A strong ridge of high pressure is starting to bake the southwestern United States right on schedule for this time of year — with several areas expected to reach the triple digits today — but winter isn't done with the rest of the country yet.
Death Valley reached 101°F for a high temperature yesterday, and the California furnace is expected to reach that mark again today. Yesterday's triple digit high was the first time it saw the century mark since last September, and the reading showed up right about on schedule — on average, Death Valley sees its first 100° reading by April 14.
Death Valley is able to get so hot because it's flat, mostly barren, and sits at a very low elevation (down to 282 feet below sea level). Its low elevation allows the terrain around the basin to prevent both wind and moisture from entering the area, keeping the air still and dry (dry air heats more easily than moist air).
The rest of the country — save for the mountains and parts of the northeast, of course — is enjoying a brief warm-up thanks to southwesterly winds pumping in warm air from the lower latitudes. The comfortable temperatures will prove short lived, unfortunately.
A cold front will swing through the eastern two-thirds of the country this weekend and plummet temperatures by almost 40° in some spots, with highs only reaching the mid- to upper-40s across much of the Midwest on Monday. The chill will continue eastward through the beginning of next week.
Winter is on its way out.
[Images via NWS]