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'Bubble of warmer air' carries temperatures to new heights

Medford set a heat record Friday for the second day in a row, according to the National Weather Service.

Medford hit 70 degrees Friday at 2:53 p.m., surpassing the previous Jan. 24 record of 62 degrees, which was set in 1992.

Friday just missed the all-time record for a January day of 71 degrees, reached in 1961 and 1981. The average high temperature for Jan. 24 is about 49 degrees.

"It's really unusual," said Ryan Sandler, NWS meteorologist. "This is impressive."

Thursday's high of 67 degrees beat the record of 65 degrees set on Jan. 23, 1959.

"It felt really nice to go outside (Thursday). This time of year, we've all acclimated to 30 degrees, 40 degrees, and it feels like summer," said Sandler.

A combination of gusty winds and warmer air that had been held hostage at higher elevations were responsible for the weather, he said.

"We've had this high temperature, this bubble of warmer air," Sandler said. Winds pushed the air mass down the hills into the valleys, warming it as it compressed, he explained.

"It's the same principle as a bicycle pump."

Sandler likened the phenomenon to the so-called "Chetco effect," in which wind travels down from the Siskiyous along the Chetco River and out toward the coast.

"As it blows out into Brookings, they end up with 60-degree temperatures at Christmastime," Sandler said.

The weather service issued a red-flag wildfire warning until 10 p.m. Friday across Southern Oregon.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com.