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Much colder back in the day?

January 22, 2013 - Chris Tomassucci
With the freezing temperatures we’ve had the past couple of days, I’ve heard more than one person say something to the effect of: “This was normal back in the day, we always had below zero temps, and we loved to play outside.”

Curious to see what the data say, I looked up average January temperatures for the state of Michigan from 1895 to present.

A few years did definitely stand out as being especially cold. In 1912 for instance, the average temp for January in Michigan was only 6.6 degrees. In 1977 the January average was only 9.3 degrees. This compared to 17.4 degrees in January of 2011, and a balmy 30.10 degrees in 2006.

After that very cold January in 1912 however, 23.9 degrees in 1913 and 24.9 degrees in 1914 are comparable to the 24.4 and 23.2 degrees in 2007 and 2008.

Average January temps for Michigan were as low as 10.2 degrees as recently as 1994, and — aside from 2006 — the January averages don’t seem to be all that much warmer these days than they were “back in the day.”

Now this is data for the whole state of Michigan, not specifically the Upper Peninsula, and average temps do seem to be rising a bit overall. I think it’s likely though that we all just have an easier time remembering the very cold days from our childhood than we do average ones. I think this is what leads many of us, myself included, to believe temps were so much different back in the day.

I’ll post the data below for your own inspection. It comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center:

Average January temperatures in Michigan, 1895-2012:

— 1895: 17.00

— 1896: 22.90

— 1897: 19.90

— 1898: 23.70

— 1899: 18.90

— 1900: 24.60

— 1901: 21.20

— 1902: 21.20

— 1903: 20.50

— 1904: 12.80

— 1905: 16.20

— 1906: 28.60

— 1907: 20.40

— 1908: 22.40

— 1909: 23.50

— 1910: 20.80

— 1911: 21.60

— 1912: 6.60

— 1913: 23.90

— 1914: 24.90

— 1915: 18.90

— 1916: 24.20

— 1917: 17.10

— 1918: 8.60

— 1919: 26.00

— 1920: 11.30

— 1921: 25.80

— 1922: 18.80

— 1923: 21.00

— 1924: 15.60

— 1925: 17.90

— 1926: 21.80

— 1927: 19.20

— 1928: 22.80

— 1929: 15.00

— 1930: 17.50

— 1931: 23.70

— 1932: 29.60

— 1933: 27.50

— 1934: 24.80

— 1935: 18.40

— 1936: 16.50

— 1937: 21.20

— 1938: 18.00

— 1939: 22.50

— 1940: 15.50

— 1941: 21.10

— 1942: 20.30

— 1943: 15.70

— 1944: 26.60

— 1945: 13.90

— 1946: 21.70

— 1947: 22.60

— 1948: 13.90

— 1949: 24.50

— 1950: 22.90

— 1951: 19.80

— 1952: 22.40

— 1953: 24.00

— 1954: 19.00

— 1955: 20.30

— 1956: 21.00

— 1957: 14.90

— 1958: 21.50

— 1959: 14.30

— 1960: 22.40

— 1961: 16.90

— 1962: 15.90

— 1963: 11.00

— 1964: 24.30

— 1965: 18.00

— 1966: 15.40

— 1967: 22.80

— 1968: 17.80

— 1969: 19.80

— 1970: 14.00

— 1971: 15.20

— 1972: 17.20

— 1973: 23.70

— 1974: 20.40

— 1975: 22.90

— 1976: 15.80

— 1977: 9.30

— 1978: 15.80

— 1979: 12.90

— 1980: 20.20

— 1981: 16.40

— 1982: 11.80

— 1983: 23.10

— 1984: 14.20

— 1985: 16.60

— 1986: 20.10

— 1987: 23.20

— 1988: 18.20

— 1989: 25.90

— 1990: 28.10

— 1991: 18.10

— 1992: 23.30

— 1993: 21.90

— 1994: 10.20

— 1995: 23.40

— 1996: 17.50

— 1997: 17.90

— 1998: 25.10

— 1999: 18.00

— 2000: 19.70

— 2001: 23.80

— 2002: 27.80

— 2003: 17.30

— 2004: 14.70

— 2005: 18.20

— 2006: 30.10

— 2007: 24.40

— 2008: 23.20

— 2009: 12.90

— 2010: 21.50

— 2011: 17.40

— 2012: 25.10

 
 

 

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