Washington's balmy temperatures yesterday broke one record and tied another, bringing further bafflement to weather watchers already befuddled by last week's premature snow.
The high of 73 degrees recorded at 1:43 p.m. at the National Weather Service observation post tied the record set for the date 105 years ago, in 1973.
The temperature at National Airport has yet to reach the freezing mark of 32 degrees this fall, and that's a record in itself. The previous late date for the city's first freezing temperature was Dec. 3, 1975.
The earliest freezing temperature was recorded on Oct. 10, 1895.
Just a week ago, the season's first storm dropped three to five inches of snow on the area. Even then, the temperatures remained above freezing. The lowest readings were on Nov. 26, 27 and 29, when the mercury dipped to 34 degrees.
Yesterday's soupy air, intensified by showers and warm, gusty winds, simply added to the confusion. But relief -- if that is the correct word i is on the way. National Weather Sevice observer Don Marier said yesterday that skies should be mostly sunny today with temperatures dropping to more nearly normal levels.
Later this week and perhaps as early as tomorrow, the area should get its first freeze, Mrier said. A strong cold front moving in from the west is expected to send temperatures down to the mid-20s and low 30s at night and hold them in the 40s during daylight hours for the next three days, he said.
While the official weather recording station at National Airport has still not registered a freezing temperature this fall, other locations in the area have. Dulles International Airport, 30 miles west of the city, for example, has recorded 22 days on which the temperature has hit 32 degrees or lower. The coldest reading there this fall was 23 degrees, compared to National Airport's 34 degrees.
Weathermen say the warmer temperatures at National Airport and other close-in points are due in part to the "urban heat island" phenomenon -- the warming influence in concentrated urban areas caused by vehicle exhausts, factories, heating plants and reflection of solar heat into the air by pavement and buildings.