WEATHER NEWS: Heat in the southern U.S. is off the charts to start December


The South has roasted to start December, with record-breaking warmth from Houston to Tallahassee.

High temperatures have reached well into the 80s, some 15 to 20 degrees above normal, more like September than the first winter month. Occurrences of such record-breaking warmth are increasing worldwide because of human-caused climate change.

Over the past week, more than three-dozen high-temperature records have fallen across the South. Because of abnormally mild nights, more than 100 record warm lows — only dipping into the 60s — have occurred.

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Several locations have not only seen record-warm calendar days but also their warmest temperatures ever during December, including Macon, Ga., Mobile, Ala., and Savannah, Ga.

Because of the abnormally warm weather, most locations across the South have seen one of their top five warmest starts to the month on record.

Here’s a roundup of selected records set so far:

  • Macon reached 83 degrees Thursday, its warmest December temperature on record. Numerous record highs for Dec. 8 were also set, including in Jacksonville (83 degrees); Gulfport and Jackson, Miss. (78 and 82); and Tuscaloosa, Ala. (78).
  • Atlanta reached a Dec. 8 record of 78 degrees Thursday, its second-warmest temperature ever observed during the month.
  • Savannah and Mobile saw their highest December temperatures on record Wednesday, reaching 86 and 85 degrees. Numerous record highs for Dec. 8 were also set, including in Austin and Galveston, Tex., (82 and 80 degrees) and Shreveport (84).
  • Tallahassee saw back-to-back record warm days Wednesday and Thursday. The high of 84 degrees Wednesday tied its December record. Pensacola tied its monthly record on Wednesday, too, when it hit 81 degrees.
  • Houston’s Hobby Airport has seen 80s for six of the first eight days of the month, including a second-warmest day on record in December of 85 degrees Tuesday. Before last year, 85 degrees would have been the warmest on record, but it hit 87 degrees on Dec. 9, 2021.
  • Shreveport saw its second-warmest December low on Tuesday when it only dipped to 70 degrees, more typical of daytime highs. Other stations — including Monroe, La., Tupelo, Miss., and Montgomery and Huntsville, Ala. — saw lows that were among the top five to 10 warmest witnessed in December.
  • Much of the Gulf Coast region also saw record or near-record highs Monday and Tuesday.
  • High temperatures in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama missed state record highs for December by just one degree each, according to climate researcher Maximiliano Herrera.

A handful of additional record highs may fall Friday from Southeast Texas to northern Florida, with record warm lows remaining possible across the region through at least early next week. At that point, a strong cold front connected to a large storm over the Central United States will surge southward, ending the spell of unseasonable warmth.

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A stubborn heat dome, or zone of high pressure, sitting over the Gulf of Mexico is the main cause of these abnormally warm temperatures. Stronger than usual high pressure in the South and Southeast is a relatively common feature of La Nina winters, although this case has been truly exceptional.

It has also been quite humid for December across the region, because of air drawn north from the Gulf of Mexico. Widespread morning fog has been a result, in addition to the many record-warm low temperatures.

The warm lows and fog might be troublesome precursors to an anticipated multiday severe weather event across the South next week, given the atypical warmth and humidity that feed severe thunderstorms. Severe weather is expected to erupt across parts of the southern Plains as soon as Monday, with storms then progressing eastward across the Mid-South on Tuesday and Southeast by Wednesday.

A major storm is brewing for the western and central U.S.

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