Are These BIG Temperature Swings Something New in Northern Ohio?

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Many times throughout this spring especially since our late season snow, people have commented to me how they never remember wild swings in temperature in northern Ohio quite like what we’ve experienced this year.  Is this true?  Are big temperature fluctuations making us skip seasons so to speak (my post from two years ago?

I went back and found the high temperatures at Hopkins Airport for every day since 1975 from March 1st through April 15th. I did the same thing for all dates from April 16th through May 31st. I highlighted each instanced where the day-to-day high temperature change was greater than 20 degrees. For example, if the high temperature one day was say 38 and the high temperature the following day was 60, that counted.  If the high temperature fell from 75 to 52, that would also count.  Here is what I found.


The number of occurrences where the day to day high temperature changed more than 20 degrees hasn’t varied a lot over the last 40 years between March 1st and mid April!  I thought the numbers would have been higher more recently.  There have been a few years where the number spikes in the second half of spring (1993 and 2013) but no significant trend. Historically, large temperature fluctuations after April 15th don’t occur as often due to the lack of residual cold air left over from winter. So far this year (2016) we haven’t had an occurrence since April 15th. All of our day to day temperature variations this spring have been more gradual.


What I did find interesting was that the occurrences of day-to-day high temperature drops of 30 degrees is significantly higher than temperature jumps of 30 degrees especially before April 15th. 


What about this heat only a few weeks after snow?  In almost each year (1973 was the exception) when we have May snowfall, we invariably reach 80 degrees on average a week later.


As much as perceive these fluctuations to be a new thing here in northern Ohio, it is quiet common in spring and has been for at least 40 years.

(This is another classic example of the Recency Effect as work which I’ve written about on my weather blog SCOTT’S WORLD OF WEATHER. That is we overly weight in our minds more recent events with greater significance and quickly dismiss events further back in time.)