Bright sunshine, sultry southern breezes and near-record temperatures splashed summer across the Washington landscape yesterday, producing an air of both intoxication and confusion amid foliage festooned in fall finery.
The 83-degree high temperature, with its guarantee that outdoor comfort could be found in shorts and shirtsleeves, lured some of the most devoted football fans from vigils before their television sets.
No sooner did church doors open at services' end than some worshipers leaped onto waiting motorcycles. Strollers appeared in the parks wearing outfits salvaged from premature storage.
"Weather like this," said Betsy Brown, referring to the prolonged spell of above-average temperatures, "makes you feel flirtatious."
Speaking, it seemed, as much of psychological responses as of the odd meteorology, Brown added: "It's confusing."
Temperatures in the 80s -- expected again today -- are unusual now, say weather watchers, but as always they are in some way explicable.
In 1947, for example, Washington's thermometers climbed 2 degrees higher than they did yesterday, reaching the 85-degree mark, the record high for the date.
National Weather Service forecasters said the current pleasant weather is a result of shifts and flows of various meteorological forces and fronts.
Foremost perhaps is the existence of a great Bermuda high, a vast weather system centered out in the Atlantic Ocean, which normally brings summer weather that is sometimes unbearably hot and muggy, and which now is helping provide weather that is just startlingly warm.
This great swirling system, according to Weather Service spokesman Scott Prosise, has for days been pumping benign and balmy breezes from the sunny south toward Washington and other mid-Atlantic spots.
Yesterday autumn leaves on Washington's trees were dancing on almost steamy breezes from the south that gusted up to 30 mph.
While shipping warm air in our direction, Prosise said, the Bermuda high has shielded this area from chill blasts that normally would be arriving on a regular schedule from cold northern climates.
Such conditions can be expected for another two days, Prosise said, until a cold front now in the Midwest works its way here, perhaps by sometime Wednesday. That should cool things off a bit, pulling high temperatures down to around 70.
In the meantime, said Prosise, speaking of the warm weather that has seen temperatures climb above normal every day since Oct. 8, the best thing to do is "enjoy it."
Whatever its source, many Washingtonians were following just such advice yesterday. Parks and playing fields swarmed with visitors and competitors. The C&O canal was almost clogged with canoes.
The same warm weather that brought many out may have muted the colors of the autumn leaves. October colors cannot be totally suppressed, but, according to William Yeaman, a naturalist at Rock Creek Park, this year "the leaves just haven't put on a show.