Tucson's plunging temperatures might require a light sweater

2014-02-01T00:00:00Z 2014-02-01T01:47:03Z Tucson's plunging temperatures might require a light sweaterBy Tom Beal Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Daily high temperatures will plummet 15 degrees this weekend, as Tucsonans scurry to turn their heaters back on for a few minutes — just to warm the place up a bit.

It’s a measure of our ridiculously warm and dry January that we can weather a 15-degree drop and not break out the heavy jackets.

“Ridiculous” is also the term meteorologists have applied to the phenomenon that has kept us warm and dry so far this year — a “ridiculously resilient ridge” that has forced the jet stream north and sucked in balmy air from the equator.

That produced a bone-dry January for California and the Southwest, regions already suffering persistent drought.

Tucson recorded a trace of rain last Saturday and flirted with it again Friday.

That left it tied for sixth place for dry Januaries, behind five years that didn’t even record a trace.

Temperaturewise, January was the third-warmest on record, said John Glueck, who compiles climate data for the Tucson office of the National Weather Service.

Weather is a zero-sum game. The same conditions that kept us warm produced those record low temperatures in the Midwest and snow on the East Coast last month, Glueck said.

Mike Crimmins of the University of Arizona’s CLIMAS report said the meteorology blogs he frequents are employing the term “ridiculously resilient ridge” to describe the high pressure that kept the jet stream well north of where it should be in January.

Storm systems came ashore at Alaska instead of California and wrapped around the east slopes of the Rockies. Colorado’s mountains received good snow. The Sierras got little, with Reno and Tahoe reporting near-record-low snow totals, Crimmins said.

California will be most affected because it doesn’t have a summer rainy season, Crimmins said.

“This is California’s one chance, and they’re missing it this year.”

Things loosened up a bit at month’s end, with clouds finally arriving in Southern Arizona and a slim chance of rain in the forecast for the beginning and end of the coming workweek.

Daily highs will be below normal for the first time this year, mostly in the low 60s.

Chances for precipitation in Tucson look better in the coming weeks, Glueck said, and he always banks on cold rain or snow ruining Tucson’s big winter events, such as the professional golf event at Dove Mountain in Marana, beginning Feb. 17.

When will winter weather arrive? “I keep telling people that Match Play’s in three weeks,” Glueck said.

For the record, that’s a joke, not a forecast.

Contact reporter Tom Beal at tbeal@azstarnet.com or 573-4158.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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