Ask Ellen: What is our biggest 24-hour temperature swing?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The massive temperature drop Friday is enough to take your breath away.

After record-breaking highs in the upper 50s Thursday, temperatures in the 20s are gripping West Michigan once again. Without factoring in wind chill, that’s a roughly 30-degree temperature swing over 24 hours.

IS IT RARE?

How common is a 30-degree temperature swing within 24 hours? For that answer, we turn to history and a database that pulls temperatures from the Grand Rapids official recording station.

Unfortunately, this database only has recordings dating back to 1963. Still, when examining that 55-year span, it is evident a 30-degree swing is not enough to land us in the top ten most tumultuous temperature changes.

Chart: Top ten most substantial temperature drops in 24 hours in Grand Rapids history, courtesy of IEM.

TOP TEMPERATURE DROPS

According to the database, the most dramatic temperature drop in the last 55 years happened in January of 1996. Temperatures plummeted from 60 to only 13 within a day, specifically from 5 p.m. to 5 p.m. A close look at the above plot shows that there are really only three dates here listed:

  • Jan. 19, 1996: 47 degree swing
  • Feb. 11, 1999: 46 degree swing
  • April 15, 2003: 45 degree swing
Chart: Top ten most substantial temperature increases in 24 hours in Grand Rapids history, courtesy of IEM.

TOP TEMPERATURE SURGES

As for the greatest temperature surge in a 24-hour period, the database finds four dates that stood out in the last 55 years:

  • Jan. 1, 1964: 45 degree swing
  • Jan. 10, 1980: 40 degree swing
  • March 6, 1972: 40 degree swing
  • Feb. 11, 1972: 39 degree swing

Each of these days saw a surge of warmth so substantial, it raised the thermometer by about 40 degrees or more. It’s quite impressive that in 55 years, temperature swings of 40 degrees or more have only occurred six times.

WEEK OF TUMULTUOUS TEMPERATURES

The largest temperature surge during three days was 57 degrees and happened Jan. 15, 1972. The largest three-day drop happened on Jan. 13, 1972. This means the biggest 72 hour warm-up and 72 hour cool-down both happened in the same week in 1972, which is incredible.

Chart: Top ten most substantial temperature drops over three days in Grand Rapids history, courtesy of IEM.
Chart: Top ten most substantial three-day temperature increases in Grand Rapids history, courtesy of IEM.

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