About 200 temperature records in the US may be broken over the next several days as warm air across Texas and the south-east is predicted to bring spring or even summer-like conditions, making Christmas Day likely to be the warmest in 50 to 100 years in some areas.
The temperatures could make this the warmest December on record for many cities in the region including Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, St Louis, Kansas City and Chicago.
In some areas, records have already been broken: Wichita Falls in Texas hit 91F (33C) Friday, and Grandfield, Oklahoma, reached 89F. Both beat their Fourth of July high – back at in the middle of summer. Nor were they alone. “Dallas, Houston, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee, all stand to match or top the record high for 25 December this Saturday,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
The unseasonal heat will bring a forecast high to Dallas on Christmas day of 83F, six degrees under its Fourth of July high. Houston has a forecast high of 81F, which is nine degrees below its Independence Day reading.
While temperatures 5-10 degrees above average are not totally uncommon for a few days, temperatures 10-12 degrees over an extended period – especially for an entire month – are rare. And while individual weather events can’t be blamed on a changing climate, extreme temperatures are more increasingly common because of global heating.
The high temperatures, coupled with low humidity, 25mph winds and minimal predictions for rainfall, have triggered winter wildfire warnings. The Storm Prediction Center issued an advisory for parts of west Texas and Oklahoma and east Colorado on Sunday.
The warm trend is anticipated to continue through midweek before temperatures come down, but only slightly.
In contrast, western states in the US are experiencing coastal rain and heavy high elevation snowfall and more than 6m people along the California coast under storm warnings that could bring 4in of rainfall throughout the next five days.
Meteorologists say the conditions are caused by Arctic air pushing into the Pacific north-west that have produced a White Christmas for Seattle and Portland, which could see 4 inches of snow on Christmas Day.
Seattle, reported CNN, has only seen snow on Christmas Day nine times in 127 years, while Oregon is in a state of emergency due to the potential for hazardous winter weather conditions and a sustained freeze.
Parts of the north-east US, meanwhile, are under a winter weather advisories, largely due to freezing rain, though New England could see more widespread snowfall by Saturday night.