From the ABC 7 Weather team

102nd Year Anniversary of Record Cold

January 14, 2014 - 05:57 AM
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The Arctic express that brought record cold to parts of the region just a week ago was just the tip of the iceberg compared to what happened early this week back in 1912.

If you thought last Tuesday was cold, imagine what it felt like in 1912.

Baltimore dipped to a record 3 degrees last Tuesday, but during a historic 1912 cold snap, the Charm City set a record low of -2 degrees on Jan. 14. The high temperature both on Jan. 13 and 14, 1912 only reached 11 and 20 degrees respectively, marking the coldest daytime highs for those days. Records at BWI Thurgood Marshall go all the way back to 1871.

Meanwhile, Dulles reached a record low of 1 degree last Tuesday and a record cold high temperature of 18 degrees that same day. For January 13 and 14, the records only date back to 1970 and 1981.

Keep in mind, though, that Dulles wasn’t an official reporting station until 1963, so there is no recollection of how cold the temperature was here in the 1912 outbreak.

What’s more impressive is that the 1912 cold wave set a Maryland low temperature record. Oakland, Md., (located at approximately 2,398 feet in the Allegheny Mountains of far western Maryland) dropped to -40 degrees to set the state’s all-time record low temperature.

The cold weather pierced the nation’s capital as well. While Reagan National didn’t set any cold records last week, it sure did in the 1912 outbreak!

The official reporting station for Washington dropped to a record minus-8 degrees on January 13, 1912 and -13 degrees the next morning. Even more impressive, the high of 8 degrees on Jan. 13, 1912 pushed Washington into the record books for the coldest daytime high ever registered. That temperature was then matched again on Jan. 19, 1994.

courtesy Barbara M. Watson NWS

The bitter blast chilled many other locations in the Washington area. Hagerstown, Md., dropped to a record -27 degrees on Jan. 13, 1912, establishing the city’s coldest low temperature on record. Frederick dropped to -21 degrees while Rockville registered -10 degrees. Even Salisbury was below zero degrees at -4 degrees.

The weather data was sparse in the early 1900s with maps showing much less detail than with today’s technology. However, notice the huge Arctic high pressure centered across the Mid-Atlantic just as this outbreak was in full throttle.

The high came straight down from northern Canada into the Mid-Atlantic, the ideal track for our region to get the brunt of a record cold blast.

courtesy of NOAA Central Library Data Imaging Project

In addition, the 1912 outbreak came at just the right time in winter to set these records. Mid-January is traditionally Washington’s coldest period. From now through Jan. 24, the average high is 43 degrees and average low is 28 degrees, the coldest averages for the calendar year and winter season.

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