March 22 (Bloomberg) -- Rain and wind off Lake Michigan will probably keep temperatures in the 70s today in Chicago, where highs have been above 80 for seven of the past eight days, according to the National Weather Service.
The high in Chicago is forecast to reach 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25.6 Celsius) after reaching a record for the date yesterday of 87, breaking a mark set in 1977, the weather service said.
“This warm air mass has been incredible,” said Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. ‘The highest temperature this month in Miami has only been 86.”
As temperature records have fallen across the Midwest, plants have started to bloom weeks early, leaving them at risk of spring frosts, and energy needed for heating has declined by as much as 80 percent across the region.
“There’s a big concern with fruit-bearing trees,” Kines said. “Apples and pears are starting to blossom and it’s way too early for that. If we get some colder weather there could be a problem. All you need is a normal air mass in the month of April and nighttime lows could be in the 20s.”
The average days for last freezes across northern Illinois range from April 19 to May 7, according to the weather service. Wheat crops would also be susceptible to damage from a return to seasonal temperatures.
Early Growing Season
The growing season across southern Michigan has arrived about five weeks early, according to the weather service.
Throughout the Midwest and Ohio Valley, 60 to 80 percent less energy will be needed for heating from March 23 to March 29, according to David Salmon, owner of Weather Derivatives in Belton, Missouri.
Cleveland has had eight consecutive days of highs of 70 degrees or more, passing the old mark of seven set in 1945, according to the weather service.
The highest March temperature in Fort Wayne, Indiana, 87 degrees, was recorded yesterday, breaking a 102-year-old mark. Detroit set an all-time March high yesterday of 84 and has had eight days of temperatures above 70.
“This current extreme weather event truly has never happened in record history in southeast Michigan,” according to a statement on the Detroit weather service’s website.
The temperature may reach 77 in Toronto and 72 in Montreal today, according to Environment Canada. New York City’s expected high is 74, while Boston may have a high of 82 under sunny skies.
The high in Washington is forecast to be 75 and Philadelphia may see 76, according to the weather service.
Kines said the warmth is being caused by the far-north position of the jet stream, which is a divider between warm and cold air.
“For the jet stream to be real far north for this prolonged period is very unusual,” Kines said. “What is making this a once in a life time event? It is hard to say.”
Kines said potential culprits may be snow cover across the U.S. and Canada, which much lower this year, and the fact the Great Lakes didn’t freeze over. It will take more study to determine what happened, he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at email@example.com