right back at you. Three weeks after Phil’s prediction of six more weeks of winter, Laredo hit a high temperature of 100°.
Texas wan’t the only hot spot in the country. With the help of an intensifying low pressure system, the same one responsible for blizzard warnings in Wyoming and the Upper Midwest, warmer air was drawn north into much of the heart of the country.
This is a story that continues for much of the country this month. In fact, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information (part of NOAA) record high temperatures have been met about 3,000 times from Feburary 1-20 this year, while record lows roughly 30, a ratio of 100:1. More record heat is on tap Friday, February 24 as the warmth is pushed east by a strong low pressure system in the Upper Midwest. Dozens more cities may push existing records aside.
Let’s get back to Texas and why it’s been particularly warm there lately. Dallas has hit 80 degrees or hotter 11 times this winter, a new record. Also, Galveston has tied or broken 31 records since November 1. This may be, in part, a product of a particularly warm Gulf of Mexico. The waters in the western Gulf are roughly between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius warmer than average, equal to about 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. It may not sound like much, but with added heat comes added potential for higher temperatures. Let’s just hope that the Gulf cools down a little before hurricane season, because tropical systems love to feed off that warm water.
For WeatherNation, Meteorologist Steve Glazier