Who's Got the Record for Widest Span of Temperature?
February 9, 2011 7:51 PM   Subscribe

What inhabited place in America has the biggest temperature differential? On Earth?

By "temperature differential," I mean that, for example, in Chicago, I've seen it as cold as -10, but also seen it get all the way up to 110. That's a span of 120 degrees.

Is there a wider temperature span in other inhabited locales?
posted by WCityMike to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
International Falls, MN.
posted by dfriedman at 7:52 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not the biggest range, but Fargo, ND has a record high temperature of 114 F and a record low of -48 F, recorded in the same year.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 7:59 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oymyakon, in Siberia, is often cited as the coldest inhabitable place. But the average July high is 72, the average January low -58, for a difference of 130. All-time records are +94 and -86, a difference of 180. I'm not claiming this is the largest such difference, but I like the idea of looking in very cold places.

Compare Chicago, which has average July high and January low of +85 and +16 (difference of 69) and all-time records of +107 and -25 (difference of 132). Even International Falls comes up short on that basis. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if International Falls wins for the US. In general, most places in the US get up near 100 sometimes; the variation in how cold the winters are seems a lot bigger than the variations in how hot the summers are.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:01 PM on February 9, 2011

Browning, Montana once saw a temperature differential of 100 degrees F... in a single day.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:09 PM on February 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

In reading the Alaska Airlines in-flight magazine, I once learned that Fairbanks, AK has the largest seasonal temperature difference of any inhabited place (city) in the world. Or so they claim.

Some quick searching shows that Fairbanks has summer highs of +90F and winter lows of -60F. That's an impressive difference of 150F!
posted by jpeacock at 8:18 PM on February 9, 2011

Fairbanks, AK, baby. I've suffered living here for almost 18 years and I have the battle scars to prove it. The heat in the summer is due to a sun that I swear is only 12 feet from the ground. It's right in your face for May/Jun/July, it never really goes down. And then, the winter... well. Dark, cold. Nov/Dec/Jan the sun is very far away and plays "just the tip" day after dark day. This year the coldest I've seen it is -43. And last summer I saw 94? 95? Record low -66 and record high 99 according to Wikipedia. But lots of people I know in the valleys say they've seen -70.

Someone get me outta here!!!
posted by madred at 8:25 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

On January 22, 1943, the temperature in Spearfish SD went from -4 to 45 degrees F in two minutes, a world record.
posted by argonauta at 8:26 PM on February 9, 2011

(That's just a record for the speed of the change, but still pretty wild.)
posted by argonauta at 8:28 PM on February 9, 2011

Yeah, I think Fairbanks is the answer, as far as a place where a lot of people live. Fort Yukon has the Alaska all time state maximum of 100 and also holds the record for coldest November temperature in Alaska, -61, for a total range of 161 degrees.
posted by lukemeister at 8:28 PM on February 9, 2011

Oops, forgot to include the URL.
posted by lukemeister at 8:29 PM on February 9, 2011

Whilst I was in Leh (Northern India), I was told that it's one of the few places where if your head is in direct sunlight and your feet are in the shade you could suffer both heat-stroke and frost-bite at the same time. Seemed plausible. The temperature can range from -28 °C (-18.4°F) in winter to 33 °C (91.4°F) in summer.
posted by dirm at 8:31 PM on February 9, 2011

I don't have a specific answer, but what all those places have in common is that they get really dry air in both winter and summer. In winter that allows for maximum radiational cooling and in summer it maximizes solar heating. The places on the Plains also don't have mountain ranges to block polar air masses in winter and tropical ones in the summer.

A factoid I ran across last week: on Feb 7th, 1861 Governour, NY dropped from +30 to -40 in a single day. Two days later it warmed to 55.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:34 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree, Fairbanks. I've lived here nearly 40 years & have seen as cold as -60° & as warm as +95°. There are places in Alaska that get colder, but they don't get as warm as the Interior (...of the state: Fairbanks) does.
posted by jsslz at 8:35 PM on February 9, 2011

Astana, capital of Kazakstan has an average July high of 27C (80.6F) and an average January low of -22C (-7.6F). Record highs and lows are likely to be significantly more impressive.
posted by holterbarbour at 8:35 PM on February 9, 2011

Whoops, that should be Gouverneur, NY.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:43 PM on February 9, 2011

I used to live in Regina, Saskatchewan, which boasts a record low temperature of -58F and a record high of 109.9F. The average temperatures are less impressive (-6.9F in January, 78.3F in August), but the wind in the winter is a killer and makes it feel a lot colder.
posted by bewilderbeast at 8:44 PM on February 9, 2011

According to a wiki climate table, the record high for Fairbanks, AK is 99F and the record low is -66F, for a range of 165. I lived in Fairbanks for several years and the coldest temp I remember was -58F. The warmest I remember was 92F. Summers were awesome, winters were insane.

I thought I heard once that the greatest temp range in the world was at Yakutsk, Russia. According to a wiki climate table, the span between the record low and high in Yakutsk is 165.3F.
posted by Beardsley Klamm at 9:55 PM on February 9, 2011

On January 22, 1943, the temperature in Spearfish SD went from -4 to 45 degrees F in two minutes, a world record.

I've always been dubious of that. Or any weather claim pre ~~1990, come to think of it.

Heard an interview with a retired Tully weather data gathering person who happily admitted he fudged rainfall figures for years, just so his town would beat a rival town [Babinda, I think]. Basically laughed it off and said it was his civic duty.

[Tully being the *ahem, possibly* wettest town in Australia]

It's a shame one can't rely on old weather figures, especially when extremes and records come into it, but I can understand why.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:01 PM on February 9, 2011

Data points:

Edmonton, AB typically will have at least a couple of -30°C (-22°F) and a couple of +35°C (95°F) days a year.

Coldest recorded temp: −40.6 °C (−41.1 °F) on August 5, 1998
Highest recorded temp: +38.3 °C (100.9 °F) on January 26, 1972

So... pretty extreme but not the most extreme spread. But it is in Edmonton, so that makes it feel worse.
posted by mazola at 6:36 AM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

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