It has been warm here this month, warm enough to make people think of spring. It has been cold this month too — cold enough to suppress any longing to explore the Arctic.

But overall, as January comes to a close, the average temperature for the month is almost exactly normal. This demonstrates how averages may deceive and conceal the extremes of which they may be composed.

At the beginning of the month, we had seven consecutive days on which the temperatures were well below normal.

On Jan. 5, the day's average temperature was 19 degrees below the normal for the date in Washington. On each of the next two days, the average was 20 degrees below normal.

But these numbing days on which fear of frostbite loomed were followed a few days later by daily averages that were 14 degrees warmer than normal (Jan. 11) and then 25 degrees above normal (Jan. 12).

Later in the month came a four-day stretch from Jan. 20 to Jan. 23 in which every day was 10 degrees or more above normal — two were more than 20 above.

January was a month of extremes in both directions, as Washington took delight in unseasonable warmth and shuddered in a blast of cold that seemed far more frigid than we had a right to expect.

Yet the average here, as of late Monday gave no hint of the bewildering meteorological whipsaw that we endured.

One of the consequences of the cold could be found, however, in records kept by the police in Prince George's County. One crime in particular may be regarded as partly thermometer-dependent — car theft.

The county police said Friday that the number of car thefts reported this month as vehicles were left unattended while being warmed had reached 37.

"We are watching this issue develop in real time," the police said.

They wished to join with the community in stopping it, the police said, noting the likelihood that more cold days could be in store before winter finally ends. They called on the public to: "Warm up your car. Stay in your car. Keep your car."