So Hot, So Cold

On October 10, 2013 · 4 Comments

The weather near my home caught my attention recently when it felt like we went straight from the middle of summer directly into late Autumn overnight. From unseasonably hot and sunny to unseasonably cold and rainy, we never seemed to get our typically wonderful October weather we deserved. That put me in a mood to look a little closer at temperature extremes.

Government Shut Down
I’ve been seeing a lot of website notices like this one lately

With my usual online data source at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shut down due to a government funding impasse, I turned to Wikipedia’s U.S. state temperature extremes instead. Something there caught my eye. I noticed a handful of U.S. states where the highest and lowest temperature extremes were recorded in the same place.

The best example, in my estimation, would have to be Delaware. I’ve said it before and bears repeating, I know of no other place in the United States with a greater abundance of geo-oddities per square mile than Delaware. It stands in a league of its own. The mighty 12MC itself was named for a Delawarean boundary feature even though I’ve never actually lived in the state. That shows how much I’ve been impressed by its weirdness.

Millsboro, Delaware

Add the town of Millsboro to that overflowing list of oddities. It recorded both the hottest day in Delaware history (110° Fahrenheit, 43°Celcius) on July 21, 1930, and its coldest day (-17°F, -27°C) on January 17, 1893.

A tremendous heat wave rolled across the eastern half of the United States in late July and early August 1930. Delaware hit its record high temperature on July 21. It wasn’t just Delaware though. The 1930 heat wave was so brutal that the same thing happened in the District of Columbia (July 20), Kentucky (July 28), Mississippi (July 29) and Tennessee (August 9).

The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang wrote about the heatwave in a 2010 retrospective. They focused on the Washington, DC area although Delaware is not that far away and similar conditions would have existed there as well. The temperature exceeded 100°F (38°c) for eleven consecutive days during a period when few homes had air conditioning.

The summer of 1930 made headlines due to unprecedented heat and drought that caused disastrous crop failures throughout the United States. The summer of 1930 ushered in the “Dust Bowl” era of unusually hot, dry summers that plagued the U.S. during much of the 1930s… By the end of the summer of 1930, approximately 30 deaths in Washington were blamed on the heat and thousands more had died nationwide. In Washington, there has never been another summer with a heat wave that has equaled the summer of 1930.

It was slightly more difficult to find information on Delaware’s lowest temperature, and again I used a nearby geographical proxy to extrapolate what it must have felt like. In this case I found an online book, "The Climatology and Physical Features of Maryland: First Biennial Report of the Maryland State Weather Service, 1892 and 1893." (Google eBook)

The month of January, 1893, will long be remembered for its accompaniment of extremely cold weather… nearly every section of the country having been invaded by a temperature very low in comparison with previous records. Probably not since January, 1856, has there been experienced in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Delaware such a protracted period of severe weather. It is certain that not during the life of the Weather Bureau, which came into existence in 1870, has anything approaching a parallel been experienced.

There are some other state contenders. Massachusetts had a shared high temperature of 107°F (42°C) on August 2, 1975, in New Bedford and Chester, and a low temperature record of -40°F (-40 °C) on January 22, 1984, in Chester. Missouri had a shared high temperature of 118°F (48°C) on July 14, 1954, in Warsaw and Union, and a low temperature record of -40°F (-40 °C) on February 13, 1905, in Warsaw. Those come close. All we need now is for Chester and Warsaw to get just a tad hotter to claim the state title outright and become as equally impressive as Millsboro.

I guess technically I should add the District of Columbia which will always have a common place for high and low temperatures by default because it has only one official weather station. That seemed like cheating, though. Oddly, the spots where temperatures have been recorded since 1931 are located outside of the District, first at Hoover Airport (where the Pentagon now resides) and then starting in 1941 at National Airport (now Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport). Both of those locations are in Virginia. This will create an anomaly only as new high or low records are set, since the existing records both occurred before 1931 and therefore within the boundaries of the District.

On October 10, 2013 · 4 Comments

4 Responses to “So Hot, So Cold”

  1. Ross Finlayson says:

    Many people will be surprised by the state that has the lowest “record high temperature” – Hawaii, with a record high temperature of only 98F (37C). Even Alaska has a higher “record high temperature”. (Far less surprising is that Hawaii also has by far the highest “record low temperature”: 15F (-9C), atop Mauna Kea.)

  2. zxo says:

    I actually got curious about this type of data a few months ago and cobbled together some maps. I was focusing more on the overall difference between high and low readings in the states, but I figured I could note the locations of these readings as well, though I’m not even an amateur cartographer, so I just approximated the locations by eye. (scroll through the album for other maps)

  3. Peter says:

    One very rare climatological phenomenon is for there to be snow on the ground at the same time in all 50 states. The last time it happened was February 12, 2010. It looked as if the count would be stuck at 49, until some wet snow fell overnight in parts of the Florida Panhandle. Before that, the most recent known occurrence was on January 19, 1977, which also is the only time snow has ever been recorded in the Bahamas.

  4. hipsterdoofus says:

    My favorite records are from 11/11/1911 here in Oklahoma City, when we set a record high and a record low on the same day (up to 83f before a cold front came through and dropped to 17f). The front caused a lot of issues in other parts of the country as well:,_1911

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