How often has it been 60 degrees or higher on that day?

Dear Tom,
It seems that it is usually cold on St. Patrick’s Day. How often has it been 60 degrees or higher on that day?

–Nick Recchia, River Grove
Dear Nick,
Typically St. Patrick’s Day brings highs in the middle or upper 40s, but there have been some stunningly warm exceptions. Just last year the mercury soared to 74 degrees, tying the record high for the day first logged in 1894. There have been two other St. Patrick’s Days when the mercury topped 70 degrees — in 1966 and 1973 when the high reached 73. The warmth in 1966 was a payback for a cold and snowy March 17 the year before when 3.7 inches of snow whitened the city. Seven other St. Patrick’s Days have recorded highs in the 60s. There also have been some really cold Irish celebrations, including in 1941 when the high reached only 11 degrees and in 1900 when the early morning low was 1 degree below zero.

Tim's Weather World: So Long Cold Winter

We are thawing out this week after a cold winter.  Highs should soar to near 70 by Thursday.  It’s about time. 

The numbers are in and it is official.  This past winter was colder than normal. Not just here but across the United StatesIt was the 18th coldest winter on record for the country. It was the 9th coldest winter on record for Illinois.  February was particularly frigid for most of the country. February’s average temperature for the U.S. was 32.4 degrees, down 2.2 degrees from average.  The southeast was especially cold with Florida having its fifth coldest February on record. 


winter2009.gifPrecipitation was above average for most of the country
.  We officially had 52.4″ during meteorological winter (December-February).  That is more than two feet above average.

The cold U.S. winter may have been the exception to an otherwise warm season globally.  According to the National Climatic Data Center, globally, this was a warm winter.  The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for December through February was the fifth warmest on record for the season.

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Sun's return to help temperatures to take off in coming days

Temperatures across the Chicago could reach new 2010 highs later this week—a warm-up which may include 70-degrees (or a reading awfully close) Thursday and possibly Friday. It’s a development which, by historical standards, is close to being on schedule. A 70 Thursday would come almost a year to the date of last year’s first 70 on St. Patrick’s Day (74 degrees on March 17) and only a week earlier than the March 24 average date of Chicago’s first official 70 since readings began at O’Hare Field in 1959.

March sunshine plays a big role in sending temperatures higher this time of year. It arrives more than two and a half times stronger than December sunlight. Longer days and a daily trek across the sky more directly overhead are behind the strengthening.

While Monday’s high stalled out at 48-degree under a heavy overcast, Tuesday’s increased sunshine is to propel readings to the mid 50s—even a bit higher in warmer inland locations. Northeast winds will limit shoreline warming by delivering those areas lake-cooled air faster than the day’s sunshine can warm it. From Chicago’s lakefront north to Zion, Waukegan, Kenosha and Racine, that means highs may struggle to get close to 50 degrees.

Temperatures surged across the Midwest Monday in sun-drenched areas. While cloudy Chicago managed its 48-degree high, Madison Wis., where sunshine emerged during the afternoon, hit 58-degrees.  Duluth Minn. and Sault Ste Marie, Mich.—saw record highs of 60 and 63-degrees respectively under mostly sunny skies

The “real warmth” is due here Thursday and Friday.

Thursday’s atmospheric set-up which offers the most compelling case for warming. Not only is sunshine likely to be bountiful and will well-developed west to southwest winds will override lake cooling, but Chicago is to sit beneath the nose of powerful jet stream winds. It’s a region of the atmosphere in which air sinks, compresses and warms on a large scale. This setup has been known to boost surface temperatures.

Record rains drench Boston a second day; March tallies there top 10 inches
 
The latest storm to lash sections of the Northeast has produced some extraordinary rainfalls since Friday, whipping the area with  hurricane-force gusts. The system comes just two weeks after the region was pummeled by a gargantuan snowstorm. Monday saw another 2.86 inches of rain fall at the American Meteorological Society’s headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts. The WeatherBug site there has tallied 10.90 inches since March began—more than six times the historical average.
 
Cold air’s on the move this weekend; storm potential being monitored
 
A warm-up, including temperatures close to 70-degrees in coming days, may be only one in a series of big weather swings which lie ahead. By this weekend, a system lifting northeast from Texas and running along a sharp temperature contrast zone, is the basis for the rain being predicted here Saturday. The system increases prospects colder air could sweep in to the area Sunday and could change precipitation in portions of the Midwest to snow.

 

St. Patrick's Day snowstorm of 1965 in Chicago

Dear Tom,
It was snowing when my son was born March 17, 1965. How much snow actually fell that day?

Sharon Fabier, Lindenhurst
Dear Sharon,
You son was born during the 1965 St. Patrick’s Day snowstorm that brought up to a foot of snow to north portions of the Chicago area, with the heaviest amounts in a band from Palatine to Deerfield. Snowfall from that storm was quite variable across the region. In the south suburbs, there was little if any snow but heavy rainfall produced widespread flooding. In the city, snow totals ranged from a little less than 4 inches officially at Midway Airport to around 7 inches at O’Hare International Airport. It was also quite windy with gusts to 52 mph at Midway and 44 mph at Joliet. The storm knocked out power to thousands, a result of the heavy wet snow and gusty winds