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      Wild Temperature Swing: Feb 11, 1981

      A deep, cold upper-air trough led to the record cold of February 11-12, 1981

      A record was broken this morning at the National Weather Service (NWS) site near Negaunee when the temperature fell to 23 below zero. It was the coldest at the site since Christmas Day 2004 when it reached 24 below. This event harkens back to a period of incredible variability in Upper Michigan. The pattern went from record cold to all-time record warmth in a matter of days back in 1981.

      Weâ??ve touched on this before. Often just after the coldest night in a series, the pattern will flip and record highs may be set. This sequence of events was graphically illustrated in February 1981.

      The month featured a wild temperature swing at mid-month. February 1981 started cold and snowy. The first 11 days of the month brought 27 inches of fresh snow to the National Weather Service (NWS) site near Negaunee. It was cold, too. The average low temperature from February 1-12 at the NWS was 8 degrees below zero. On February 11, the high was only 1 below and the low a daily-record 20 below zero. The next day was bright, sunny and cold (similar to yesterday) with the high reaching 11 degrees. That night the temperatures went into freefall. Arctic high pressure settled over the area leading to calm, clear conditions. In the early morning hours the temperature went to 32 below at the NWSâ??a record low and one of the coldest temperatures ever observed at the site. The next day, the arctic high slid eastward as big pattern change began. The upper-air flow turned westerly, flooding the U.P. with mild Pacific air. The turn to warmth was astounding. Five days later on February 17, 1981, the temperature hit 61 degreesâ??the warmest February reading at the NWS.

      A pattern flip is currently in the works after the coldest night of this long, cold winter. However, this flip will not lead to record warmth in just a few days like back in 1981. However, we will finally get a couple of days of near to even above average temperatures. The overall pattern thatâ??s evolving argues for warmer, more active weather over the next couple of weeks.