CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Move over, polar vortex. There's a new weather phenomenon taking hold of Charlotte.
Enter the heat ridge. And it could lead to the hottest May temperatures the Queen City has felt in over 60 years.
After a mostly comfortable Wednesday with a high of around 80, Charlotte's going to turn into an oven. You've heard of the polar vortex. In simplest terms, Panovich said this is the exact opposite.
"We sometimes jokingly call this the death ridge," Panovich said. "If you're a storm chaser, you'll know that this setup kills storms and for farmers it's called the death ridge because once these set up, the intense heat and drought can cause issues for crops and livestock."
Just how hot will it be?
Starting Thursday, Panovich says the Charlotte area can expect temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s through at least the end of May. And we know what you're thinking: "Doesn't it always get hot in the Carolinas during the summer?"
The short answer is yes. But when you put this heatwave into perspective, we could see record temperatures that were set decades ago. The record high temperature in May is 98 degrees, which was set three times in 1941.
"For May standards, this is crazy heat. These could be the hottest temperatures ever," Panovich said. "The warmest it's been in Charlotte since 1953 if we get to 96, 97 would be the hottest since the 1940s. We haven't been to 95 degrees since 2011, the only time in 16 years I've been here that it's been that hot in the month of May.
"If this was the middle of summer, this would be a typical heatwave. But to put it in perspective, if we had this departure from the average high in summer, it's the equivalent of 105 or 108. The all-time record in Charlotte is 104 degrees."
Since high temperatures have been recorded in Charlotte, only 13 percent of years have ever seen a temperature above 95 degrees. So this is really abnormal compared to the average high of 80 for this time of year.
Back to the heat ridge. As Panovich put it, the ridge is the "trifecta of heat" because it's a vertically stacked ridge. As the air sinks and compresses, it heats up under pressure.
And because the air is so warm, there's almost no chance for rain or even pop-up thunderstorms that are typical during summer. There's a chance we get a break a little sooner than the models show for now.
So how long will the heatwave last?
Through at least the end of the month. Panovich said the models indicate mid-to-upper 90s through at least June 3, a whole week after Memorial Day. Typically a heatwave during May gets us near 90 degrees, not pushing triple digits.
Memorial Day is commonly referred to as the unofficial start of summer, but Panovich says with temperatures like these, it'll feel like the official start. It'll feel like the heart of summer, even.
"If we get to 96 and above, those are temps we haven't seen since between 1895 and 1953," Panovich said. "It hasn't been this hot in a really long time and the fact it's going to last for several days just adds to it.
The hot, dry pattern isn't really expected to change until next weekend, so prepare for a good seven to 10 days of heat and humidity. In the following ten days, the temperature trends are above average every single day.
Sunday and Monday could bring record highs.
'This is going to be a May to remember," Panovich said. "Unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons."