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Record temperature on Wednesday sandwiched between chilly days

A chill wind followed by record heat followed by … a chill wind.

What’s going on?

“It’s not uncommon to have these seeming roller coasters in the spring months,” said Kevin Huyck, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Duluth.

The thermometer hit 88 degrees just before 2 p.m. on Wednesday at Duluth International Airport, a record high for the date, the weather service reported. The previous high temperature for May 16 was 84 degrees, set in 1962.

It was considerably warmer in Duluth than in Los Angeles, where the temperature was 72 degrees at 3 p.m. Pacific time.

It was also 28 degrees warmer in Duluth on Wednesday than on Tuesday, when a high of 60 degrees was reported. That was at Duluth International Airport. At Sky Harbor Airport on Park Point, it never got warmer than 45 on Tuesday, Huyck said.

Thursday’s weather is expected to be similar to Tuesday’s, with a high temperature probably not reaching 60 degrees, at least close to the lake, according to the weather service.

It’s a pattern that goes back to the weekend. On Monday, the high temperature was 82. On Sunday, it was 76, but the day before it was 62.

All of this stems simply from Lake Superior being Lake Superior, Huyck said. When there’s high pressure with light winds, as on Tuesday, “the lake breeze is able to move (farther) inland more efficiently.”

On other days, the wind comes in from the southwest, pushing back the lake breeze and ushering in the heat. “We haven’t been in a real strong pattern one way or the other,” he said. “Anytime you can get the air inland and off the surface, it’s going to make a pretty significant change.”

On the warm days, there’s little difference between temperatures near the lake and up the hill, Huyck said. At 4 p.m. on Wednesday, the temperature was down to 81 up the hill and was still 82 at Park Point. However, by 6:30 p.m. the temperature at Sky Harbor Airport had plummeted to 45 degrees, while at Duluth International, it was still 85, according to the weather service.

There’s less variation downstate. As of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the high temperature in Minneapolis was 87. It was 78 the day before.

Wednesday’s warmth didn’t extend all the way up the North Shore. In Grand Marais, the temperature was 49 as of 5 p.m.

Wednesday marked the third time in May that Duluth’s high was 80 degrees or above. In spite of the ups and downs, the average temperature in Duluth has been about 4 degrees above normal so far this month.

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