By Wally Kennedy
JOPLIN, Mo. —
This weekend might be a good one to break out the golf clubs, dust off the tennis rackets or lace up your favorite walking shoes.
Temperatures are expected to peak in the lower 70s this weekend. That’s 20 degrees higher than normal for the first week of December.
For anyone who has lived in Joplin this year, higher-than-normal temperatures should come as no surprise — even in December. In fact, 2012 is on track to be the warmest year for Joplin since record keeping began in 1902.
Jason Gosselin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service forecast office in St. Louis, on Wednesday said the average temperature for Joplin from Jan. 1 to Nov. 27 was 63.6 degrees.
The next highest average for Joplin was 63.5 degrees for the same time period in 1954.
DROUGHT TO DEEPEN
The region suffered under a severe drought this year that could grow worse this winter when precipitation typically falls to its lowest levels of the year. For 30 days this summer, temperatures in Joplin ranged from 100 to 109 degrees.
Joplin is not alone. St. Louis and Columbia also are on track for their warmest years ever. Their records go back to 1874 and 1890, respectively.
A severe cold spell before the end of the year could knock 2012 off its pedestal as Joplin’s warmest year on record, Gosselin said.
“But no matter what happens in the month of December, you can be assured that 2012 will be in the top three for Joplin,” he said.
The United States is about to register its warmest year on record in the lower 48 states, according to a report released Wednesday by the World Meteorological Organization in Doha, Qatar, where international climate talks began this week.
The agency, which noted that the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001, is predicting that 2012 will be the world’s ninth-hottest year.
Scientists at those climate talks say the most ominous weather event in 2012 has been the “alarming loss of ice” at the North Pole. In September, scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado said Arctic Sea ice measured 1.32 million square miles, which is 18 percent less than the previous record low, set in 2007. Satellite tracking records for ice at the North Pole go back to 1979.
The scientists said their computer models predict that the Arctic could be free of ice by the summer of 2050, but they noted that current trends show the ice melting faster than the computers are predicting.
REVISED WINTER OUTLOOK
Mike Griffin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service forecast office in Springfield, said the early outlook for Southwest Missouri this winter suggested that temperatures could be higher than normal. That has changed. The region now has equal chances for normal temperatures this winter.
“The La Nina-El Nino weather pattern in the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean is in a neutral phase,” he said. “That means we will have a closer to normal winter this year. We will have equal chances for normal temperatures, but I suspect they will be slightly milder temperatures than normal over the long run.”
The neutral phase will have little bearing on the drought.
“It will not help us with the drought,” Griffin said. “The status quo will prevail this winter, which normally is a drier time anyway.”
Increasing south to southwesterly winds will cause a big warming trend this weekend. Highs in the low 70s are forecast for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The average high for those days is 53 degrees.
A dry air mass along with the increasing winds will result in elevated fire weather conditions today. Conditions this afternoon will support the rapid spread and growth of fires.
“A big ridge of high pressure is sitting on the central part of the country,” Griffin said. “That’s causing the jet stream to stay far to the north near the Canadian border. That will bottle up the cold air and keep it from coming down.”
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.
No storms immediately
NO STORM SYSTEMS are in the immediate forecast for the central part of the nation.