Warmest on record? Unseasonably high temps expected today, this winter

Published 10:28 am Thursday, January 5, 2012

Put the boots and hats back in the closet for a while; much of the area may hit record-high temperatures today.

According to the National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wis., Austin may peak at 47 degrees on Thursday — three degrees warmer than the previous Jan. 5 record of 44 degrees, set in 2007.

“We’re well above normal,” said Jeff Boyne, NWS meteorologist, who added the average Jan. 5 high is 20 degrees, while the low is 1 degree.

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The 2011-2012 winter has been the 10th warmest on record thus far (Dec. 1 through Jan. 5). While 2007 was indeed the warmest winter — with an average temperature of 28.2 — this season isn’t far behind, with an average of 23.9. Historically, the average is 18.7. Boyne pointed out that the nighttime lows have currently been warmer than the historical daytime highs.

But Boyne doesn’t expect this winter to be the warmest on record.

“I don’t know if it will be quite there,” he said. “There is still a lot of winter left.”

Boyne added the jet stream through Canada hasn’t dipped far enough south to bring cold air and snow. He mentioned that it is a La Nina year, which should be colder than normal. However, the La Nina system in the Pacific has been very week thus far.

Despite all the warm weather, NWS officials expect cold air to move into the area in late-January and stay throughout February. That time period should be colder than the historical average, as well. While that period may be colder with a better possibility of snow, Boyne doesn’t expect a winter that will extend into April or May. What he and others are concerned about is drought.

From May until now, the Austin area has received nine fewer inches of rainfall than the historical average. NWS officials expect the dry conditions to persist.

“It doesn’t look like we’re going to see it any time soon,” Boyne said about wet conditions.