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Record Highs & Lows: The Home Runs of Weather Reporting

Record.cold Record.heat

 

Because of the excitement they generate I like to think of record high and low temperatures as the home runs of the weather world.  Since weather records for New York go all the way back to 1869 it's a challenge for new ones to be set.  Still, since 2000 (thru 2018) there have been 82 records set or tied, which is about four every year (in 2018 two new record highs were established and two were tied).  However, only nine of the 82 were record lows (most recently on Nov. 11, 2017).  Here are some other interesting facts about New York's temperature extremes:

 

  • The oldest-standing record is the record low of March 1 which goes all the way back to the first year of record keeping, 1869.  The oldest-standing record high occurred nearly as far back, on Jan. 23, 1874.  The newest record (thru the end of 2018) was set on May 3, 2018 when the high reached 92°.
  • 22 record highs and 91 record lows stand alone, i.e. not shared with other years.  The most years tied for a record on one date is six, for record lows on three dates: March 3 (11°), June 2 (48°) and Sept. 8 (54°).  (Ties would be less prevalent if daily temperatures were reported to one decimal point.)
  • There are 21 current records that broke a record set the previous year (12 for lows, nine for highs).  The most recent occurrence was in 1994 when the record high on June 19 broke the previous record set the year before.

 

Ice.surrounds.manhattan

 

  • The most that a record beat the previous record by was 19 degrees on Sept. 7, 1881 (101° vs. 82°).  There are 31 current high temperature records that beat the previous record by 10 degrees or more.  The most recent happened on Feb. 21, 2018 when the new record high was 10 degrees above the previous record (78° vs. 68°).  Eight record lows exceeded the previous record by 10 degrees or more, with the largest difference being 14 degrees on Dec. 18, 1919 (-1° vs. 13°).
  • Of the 150 years since 1869, three had no record highs or lows: 1870, 1958 and 1992.  The year with the most records was 1888 when 49 were set (38 were record lows, 11 record highs).  In recent years the year with the most records was 2001, which had 15 (14 record highs, one record low).  These figures reflect records that may no longer be valid, with many broken in subsequent years.  Looking at records that are still standing, 1888 still has the most, but the figure is 18; it's tied with 1875.  
  • The mildest reading for a record low is 59°, and it has occurred twice - on July 29 (in 1914) and on Aug. 1 (1964).  The lowest temperature for a record high is 54°, which was set on Feb. 7, 1938.  
  • Finally, New York's all time hottest and coldest temperatures occurred just two years apart, in 1934 (-15° on Feb. 9) and in 1936 (106° on July 9).

 

Hotday.newyork.washsquarepark

 

Chart - record highs and lows

 

(This post was inspired by an in-depth compilation of data supplied by Eugene De Marco, another New York City weather hobbyist.)

 

     

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Ken K. in NJ

Thanks for this writeup Rob, fascinating data. I believe that daily records were measured to a tenth of a degree until the Weather Bureau Moved to Central Park in early 1961. (Note, I think I mentioned this before, records had been kept in both the Battery and Central Park all along, but the "official" records became those measured in Central Park, even retroactively). I'm not sure what the rationale was for using whole degrees, but that's the way they had always been kept at Central Park.


If you can find old copies of the NY Daily News on Microfilm (I don't think they are online anywhere), you'll note that the "Daily Almanac" box usually listed the high and low temperatures to a tenth of a degree prior to 1961. For some reason the NY Times always published the rounded temperatures.

William

January 10 and November 9 are the only days (at least that I can think of) to have its record high and low occur one year apart from each other. on 1/10, the record high is 60° set in 1876 while the record low of -6° was set in 1875. on 11/9, the record high is 75° set in 1975 while the record low of 24° was set in 1976.

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