Warm Front Responsible for Record-breaking Temperature

By Meryn Fluker, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The mercury shot to 58 degrees in Cedar Rapids Tuesday morning, breaking a record held since 1919.

According to Alan Czarnetzki, a professor of meteorology at the University of Northern Iowa, the warmest recorded Jan. 29 took place in 1919, when the temperature reached 53 degrees.

What's behind the wacky weather is what KCRG Meteorologist Justin Gehrts called an "unseasonably warm" warm front from the south. The front ventured north to Cedar Rapids between 10 and 11 p.m. on Jan. 28, causing a 6-degree jump -- from 40 degrees to 46 degrees -- in temperatures at the Eastern Iowa Airport, Gehrts continued.

"We had a big push of southerly winds," he said. "It really just allowed that big push of warmth to move in here."

By 5 a.m. Tuesday, the thermometer reading had already reached record status.

The warm front was also the culprit for the thunderstorm early Tuesday morning, Gehrts said.

Eastern Iowa was especially fertile for the high temperatures because of the lack of snow on the ground. With snow cover, the same conditions would've produced lower readings because that warmth would've gone to melting the snow, resulting in lower temperatures.

"I think what we're seeing with the lack of snow cover is a continuation of the drought pattern that we've been in for the past half a year," Czarnetzki said.

The professor cautioned against blaming global warming for Tuesday's temperatures, calling that conclusion "not good science."

"It just shows that our weather can be highly variable," Czarnetzki said, offering a different conclusion. "It tends to be more variable in the spring or fall, so it is perhaps a little unusual that it's happening in the winter ... But it does happen."

As the cold front passes through, the forecast calls for lower temperatures and a few inches of that ever elusive snow.
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