The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed Tuesday that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous 48 states of the United States, dating to 1895, beating out the previous warmest year, 1998, but an entire degree. Locally, it was Roanoke’s warmest as well, dating to 1912 — 59.5 degrees, edging out 59.4 in 2007 — and was tied for fifth warmest, dating to 1953, at Blacksburg, at 54 degrees. Linked here is some further reporting by Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press (Roanoke/Blacksburg data inserted by me) and also by the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.
The next few days will fit the warm theme set by the previous year, with above-normal highs in the 50s and low 60s Wednesday on a dry day, backing off a few degrees Thursday and Friday with some showers, before soaring to near-record levels in the 60s to low 70s over the weekend.
Southwest Virginia’s lack of fortune with needed rainfall may well continue with the storm system over the next 3 days. While parts of the Mississippi River valley may get deluged — good for the historically low river and its barge traffic — but you can see the lightening green colors headed eastward toward us. Dry air being pumped in by a high to the north will cut into the moisture flow, and the storm center tracking far to our west won’t provide enough of a firehose from the Gulf to overcome the drier air with a lot of deep moisture. A side effect of this lack of deep moisture may be that we don’t as much of the “in-situ” wedge effect with rain-cooled air being trapped against the mountains, so highs on Thursday and Friday may not back off as much as once thought. Locations from Roanoke south and east probably see highs in the 50s both of those days.
The weekend still looks unseasonably to near-record warm, with 70s a good chance from Roanoke southward and eastward, and 60s elsewhere in Southwest Virginia. A second storm system following a similar, but likely more eastward, track early next week has a better chance of providing some decent rains to our region (and more heavy rain to some of the same locations that will get it with the first storm). The HPC’s new 7-day rain map shows about 1 inch total through next Tuesday evening. This is the low that will drag through a cold front that will be the leading edge of some colder weather … but as I’ve said a few different times in comments, don’t expect a “flash freeze,” at least at first, but rather the beginning of stepping down toward a colder period about a week from now
The period beyond a week from now still holds the strong, but not certain, potential for a large, deep Arctic air mass to move southward in part or all of the U.S., and there may be another storm system on a southern track about Jan. 20, give or take a couple of days, to monitor, with more widespread cold air in place.