Record-Setting Weather

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Record-Setting Weather


Temperature extremes depend upon a number of factors, important among which are altitude, latitude, surface conditions, and the density and length of record of observing stations.

The world's highest temperatures, as well as the greatest range of extremes and the greatest and most rapid temperature fluctuations, occur over continental areas in the temperate zones.

A reading of 136°F, observed at Azizia (elevation about 380 ft, Tripolitania, Libya, North Africa) on September 13, 1922, is generally accepted as the world's highest temperature recorded under standard conditions.

The highest temperature ever observed in Canada was 115°F at Gleichen, Alberta on July 28, 1903. A high of 120°F or higher has been recorded on all the continents except Antarctica, where the high is only 58.3°F.

Greenland Ranch, California, with 134°F on July 10, 1913, holds the record for the highest temperature ever officially recorded in the United States. This station is located in barren Death Valley which is about 140 mi long and 4–16 mi wide and runs north and south in southeastern California and southwestern Nevada. The valley is below sea level and is flanked by towering mountain ranges with Mt. Whitney, the highest landmark in the 48 states, rising to 14,495 ft, less than 100 mi to the west. Death Valley has the hottest summers in the Western Hemisphere, and is the only known place in the United States where nighttime temperatures sometimes remain above 100°F.

The highest average annual temperature in the world, possibly a world record, is the 94°F, at Dalol (or Dallol), Ethiopia. The station is in a salt desert and is based on only 6 years of data, October 1960–November 1966. Lugh (or Luuq), Somalia, East Africa has an annual mean recorded temperature of 88°F. In the United States the station normally having the highest annual average is Key West, Florida, 77.8°F; the highest summer average, Death Valley, California, 98.2°F; and the highest winter average, Key West, Florida, 70.2°F.

Amazing temperature rises of 40–50°F in a few minutes occasionally may be brought about by chinook winds. Some outstanding extreme temperature rises in short periods are:

12 hours: 83°F, Granville, ND, Feb. 21, 1918, from–33°F to 50°F from early morning to late afternoon.

15 minutes: 42°F, Fort Assiniboine, MT, Jan. 19, 1892, from–5°F to 37°F.

7 minutes: 34°F, Kipp, MT, Dec. 1, 1896; observer also reported that a total rise of 80°F occurred in a few hours and that 30 in of snow disappeared in one-half day.

2 minutes: 49°F, Spearfish, SD, Jan. 22, 1943, from–4°F at 7:30 a.m., to 45°F at 7:32 a.m.

The range of temperature extremes over large bodies of water is much less than over land. Temperature extremes over the sea likely range from 100°F recorded by the SS Titan on August 8, 1920, in the Red Sea to–40°F observed by the SS Baychino, January 27, 1932, when beset by ice at latitude 70° 50′ N, longitude 159° 11′ W. Sea-surface temperatures in the Persian Gulf average as high as 88°F for July and August, and a high of 96°F was measured by the SS Frankenfels on August 5, 1924. These are among the highest—if not the highest—sea-surface temperatures ever observed. (Any official record of these over-the-sea temperatures has been lost over the years, so these measurements are not confirmed.)

Sunniest U.S. Cities

  1. Yuma, AZ
  2. Redding, CA
  3. Phoenix, AZ; Tucson, AZ; Las Vegas, NV
  4. El Paso, TX
  5. Fresno, CA; Reno, NV


Antarctica, a vast, elevated, snow-covered continent at the South Pole is one of the most favorable regions in the world for extremely low temperatures. Several stations there now have records dating back through 1957. A new world-record low temperature was observed at–128.6°F and was recorded at Vostok (Russian station) on July 21,1983. At the Amundsen-Scott station (elevation 9,186 ft), located on a snow plain within a few hundred yards of the geographical South Pole, the average annual temperature from 1957 to 1964 was–59°F. For July, the average maximum temperature was–69°F, the minimum–80°F; and for January, these values were–17°F and–22°F, respectively. The average temperature at Vostok for the two-year period 1958–59 was–67°F. Even colder locations may exist on the continent.

Other regions favorable for unusually low winter extremes include Greenland, a high snow-covered area located mostly in the north polar regions; and north central Siberia, part of a great land mass at high latitudes. Minima of–90°F (Verhoyansk–89.7°F, February 5 and 7, 1892 and Oimekon–89.9°F, February 6, 1933) in the latter region stood as the world's lowest temperatures prior to observations in Antarctica. The lowest temperature on the Greenland Icecap,–86.8°F was observed at Northice January 9,1954. Canada's lowest temperature,–81°F, was observed at Snag, Yukon Territory, near the border of Alaska at an altitude of 2,120 ft on February 3, 1947.

In the United States, the lowest temperature on record,–79.8°F, was recorded on January 23, 1971, at Prospect Creek Camp, which is located in the Endicott Mountains of Northern Alaska at latitude 66° 48′N, longitude 150° 40′W. The lowest temperature in the contiguous 48 states,–69.7°F, occurred on January 20, 1954, at Rogers Pass, in Lewis and Clark County, Montana. This location is in mountainous and heavily forested terrain, about 0.5 mi east of and 140 ft below the summit of the Continental Divide.

The lowest average annual temperature recorded in the United States is 9.4°F at Barrow, Alaska, which lies on the Arctic coast. Barrow also has the coolest summers (June, July, August) with an average of 41.9°F. The lowest average winter (December, January, February) temperature is–20.1°F at Barter Island on the Arctic coast of northeast Alaska. In Hawaii, average annual temperatures range from 44°F at Mauna Loa Slope Observatory (elevation 11,146 ft) on the island of Hawaii to 77.2°F at Honolulu on the island of Oahu.

In the contiguous 48 states, Mt. Washington, New Hampshire (elevation 6,262 ft) has the lowest mean annual temperature, 26.5°F, and the lowest mean summer (June, July, August) temperature, 51.6°F. A few stations in the Northeast and upper Rockies have mean annuals in the high 30s, and at the same stations in the latter area, summers may average in the high 40s. Winter (December, January, February) mean temperature are lowest in northeastern North Dakota where the average is 5.9°F at the Langdon Experiment Farm and northwestern Minnesota where the average is 6.1°F at Hallock.

In continental areas of the temperate zone, 40–50°F temperature falls in a few hours caused by advection of cold air masses are not uncommon. Sometimes, following these large drops due to advection, radiation may cause a further temperature fall resulting in remarkable changes. Some outstanding extreme temperature falls are:

24 hours: 100°F, Browning, MT, Jan. 23–24, 1916, from 44°F to–56°F.

12 hours: 84°F, Fairfield, MT, Dec. 24, 1924, from 63°F at noon to–21°F at midnight.

2 hours: 62°F, Rapid City, SD, Jan. 12, 1911, from 49°F at 6 a.m. to–13°F at 8 a.m.

27 minutes: 58°F, Spearfish, SD, Jan. 22, 1943, from 54°F at 9 a.m., to–4°F at 9:27 a.m.

Cloudiest U.S. Cities

  1. Quillayute, WA
  2. Astoria, OR
  3. Olympia, WA
  4. Seattle, WA
  5. Portland, OR

15 minutes: 47°F, Rapid City, SD, Jan. 10, 1911, from 55°F at 7 a.m., to 8°F at 7:15 a.m.

Highest Temperature Extremes
ContinentHighest Temp. (deg F)PlaceElevation (Feet)Date
Africa136El Azizia, Libya36713 Sep 1922
North America134Death Valley, CA (Greenland Ranch)–17810 Jul 1913
Asia129Tirat Tsvi, Israel–72221 Jun 1942
Australia128Cloncurry, Queensland62216 Jan 1889
Europe122Seville, Spain264 Aug 1881
South America120Rivadavia, Argentina67611 Dec 1905
Oceania108Tuguegarao, Philippines7229 Apr 1912
Antarctica59Vanda Station, Scott Coast495 Jan 1974
Lowest Temperature Extremes
ContinentLowest Temp. (deg F)PlaceElevation (Feet)Date
*Exact date unknown, lowest in 15-year period
Antarctica–129Vostok1122021 Jul 1983
Asia-90Oimekon, Russia26256 Feb 1933
Asia-90Verkhoyansk, Russia3507 Feb 1892
Greenland-87Northice76879 Jan 1954
North America–81.4Snag, Yukon, Canada21203 Feb 1947
Europe-67Ust'Shchugor, Russia279January*
South America-27Sarmiento, Argentina8791 Jun 1907
Africa-11Ifrane, Morocco536411 Feb 1935
Australia–9.4Charlotte Pass, NSW575829 Jun 1994
Oceania14Haleakala Summit, Maui, HI97502 Jan 1961

(Courtesy of National Climatic Data Center/NOAA.)

Highest Average Annual Precipitation Extremes
ContinentHighest Avg. (Inches)PlaceElevation (Feet)Years of Record
!The value given is continent's highest and possibly the world's depending on measurement practices, procedures and period of record variations.
^The official greatest average annual precipitation for South America is 354 inches at Quibdo, Colombia. The 523.6 inches average at Lloro, Colombia [14 miles SE and at a higher elevation than Quibdo] is an estimated amount.
*Approximate elevation.
South America523.6!^Lloro, Colombia520*29
Asia467.4!Mawsynram, India459738
Oceania460.0!Mt. Waialeale, Kauai, HI514830
Africa405.0Debundscha, Cameroon3032
South America354.0^Quibdo, Colombia12016
Australia340.0Bellenden Ker, Queensland51029
North America256.0Henderson Lake, British Colombia1214
Europe183.0Crkvica, Bosnia-Hercegovina333722
Lowest Average Annual Precipitation Extremes
ContinentLowest Avg. (Inches)PlaceElevation (Feet)Years of Record
The value given is the average amount of solid snow accumulating in one year as indicated by snow markers. The liquid content of the snow is undetermined.
*Approximate elevation.
South America0.03Arica, Chile9559
Africa<0.1Wadi Halfa, Sudan41039
Antarctica0.8Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station918610
North America1.2Batagues, Mexico1614
Asia1.8Aden, Yemen2250
Australia4.05Mulka (Troudaninna), South Australia160*42
Europe6.4Astrakhan, Russia4525
Oceania8.93Puako, Hawaii, HI513

(Courtesy of National Climatic Data Center/NOAA.)

Record Highest Temperatures by State
(Thru December 2000)
StateTemp. °F.DateStationElevation Feet
*Also on earlier dates at the same time or other places.
Alabama112Sep. 5, 1925Centerville345
Alaska100Jun. 27, 1915Fort Yukonest. 420
Arizona128Jun. 29, 1994Lake Havasu City505
Arkansas120Aug. 10, 1936Ozark396
California134Jul. 10, 1913Greenland Ranch–178
Colorado118Jul. 11, 1888Bennett5,484
Connecticut106Jul. 15, 1995Danbury450
Delaware110Jul. 21, 1930Millsboro20
Florida109Jun. 29, 1931Monticello207
Georgia112Aug. 20, 1983Greenville860
Hawaii100Apr. 27, 1931Pahala850
Idaho118Jul. 28, 1934Orofino1,027
Illinois117Jul. 14, 1954East St. Louis410
Indiana116Jul. 14, 1936Collegeville672
Iowa118Jul. 20, 1934Keokuk614
Kansas121Jul. 24, 1936*Alton (near)1,651
Kentucky114Jul. 28, 1930Greensburg581
Louisiana114Aug. 10, 1936Plain Dealing268
Maine105Jul. 10, 1911*North Bridgton450
Maryland109Jul. 10, 1936*Cumberland & Frederick623, 325
Massachusetts107Aug. 2, 1975New Bedford & Chester120; 640
Michigan112Jul. 13, 1936Mio963
Minnesota114Jul. 6, 1936Moorhead904
Mississippi115Jul. 29, 1930Holly Springs600
Missouri118Jul. 14, 1954*Warsaw & Union705; 560
Montana117Jul. 5, 1937Medicine Lake1,950
Nebraska118Jul. 24, 1936*Minden2,169
Nevada125Jun. 29, 1994*Laughlin605
New Hampshire106Jul. 4, 1911Nashua125
New Jersey110Jul. 10, 1936Runyon18
New Mexico122Jun. 27, 1994Waste Isolat. Pilot Plt3,418
New York108Jul. 22, 1926Troy35
North Carolina110Aug. 21, 1983Fayetteville213
North Dakota121Jul. 6, 1936Steele1,857
Ohio113Jul. 21, 1934*Gallipolis (near)673
Oklahoma120Jun. 27, 1994*Tipton1,350
Oregon119Aug. 10, 1898*Pendleton1,074
Pennsylvania111Jul. 10, 1936*Phoenixville100
Rhode Island104Aug. 2, 1975Providence51
South Carolina111Jun. 28, 1954*Camden170
South Dakota120Jul. 5, 1936Gannvalley1,750
Tennessee113Aug. 9, 1930*Perryville377
Texas120Jun. 28, 1994*Monahans2,660
Utah117Jul. 5, 1985Saint George2,880
Vermont105Jul. 4, 1911Vernon310
Virginia110Jul. 15, 1954Balcony Falls725
Washington118Aug. 5, 1961*Ice Harbor Dam475
West Virginia112Jul. 10, 1936*Martinsburg435
Wisconsin114Jul. 13, 1936Wisconsin Dells900
Wyoming115Aug. 8, 1983Basin3,500
Record Lowest Temperatures by State
(Thru December 2000)
StateTemp. °F.DateStationElevation Feet
*Also on earlier dates at the same time or other places.
Alabama-27Jan. 30, 1966New Market760
Alaska-80Jan. 23, 1971Prospect Creek Camp1,100
Arizona-40Jan. 7, 1971Hawley Lake8,180
Arkansas-29Feb. 13, 1905Pond1,250
California-45Jan. 20, 1937Boca5,532
Colorado-61Feb. 1, 1985Maybell5,920
Connecticut-32Jan. 22, 1961*Coventry480
Delaware-17Jan. 17, 1893Millsboro20
Florida–2Feb. 13, 1899Tallahassee193
Georgia-17Jan. 27, 1940CCC Camp F-16est. 1,000
Hawaii12May 17, 1979Mauna Kea Obs 111.213,770
Idaho-60Jan. 18, 1943Island Park Dam6,285
Illinois-36Jan. 5, 1999Congerville635
Indiana-36Jan. 19, 1994New Whiteland785
Iowa-47Feb. 3, 1996*Elkader770
Kansas-40Feb. 13, 1905Lebanon1,812
Kentucky-37Jan. 19, 1994Shelbyville730
Louisiana-16Feb. 13, 1899Minden194
Maine-48Jan. 19, 1925Van Buren510
Maryland-40Jan. 13, 1912Oakland2,461
Massachusetts-35Jan. 12, 1981Chester640
Michigan-51Feb. 9, 1934Vanderbilt785
Minnesota-60Feb. 2, 1996Tower1,460
Mississippi-19Jan. 30, 1966Corinth420
Missouri-40Feb. 13, 1905Warsaw700
Montana-70Jan. 20, 1954Rogers Pass5,470
Nebraska-47Dec. 22, 1989*Oshkosh3,379
Nevada-50Jan. 8, 1937San Jacinto5,200
New Hampshire-47Jan. 29, 1934Mt. Washington6,262
New Jersey-34Jan. 5, 1904River Vale70
New Mexico-50Feb. 1, 1951Gavilan7,350
New York-52Feb. 18, 1979*Old Forge1,720
North Carolina-34Jan. 21, 1985Mt. Mitchell6,525
North Dakota-60Feb. 15, 1936Parshall1,929
Ohio-39Feb. 10, 1899Milligan800
Oklahoma-27Jan. 18, 1930*Watts958
Oregon-54Feb. 10, 1933*Seneca4,700
Pennsylvania-42Jan. 5, 1904Smethportest. 1,500
Rhode Island-25Feb. 5, 1996Greene425
South Carolina-19Jan. 21, 1985Caesars Head3,115
South Dakota-58Feb. 17, 1936McIntosh2,277
Tennessee-32Dec. 30, 1917Mountain City2,471
Texas-23Feb. 8, 1933*Seminole3,275
Utah-69Feb. 1, 1985Peter's Sink8,092
Vermont-50Dec. 30, 1933Bloomfield915
Virginia-30Jan. 22, 1985Mtn. Lake Bio. Stn.3,870
Washington-48Dec. 30, 1968Mazama & Winthrop2,120; 1,755
West Virginia-37Dec. 30, 1917Lewisburg2,200
Wisconsin-55Feb. 4, 1996Couderay1,300
Wyoming-66Feb. 9, 1933Riverside R.S.6,500