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Warm in East, cool in West: Weather scales tipped across U.S.

March 14, 2012|By Dalina Castellanos
  • Small groups gather along the Lake Michigan waterfront in Chicago. Temperatures there were inching toward record highs after a relatively mild winter.
Small groups gather along the Lake Michigan waterfront in Chicago. Temperatures… (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated…)

A pre-spring heat wave has crawled over to the East Coast, acting like a weight on a scale and leaving the West with cooler temperatures than normal.

The Baltimore Sun reported near-record highs for the date Wednesday, kicking the day off at 61 degrees and reaching 73 degrees by noon -- 10 degrees shy of the city's record high of 83, set in 2007.

Seattle, on the other hand, saw snow flurries Tuesday and Wednesday morning, with the National Weather Service predicting that city's high Wednesday at only 44 degrees.

“When the East Coast is experiencing a heat wave, the West Coast gets colder,” Rich Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Los Angeles office, said in an interview. “It’s just the general atmosphere circulations that move across the United States. This is very typical for March.”

A weekend storm rolling toward the West should set things “back to normal,” Thompson said.

Of course, in some areas -- such as Chicago -- it can be hard to tell what defines "normal."

Coddled by warm fronts, the Windy City and surrounding areas were breaking heat records this week with temperatures in the high 70s; those numbers were expected to last through next week.

On Wednesday, the city was expected to break its previous high for the date -- 77 -- by the afternoon, allowing Chicago’s so-called winter to be listed in the National Weather Service’s Top 10 warmest winters. This winter's average temperature (nighttime temps included) was 32.8.

The record? An average of 37.2 degrees during the 1877-1878 winter.

"It's almost like we skipped winter and now we're going to skip spring, too," Gino Izzi, a senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Chicago office, told The Chicago Tribune.

Still, the broken records should be no cause for alarm. “One [coast] goes up, the other goes down,” Thompson said. “There’s nothing that really screams anything excessive.”

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