Temperatures at 5:00 PM EDT on March 26, 2020.
High temperatures soared into the 80s and 90s across much of the southern United States on Thursday as an unusually potent heat wave for late March got underway. Temperatures easily made it into the mid 90s across Texas and Oklahoma, with one community in southwestern Oklahoma maxing out at 100°F. The heat broke dozens of daily high temperature records across the region, with more records ready to fall over the next couple of days.
The jet stream on the evening of Thursday, March 26, 2020.
The sharp curve of the jet stream over the northern United States tells the story of the southern heat. Large ridges of high pressure foster sinking air and calm conditions that can lead to warmer-than-normal temperatures. The stronger the ridge, the greater the potential for abnormal heat.
A coolwx.com map of temperature records set at 5:00 PM EDT on March 26, 2020.
This kind of heat is more common of May than March. The bulk of Thursday’s heat focused on Texas and Oklahoma, where highs easily poked into the mid-90s where average high temperatures for late March hover around 70°F.
Hollis, Oklahoma, managed to reach 100°F on Thursday afternoon, which is one of the earliest triple-digit readings on record in the region. Tulsa, Oklahoma, reached 94°F, with Oklahoma City not far behind at a toasty 92°F. Records even fell along the northern Gulf Coast, where a high of 86°F in Mobile, Alabama, managed to eke out a new record for March 26 by one degree.
National Weather Service’s forecast high temperatures for March 27, 2020.
We’ll see the heat slide eastward through the weekend as the upper-level ridge makes its way toward the Atlantic Ocean. Highs in the 80s and 90s will blanket most of the southeast through the end of the weekend, and we could even see temperatures push 80°F in the Washington D.C. metro area on Sunday. A cold front will sweep away the warmth and bring things closer to normal by the beginning of next week.
It’ll be tempting to take advantage of the first real burst of warmth this year and enjoy some outdoor time. It’s still fine to go outside and work in the yard, go for a walk, ride bikes, or even take a hike through the woods in most communities. Just remember to stay at least six feet from other folks and obey local public health orders that may prohibit certain activities in certain areas.