January 05, 2014

It's always colder (and hotter) somewhere else

Quick: Which U.S. state has the most extreme temperatures?

It's not Wisconsin or Minnesota, or Arizona or Vermont (I just picked those states randomly, by the way). Those states rank #13, #8, #14, and #23, respectively, according to The Weather Channel.

You might be surprised to know that the #1, #2, and #3 top U.S. swing temperature states are Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota, in that order. So if you live in one of those states, congratulations! Your state has the most extreme ranges of recorded temperatures.

To find out where your state ranks, check the list here: Swing States: America's Most Extreme Temperature Ranges. These are listed in Fahrenheit. If you live in other countries, what are your temperature ranges?

Of course, the "extremes" only tell part of the story. There's dry heat, and then there's humidity. And anyone who has experienced 108F in Phoenix, Ariz., vs. 108F in Branson, Mo., knows Branson feels worse (although persperation is a healthy thing, I guess).

On the other end of the spectrum, once you get below about -10F, it's too cold for humans and other creatures to spend time outside without the shelter of a warm bush, a snow-covered overhang, or a toasty warm house! And windchills add even more danger to the situation.


For those of you who aren't aware, much of the U.S. is experiencing an arctic blast, with freezing temperatures stretching far into the deep south. In my area, the forecasted high for Monday is -13F, with the low down to -20F, and a windchill in the -50sF. We haven't seen temperatures that cold for at least a decade.

But it's always colder and hotter somewhere else. As brutal as it is today, it's only temporary. On the weekend, we'll be back up above freezing (32F). That will feel like springtime! Maybe I'll even venture outside with my camera!

If it's cold, or snowy, or hot, or dangerous where you live, stay safe! And do, please, share your brutal weather stories in the comments.

*Added 1.6.14: Check out this link for Incredible Temperature Swings in One Day.

47 comments:

  1. I think, at the current time, we have extreme weather in our own climates. I have rain along the week. At some place in country, especially in low land area, flood is be the most serious problem. And on the high land, landslide and flash floods are really harmful. I hope your extreme weather will over soon.

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    1. Floods would be horrible. Even a sturdy, warm home sometimes isn't enough to keep you safe. Thank you for your good wishes. We are safely in a warm home with food and the necessities. :)

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  2. That is cold and I know you look forward to "warming up" over the weekend. We lived in Wyoming for a while and the hot days in the summer were rare while the cold lasted forever.

    It's one thing to measure from winter to summer but I'd like to see a chart of extremes based on one day or one week in the same place because our swings of 50 degrees or so from day to day are pretty extreme. In San Antonio we are predicted to see 22F on Wed morning and be in the 70s by Thursday afternoon!

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    1. Yes, so true, Shirley! Those stastistics only show a small part of the story. Another angle is "normal" high temperatures compared with "normal" low temperatures. By that mark, my guess is that some of the Midwestern states would be near the top, because we have 80s and 90s all summer, and 10s and 20s all winter. And then there's the one-day extremes. Check out this link: http://www.weather.com/news/weather-winter/5-extreme-temperature-drops-20130118!

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  3. Well we are extending our winter visit to Michigan due to the weather. It is tough being away from my garden with such frigid temperatures expected because I can't cover any plants or water to help them through this time. I hope I don't loose any plants. We are enjoying the winter wonderland from the joys of heating and a roaring fire. Stay warm and safe!

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    1. Oh darn! I wondered about that, Karin: all the folks who've been traveling for the holidays and just getting home, or like you still away from home! I saw a link from the New Orleans Botanical Garden (which expects to get below freezing tonight), that if gardeners have plants with damage, they should try pruning them. And then, hopefully, the new growth will take off when the temps warm. Safe travels back home, and I hope you don't have much plant damage! I'm expecting some perennials might not make it through this cold, even here. But at least we have a warm blanket of snow protecting them. :)

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  4. Here in Heath we are proud of what we consider our extremely cold winter (and our delightfully cool summers) up in the higher elevations, but we can't compete with Montana - However, I should say that my mother refused to return to Heath after she came up for the August Heath Fair and it SNOWED. Only a flurry, but still.

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    1. Yes, my parents are now sunbirds, spending their winters in Florida. And I am so thankful for that! They can take walks outside every day and they don't have to worry about breathing cold air or messing with heavy coats. Snow in August would be horrible! In the northern part of Wisconsin, that happens sometimes, too. But thankfully, not here in the Madison area! Stay warm in MA! I hear the cold/snow is headed your way.

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  5. I always thought Illinois had some of the most extreme weather, but checking out this source, no, we're in the middle of the pack in that respect. Of course, statistics aren't that comforting when you're in the middle of a deep freeze like today. Everybody is talking about the weather here --we're at 12 below with wind chills around minus 40--and how it's the coldest we've been for a couple of decades. But I remember the late 70's with some brutal snowstorms. We were living on an isolated country road then that was the last to be plowed, and in one of the worst storms, we lost power! As long as I have a toasty warm house to stay in during this freeze, I'm not going to complain.

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    1. Yes, check out my comment to Shirley about the Midwest. I think of Illinois as one of the most extreme regarding "normal" highs and lows. Actually, I think Illinois (at least Chicago) was hit harder than Wisconsin this time around--with the double whammy of a snowstorm, immediately followed by the arctic blast! At least the snow will protect the plants (and some of the animals). I hear you on the toasty warm house. Stay inside if you can! :)

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  6. What a coincidence to read your post. I just saw the rankings myself, so I knew the answer. Even though, I probably would have guessed the top three anyway, and always had dreams of living on a big spread in Montana. It really seems like God's country there. Stay warm Beth. When I read of the arctic air, I thought of you and Jason in Chicago first.

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    1. I love Montana ... in the summer! ;-) I was surprised by the rankings. But I think the "normal" ranges would change the order a bit. I hear you will soon get more snow and cold, too, so stay safe and warm, Donna!

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  7. And I was moaning because the temp is predicted to drop to 9 degrees here tonight! As much as we complain about our weather, my state of Alabama was #40 on the extreme weather list! It's all what we are accustomed to; a couple years ago, when I visited Taiwan in September, folks were wearing leather jackets when the temp dropped into the 70s!

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    1. Yeah, I kept thinking that our weather here was warm on the summer side and extreme on the winter side. But this list shows that it's not as high on the "swing states" ranking as I thought. I agree about what we get used to. Which means this weekend when the temps are in the 30s we will now feel warm. I'm very excited about that!

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  8. Keep warm, Beth! I can't image what -50 feels like... Here it has been nice and sunny, too sunny in fact. We haven't had any rain, and they are taking about water rationing :(. I wonder if there is such a thing as perfect weather, probably not.

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    1. Thanks, Masha. I'd forgotten what it felt like, too. I hope you get some rain soon. Regarding "perfect" weather, I think it's probably in San Diego or Hawaii. Or, Wisconsin late May through September. :)

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  9. Having once driven from Bismarck to Pierre in January (boy, is that NOT a good idea), I am not surprised to hear that North Dakota is among the top three. I for one am looking forward to all the slush this weekend when the high is supposed to be 37F.

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    1. Brrrrr ... Bismark to Pierre in winter sounds awful. I'm sure people in the south would say the same thing about driving from Madison to Chicago. ;-) I know: This weekend will feel like springtime!!

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  10. The extremes are interesting, but looking at statewide rankings really isn't that helpful. For instance, I looked at Pennsylvania, where I grew up. The state record high (111) comes from Southeast PA, where I can't imagine the temperature ever getting anywhere close to -42 (the temperature that was recorded in north central PA, probably in the Pocono mountains). I'd be interested in seeing the zip codes or cities with the greatest extremes. And like you said, it would also be interesting to see the spread between average annual highs and annual lows.

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    1. Yes, so true! The article does talk about how some states have a lot more variables--like altitude and large bodies of water, etc. I agree--I think the cities/towns comparison would be more revealing, too. And definitely the average highs and lows. It's all fascinating info, though.

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  11. Hi Beth! Very interesting information! Thanks! I grew up in Russia, and minus 13 - minus 22 F was our normal winter temperature. Cold winter was just normal. I loved those winters. I don't remember our school being ever closed because of cold. Several years ago, I brought my boys to school and found out that classes were cancelled. I couldn't believe it, since the snow was very light and it was about 32 degrees. Well, I am spoiled now. Washington state' winters are mild, and I complain about 30-32 degrees... Stay warm!

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    1. Gosh, I can't imagine this type of weather all the time! A good long stretch of it is so dangerous. I did grow up north of here where the winters were even colder--but not consistently arctic over a long time period. I have to say I prefer a winter with temperatures in the 20s--it's dry enough so the cold doesn't go to your bones as much as a wet cold, but not so cold as this brutal stuff. Cancelling school at 32 seems silly, but as you say it's what you get used to. ;-)

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  12. It got down to 12 this morning, but by Thursday it's supposed to be in the 60's. Nothing like what most are experiencing right now. I can't even imagine living in that sort of cold. I worry about the birds and wildlife here, and I wonder what they are doing to stay alive there! I hate the high temps we have here in the summer, but am always glad I live here when it's winter!

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    1. Wow, that's cold for Texas! As long as we have a warm house, we're OK. But I'm getting a serious case of cabin fever. I worry about the birds and wildlife, too. But today I saw a huge group of juncos and chickadees at the feeders--it made my day!

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  13. Embarrassed now about how much we complained about getting down to six degrees.

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    1. That's about how warm it got here today, so we're moving in the right direction! Single digits are still brutally cold--especially with the windchills. Hope your weather is much nicer now!

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  14. That wind chill is unbelievably cold. Keep warm Beth, keep warm.

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    1. It was brutal for a couple of days, but fortunately I didn't have to go out in it until today. Now I'm going to go out as much as I can on the weekend because it's going to be much warmer--maybe even above freezing!

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  15. We get pretty hot here, and pretty cold, but it's all in Canadian Celsius so it doesn't count in the US...lol.

    Jen

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    1. I know! I always have to check a converter to figure out Fahrenheit to Celsius or the other way around. ;-) From the way you describe your summers and winters, ours seem somewhat similar. In any case, I hope winter isn't too brutal for you this year in British Columbia!

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  16. Hi Beth Happy New Year! My subconscious always relate to Celsius and kilograms, as metric system is used in most scientific publications. I thought it is the US which started metric so must use it. We read it in the news about the extreme cold in the Northwest USA! This time here is always our anticipated time because at least we have some semblance of pleasant conditions, we get our cold winds from the Northeast like Siberia and China.

    Have you read about that Russian scientist who predicted that the Little Ice Age starts in 2014? In the article it was pretty regular and happens every two centuries. Maybe it is really true, and it already started.

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    1. Happy New Year! Yes, I wish we would just get with the program and convert to Celsius, since most of the rest of the world uses it. Because of this blog and regularly communicating with gardeners in other countries, I'm starting to have a general idea of the conversion, but I still have to check. I did hear some folks talking about the start of a new ice age. If that's the case, it's even more reason to move south! I need to read more about this, though. Others are saying it's unlikely. But I will read up on it--thanks!

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    2. I can't see again the link in FB about the Little Ice Age report, when i finally see it again i hope i remember to send you. At this junkture i remember your comment in my other post that i must tell my commenters what my insect in the Shadow Shot is. I just learned it is a stilt-legged fly, Order Diptera, and have many genus and species. It has many posts when googled. I already updated that post in the blog. thanks.

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    3. P.S. Beth, here i found the article on the Russian scientist's theory. http://www.earth-heal.com/news/news/73-climate-change/572-new-ice-age.html

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    4. Thanks! I'll take a look at that article. A stilt-legged fly--fascinating! There are so many amazing creatures in this world. Thanks for sharing!

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  17. Hi Beth, I really feel for you! The temperatures that you are having are really dangerous. I hope this brutally cold weather is over soon. These temperatures are certainly tough for every human being, but I am wondering how the wild life is dealing with it. It must be so hard on the animals as well. Stay warm and take good care!
    Christina

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    1. The polar vortex is officially retreating to the north today! Hurrah! I have cabin fever, and I plan to spend a lot of time outside during the next few days when the temps will actually be above freezing--even here in the north! It will feel like springtime! I'm sure the animals will reappear, too, which will be fun to watch. About the only ones I've seen during the past few days have been the black-capped chickadees and the dark-eyed juncos--extremely hardy, tiny songbirds. Gotta love 'em.

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  18. U na na razie nie ma problemów z zimą, bo jej nie ma jak dotąd. Mamy raczej wiosnę. Pozdrawiam.
    U at the moment there are no problems with winter, because it does not exist so far. We rather spring. Yours.

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    1. Giga: We've been hearing reports about how Europe is having a warmer than normal winter so far. Lucky you! I hope it continues, because this type of deep, arctic freeze is hard to take--even for a few days!

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  19. Interestingly, Oregon, my home state ranks number 11 but the extremes were recorded decades ago. The lowest low of -54 was recorded in 1933 and the highest high was recorded in 1898.

    Fortunately we came through our early December chill pretty well. I hope we don't get those terribly low temperatures again for a long, long time.

    Stay warm!

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    1. That's interesting, Grace. So, on that scale Oregon is more variable than Wisconsin! I wouldn't have guessed it. But then, I think you have some higher-elevation areas that we don't have, which can make a big difference. Aaron made a good point that regions (instead of states) might give a truer picture of extreme temperature locations. Both Oregon and Wisconsin vary quite a bit from north to south, and from valleys to higher elevations. Still, it's fun to compare state records, too. :)

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  20. Hi Beth, sorry to hear about your extremely cold weather. I suppose what’s ‘cold’ is all a bit relative to what you are used to. Where I lived in Norway before coming to London, a normal winter would be anything from 0 to minus 35 Celsius (32 to -31F) and we would have many weeks or even months every winter with below -25C (-13F). And as I child I actually experienced minus 50F (-46C) when living in northern Norway, not as a wind-chill factor but as an actual temperature. That was our winter record, we went to school that day, life went on as normal even if it was cold during the winter.

    Living here in London, people are getting upset when it gets below freezing and after almost 15 years living here I catch myself agreeing! At the moment, we have more of an issue with all the rain and wind and flooding we are getting as a result of the same weather pattern you have, but you get the cold part of it and we get the milder part so here in London there still haven’t been any frost and fortunately I don’t live in a flood risk area. It was 12 degrees C (53F) in my garden today. Stay warm and safe!

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    1. I remember you telling about your early years in Norway when we visited. Wow! I can't believe you ventured out to school when it was -46C! Now that's an example of hardy people! I suppose I've said this too much, but dry cold is so much easier for me--as long as it isn't too cold. Temps hovering around freezing, with rain are much worse than a bit colder, but dry weather. I've heard about the storms and giant waves that Europe's coastal Atlantic areas are experiencing. That is very scary, too! But 12C/53F sounds wonderful this time of year! Enjoy!

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  21. Great post! I live near Branson, MO and I can tell you by experience - 108° and the humidity is almost unbearable! However, I can handle the heat and humidity better than the cold though and I'm dreaming of spring! - Stay warm :)

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    1. Yes! A couple of years ago, we had a family reunion in Branson in June. It was the beginning of the big drought and heat wave that summer, and I do believe the temps ranged from 100 to 108 that week. I have a high tolerance for heat, but even I didn't spend much time outside. And every walk outside was a very slow one. ;-) I agree--we've paid our dues this winter. I wouldn't mind an early spring at all.

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  22. Great post! I guess it's all relative to where you live. We just had record lows of 6 degrees F with a wind chill factor of -15 but after reading about your temperatures that's nothing! Keep warm!

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    1. Thanks, Lee. Yes, definitely I agree. I always thought we had the wildest extremes here in the Midwest, but apparently not. Last week was an incredible chill for all of us, wasn't it?!

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