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Do Record High Temps Mean a Scorching Summer is Ahead?

With temperatures soaring in many places around the United States, many might be wondering if this is a sign of another sweltering summer.
/ Source: OurAmazingPlanet

With temperatures soaring in many places around the United States, many might be wondering if this is a sign of another sweltering summer.

Today alone (March 21), more than 70 major cities are within sight of record highs, according to the Weather Channel.

Quite a few of those cities have already broken the previous record high  — some by a little, some by a lot.

New York City broke its record high of 68 degrees, set in 1979, by two degrees.

In Chicago, temperatures have hovered in the low to mid-80s for more than a week. Today, it's 85. The notoriously chilly city has shattered previous record highs for the last eight days. [ Weirdo Weather: 7 Rare Weather Events ]

"Our records go back to 1873, so you're looking at quite a bit of time there," said Amy Seeley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Chicago office.

And on Monday (March 19), in International Falls, Minn. — known as "The Nation's Icebox" and one of the coldest places on Earth — the low temperature, 60 degrees, tied with the previous record high for the day, set in 1918. (Temperatures climbed to a balmy 78 degrees.)

Forecasters say the jet stream, essentially an atmospheric fence that separates cold air from warm, is draped across the country like an S turned sideways. In the east, it's hovering above Canada, allowing hot southern air to rush northward. 

When low temperatures are the same as previous record highs, "that's incredible — to me, that's just mind-boggling," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.

However, he said, it's not necessarily a harbinger of things to come. "It doesn't necessarily point to anything," Halpert told OurAmazingPlanet. "It doesn't mean it won't be a hot summer, but it doesn't mean it will be either," he said.

Halpert pointed to the freak snowstorms that hit in fall 2011, which prompted a lot of questions about whether the coming winter would be unusually cold and snowy. "Clearly, the answer was no," he said.

Yet, he said, there's a chance summer could be on the warm side. The most recent outlook for June, July and August, a big-picture projection based on large-scale climate phenomena such as La Niña, was published on March 15.

"There's a tilt in the odds toward a warmer summer for the southern two-thirds of the country, but it's not a guarantee," Halpert told OurAmazingPlanet. "We don't give guarantees in the climate business."

Reach Andrea Mustain at Follow her on Twitter @AndreaMustainFollow OurAmazingPlanet for the latest in Earth science and exploration news on Twitter @OAPlanet and on Facebook.