High temperature records tied and broken across the U.S. Thursday (National Climatic Data Center)

Several locations set all-time January record high temperatures, including Huron (65 degrees) amd Mitchell (68 degrees) in South Dakota (SD) and Minot (61 degrees), Fargo (55 degrees) and Jamestown (56 degrees) in North Dakota. (Source: CapitalClimate).

What distinguishes this warm spell is the amount by which some records were broken. Consider Rapid City, SD hit 73, obliterating the old record by 13 degrees. (That 73 degree high temperature was 4 above the high temperature of 69 in Miami, Fl). Aberdeen, SD reached 63, smashing the old record of 46 by 17 degrees and setting a new monthly record.

AccuWeather highlighted the following incredible record: “...in Philip, S.D., the mercury reached a balmy 74 degrees, which absolutely obliterated the old record of 46 set back in 2002.”

In Minnesota, several locations reached the 60s for the first time ever during the first week of January. Alexandria reached 55, crushing its old record of 38 (from 1984) by an amazing 17 degrees (source: Star Tribune weather blog)

In Nebraska, record highs were set in Omaha (66), North Platte (69), Valentine (69) and Imperial (73, source: USA Today, AP). Sidney Nebraska’s record high of 74 broke the previous record of 62 and tied its monthly record.

Record highs were set by the numbers indicated on the map above. In some parts of northern Iowa, records were exceeded by more than 10 degrees. (hat tip: Capital Climate)

Washington state weather blogger Cliff Mass tells us notable record heat was also experienced in the Pacific Northwest. More than a dozen locations set or tied record highs including Bend and Pendleton, Oregon, which climbed into the 60s.

Record warmth extended into California and the desert Southwest as well.

Across the U.S., almost one thousand high temperature records have been broken or tied this January, and more than 1,400 in the last week.

Wunderground’s Jeff Masters led his daily column this way: Flowers are sprouting in January in New Hampshire, the Sierra Mountains in California are nearly snow-free, and lakes in much of Michigan still have not frozen. It’s 2012, and the new year is ringing in another ridiculously wacky winter for the U.S.

The warm air mass in the Plains shifts east today towards the Ohio and Tennesse Valley, but will not produce as many records. The warmth in the Plains was enhanced by downslope flow off the Rocky mountains.