Is there a name for a sudden temperature drop in a few minutes’ time?

Ask Tom Why
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Dear Tom,

Last Saturday temperatures from the 90s to the 70s in just a few minutes. Is there a name for this sudden temperature drop?

Ted Remus

Dear Ted,

A product of its proximity to Lake Michigan, sudden northeast wind shifts result in large, rapid temperature drops in Chicago, especially near Lake Michigan. The most dramatic drops occur in spring when the lake is still quite cold with the mercury often tumbling from the 60s and 70s into the 30s and 40s as the northeast winds surge inland. While, not a technical meteorological term, and having nothing to do with pneumonia, this sudden wind shift and temperature drop is often referred to as a “pneumonia front”. The term was first used by the Milwaukee Weather Bureau Office in the 1960s and coined by Rheinhart Harms, who is also credited with originating the term “Alberta Clipper.”


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