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Posted at 12:45 PM ET, 03/20/2009

The Wildest Temperature Swings

By Jason Samenow

* Sunny Weekend: Full Forecast | How Meteorologists Tell Time *

You may remember my post from about 10 days ago when I documented some of our greatest March temperature swings. In that post, I showed that earlier in the month we experienced the biggest 5-day rise in maximum temperature since the early 1940s. The post caught the attention of Steve Zubrick, Science Operations Officer at the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va. -- who then decided to take a deeper look at D.C.'s historic temperature swings.

Rather than analyzing just the month of March and only dates since the early 1940s (when the official observing station for Washington has been at Reagan National), he examined all months and Washington's weather records dating back to 1872 (prior to early 40s, the observing station was at the "City Office" near 24th and M St., NW). And instead of computing the changes in the high temperatures, he calculated the change from the low to the high (and vice versa).

Here's what he found:

Keep reading for more interesting temperature swing stats...

  • The biggest 5-day rise of +69F occurred twice: Once in 1930 when the temperature climbed from +7F on February 16 to 76F on February 20, and then again in 1934 when the mercury soared from -1F on February 28 to 68F on March 4.
  • The biggest 5-day fall was -69F which happened in 1907. The temperature plummeted from 92F on March 29 to 23F on April 2.

Zubrick found the period from about mid-February through mid-April was prime time for big temperature swings.

Zubrick also conducted this analysis for Baltimore and found its biggest recorded 5-day swing occurred earlier in the month. The 68F rise from +8F on March 4, 2009 to 76F on March 8 tied the +68F swing in Baltimore that occurred in March, 1990 (18F to 86F from March 8-12).

Here are some additional interesting swing statistic computed by Zubrick:

  • The maximum 4-day rise was +63F when temperatures rose from a low of -1F on February 28, 1934 to a high of 62F on March 3.
  • The maximum 4-day fall was -69F when temperatures fell from a high of 68F on 30 December 30, 1899 to a low of -1F on January 2.
  • There was +58F rise in temperature from a low of 32F on March 21, 1907 to a high of 90F the next day.

Many thanks to Steve Zubrick for crunching these numbers and for sharing them with the Capital Weather Gang!!!

By Jason Samenow  | March 20, 2009; 12:45 PM ET
Categories:  Local Climate  
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Comments

Did any wide temperature swings occur at any time between Sept. 20 and Dec. 31? The days before and after Veterans Day, 1987 seem to stand out in my memory. I think the temperature just before the snowstorm dropped by a large amount in the preceding 2-3 days and it also went up near 70F the weekend after the snow. I also remember a large temperature drop a few years ago from the high sixties to below freezing on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | March 20, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

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