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Hundreds of Eastern warm records and Western cold records set this week

Record high temperatures in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday and Thursday. (Ian Livingston/The Washington Post)
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Hundreds of warm and cold records have fallen this week as a volatile weather pattern overtook the Lower 48.

The Eastern United States is finishing up what has been a wintertime heat wave for the ages. In addition to the slew of daily records for warm highs and warm lows — temperatures more like late spring than February — a number of monthly and wintertime warmth values were also exceeded.

In the West, there have been comparatively few all-time cold marks reached, but still a whole lot of cold high-temperature and daily low-temperature records, nonetheless.

Eastern heat

Sometimes it feels hyperbolic to say there are too many records to count, but in this case it’s quite true when it comes to the wacky winter warmth in the East.

Climate expert Maximiliano Herrera called it the “harshest winter heat wave in history” for the region.

(Video: TWP)

These are some of the monthly — or monthly and seasonal — records established:

In Texas, a daily record of 98 degrees in McAllen wasn’t even the highest temperature of the heat wave. It reached 102 degrees in Falcon Lake. That’s one of the hottest temperatures on record in the Lower 48 so early in the year and the hottest reading for the country so far in 2023.

Among hundreds of daily records for warm minimum temperatures, several locations also set monthly or seasonal records for that metric. For instance, in addition to its all-time monthly high, Atlanta picked up its warmest February low.

Cold records

While the number and intensity of warmth records have outpaced the record cold in the West, there was still plenty of serious cold to deal with.

Lyman, in the southwest reaches of Wyoming, dipped to minus-35 for the coldest reading of the outbreak. It bookended a gradient from high to low of 137 degrees across the contiguous United States on Thursday.

Much of the coldest weather of the event was centered in and around the High Plains and northern Rockies, but the West Coast also saw some unusual morning chill.

  • Rawlins, Wyo., dipped to minus-25 degrees, breaking a record of minus-15 degrees.
  • Scottsbluff, Neb., fell to minus-20 degrees, besting the old daily record there by 7 degrees.
  • Santa Rosa, in the San Francisco Bay Area, fell to 28 degrees, tying a record low for the date.
  • Los Angeles dipped to 41 degrees at LAX Airport, tying a record low for the date.

Many more record low maximums were set, especially on the West Coast, where a cold storm system has been taunting the region. More cold records are expected here through the weekend. Below, some from Thursday.

  • Denver topped out at 7 degrees, beating the old record of 10 degrees.
  • Alta, Utah, reached only 9 degrees, beating the old record of 11 degrees.
  • Hastings, Neb., climbed to 13 degrees, tying the record for the date.
  • Spokane, Wash., saw a maximum temperature of 16 degrees, besting a record of 19 degrees.
  • Anaheim, Calif., home of Disneyland, managed only 57 degrees. It was one of many lowest maximum records across Southern California, including the Big Bear ski resort at 23 degrees.

As the center of a very chilly storm system passes over Southern California through the weekend, blizzard warnings are in effect for the Southern California mountains, where up to 7 or 8 feet of snow is expected along with wind chills below zero. To the north, cold air is feeding in from places like Seattle and recently snowy Portland, and readings are likely to flirt with record lows in the mid-20s to upper teens Friday night.

Persistent pattern

Most long-term climate locations near and east of the Appalachians are in the midst of a top-five warmest winter on record. Outside some brief and frigid exceptions, warmth has parked in the East this winter as storminess and cold favor the West.

This general pattern should continue for at least another week or two. There’s less certainty beyond that, but it seems more likely that colder air relative to normal could take over much of the country for a time.

A daily risk for at least a handful of cold and warm records is set to persist for the next week and perhaps beyond. For now, the focus of that is on the immediate West Coast to the Southeast and Florida.