'Heat wave' to hit on Christmas Eve

Temperatures in the eastern United States are expected to soar on Christmas Eve, in what the National Weather Service is calling a "December heat wave."

Several cities are projected to blow past record temperatures Thursday, with some of the highest highs in southern cities pushing past 80 degrees.

Young boys play in a park on an unusually warm winter day in Brooklyn, New York, earlier this month.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
Young boys play in a park on an unusually warm winter day in Brooklyn, New York, earlier this month.

"A lot of these records that are being broken are being broken by several degrees, by 5 or in some cases 10 degrees," said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland. "It speaks to how anomalous this is, that the records are being shattered by numerous degrees, not just 1 or 2 degrees."

Washington is expected to feel temperatures as high at 76 degrees Thursday. That would break a record of 69 degrees set in 1933, Oravec said.

New York City is projected to surpass its 1996 record of 63 degrees by a full 10 degrees, according to the latest numbers.

The Florida cities of Jacksonville and Miami are expected to rise above 80 degrees, as is Brownsville in the southern tip of Texas.

Oravec added that many areas will not only break records for daily highs — even the daily low temperatures will surpass records.

Weather this warm at this time of year is not totally unprecedented, Oravec said. Norfolk, Virginia's record temperature of 75 degrees was set back in 1891.

And not every region will feel the heat. Cities further north in the Midwest and far northern New England, including Chicago, Des Moines, Iowa, and Burlington, Vermont, will all be much cooler, with temperatures in the lower to mid-40s.

And despite the warmth, severe weather and tornado warnings have been issued in many southern states.

Here is a graphic showing a recent forecast for temperatures around the country.

While mountain ranges in the Western United States — the Cascades, the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains, have received several feet of snow, the only areas east of the Rocky Mountains that have been getting any snow in recent weeks are northern Michigan, Minnesota and parts of northern New England. But even in some of those areas, weather will be warm enough that any snow that has fallen will have a hard time sticking, Oravec said.

But it is not likely to stay this warm for long.

The high projected for New York City on Christmas Day is 65 degrees, and things will cool down elsewhere in the region.

Here are the expected highs for Christmas Day: