When is the last winter that we did not have a high in the single digits or lower?

Ask Tom Why

Dear Tom,
When is the last winter that we did not have a high in the single digits or lower?
Neal Veen, Plano
Dear Neal,
Truly frigid days have been absent so far this cold season, with the season’s lows maximum being just 15 degrees, recorded on Valentine’s Day. We passed your question on to Chicago climatologist Frank Wachowski who informed us that, averaged over the city’s 150 winters of record; the lowest maximum is about 5 degrees. Throughout the city’s climate history, the lowest maximums have ranged from 20 degrees in the 1982-83 winter to minus 11 in the winters of 1993-94 and 1982-83. The most recent occurrences of winters with double-digit lowest maximums were in back-to-back cold seasons when the coldest day was 11 in 2012-13 and 19 in 2011-12. Other recent instances were 11 in 2009-10 and 18 in 2001-02.

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