When was the last time Chicago’s daily high temperature didn’t go above zero?

Dear Tom,
When was the last time Chicago’s daily high temperature didn’t go above zero? How often does the high stay at or below zero?
— Lou Avenatti,
Hammond
Dear Lou,
“Frigid” indeed. In 149 years of official Chicago temperature records (beginning with Nov. 1, 1870), Chicago’s high temperature has remained at zero degrees or lower on 60 days. That is about one day out of every 854 days, or once every 21/3 years.
The most recent occurrence of a high temperature of zero degrees or lower was five years ago: Jan. 6, 2014, with a high of minus 2 degrees. Before that, Jan. 15, 2009, had a high of minus 1 degree. Chicago’s lowest maximum temperature was a bone-chilling minus 11 degrees on Jan. 18, 1994, and also minus 11 degrees on Dec. 24, 1983. In addition, a high of minus 10 degrees was recorded on Jan. 25, 1899.

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