We all remember what a cold winter we had as we started out this year, and then the sudden and sharp turnaround to above-normal temperatures later in the Spring and Summer as an El Nino pattern quickly yielded to La Nina, without much of a break in between. The summer featured persistent high pressure ridges over the eastern U.S. that kept temperatures warm anyway, but also left us dry for notable stretches, making it even easier for temperatures to soar, and we set a record for days reaching 90 degrees or higher. You can visualize all of that pretty easily with a glance at our temperature extremes chart for the year-to-date (included here), one of several such charts you can find by clicking on the weather charts link in the "Weather Data" section of our main weather page.
Now that we're past those 90-something days, it's also of interest take a look at how we stand with days reaching 80 degrees or greater, something we're likely to see at least two and possibly three times this week. While we shot well past the old record at RDU for 90-degree days this year, the Southeast Regional Climate Center made note a week or two ago that we're actually still a ways short of the record for 80-plus days. I checked up on that statistic this morning, and after the 81 degree high at RDU on Tuesday afternoon, we've reached or topped 80 153 times so far this year, tying 1990 at that number of occurrences. If we reach 80 or more today (very likely) and Thursday (at least probable) we'll be up to 155 days, tying 1953 for third place in the RDU record. The top two years on that list are 2007, with 168 days, and 1954, with 158. We're probably getting a little late in the year for catching up with 2007, but we have had days reaching 80 or more at the airport as late as December 10th.
Right now, it appears we have a good chance at settling in to a stretch of more seasonably cool temperatures starting Friday and lasting through much of next week. Something to watch for is a fast turn toward colder mornings behind a front passing through on Thursday - today we had a morning low at RDU that only dipped to 74 degrees, which obliterates our old record high minimum for the date of 61 in 1977, but by Saturday morning we may have a pretty decent chance of frost around much of the area! The contrast between those two airmasses is a part of the reason that we'll have to watch for at least a slight chance of severe thunderstorms this evening and tonight...
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