Bill McKibben in The Nation:
The National Weather Service is kind of the anti–Mike Daisey, a just-the-facts operation that grinds on hour after hour, day after day. It’s collected billions of records (I’ve seen the vast vaults where early handwritten weather reports from observers across the country are stored in endless rows of ledgers and files) on countless rainstorms, blizzards and pleasant summer days. So the odds that you could shock the NWS are pretty slim.
Beginning in mid-March, however, its various offices began issuing bulletins that sounded slightly shaken. “There’s extremes in weather, but seeing something like this is impressive and unprecedented,” Chicago NWS meteorologist Richard Castro told the Daily Herald. “It’s extraordinarily rare for climate locations with 100+ year long periods of records to break records day after day after day,” the office added in an official statement.
It wasn’t just Chicago, of course. A huge swath of the nation simmered under bizarre heat. International Falls, Minnesota, the “icebox of the nation,” broke its old temperature records—by twenty-two degrees, which according to weather historians may be the largest margin ever for any station with a century’s worth of records. Winner, South Dakota, reached 94 degrees on the second-to-last day of winter. That’s in the Dakotas, two days before the close of winter.