Published: 5:18 PM GMT on January 17, 2013
It's snowing in Mississippi and Alabama, thanks to strengthening Winter Storm Iago. Iago is poised to bring up to a foot of snow across the Central Appalachians, and 3 to 8 inches of snowfall across Mid-Atlantic metro areas including cities such as Richmond, Raleigh and Roanoke. Washington DC is on the northern edge of the accumulating snow, and is only expected to see an inch of wet, sloppy accumulation. With sunny skies and high temperatures expected to be in the mid-40s over the weekend in the nation's capital, it appears unlikely that we'll see a white Inauguration Day on Monday, when President Obama is scheduled to be sworn in at noon. Temperatures should be in the low 30s at the time, but there is a 30% chance of some snow flurries brightening up the scene. According to the National Weather Service's Presidential Inaugural Weather web site, the normal high temperature for 12 pm EST on January 21 is 37°F, with partly cloudy skies, a 10 mph wind, and a wind chill of 31°F. During President Obama's 2009 inauguration, the noon temperature was 28°F under partly sunny skies, with a wind chill near 15°F due to breezy northwest winds of 15 mph, gusting to 25 mph.
Figure 1. Snow in Starkville, Mississippi, on January 17, 2013. Image credit: wunderphotographer JDA.
Famous Inauguration Day weather events
The most infamous inauguration day weather occurred in 1841, when President William Henry Harrison was sworn in. Harrison, 68, gave a one hundred minute speech in cold, wet weather without wearing a coat or a hat. He spent a lot of time talking about ancient Rome to a mostly unappreciative audience. The new president then attended a parade and three inaugural balls, possibly in the same wet clothing he wore outside during the speech. Within a month, Harrison was dead from pneumonia and pleurisy. While there's a debate about what exactly killed Harrison, the inauguration was linked to his death.
Almost as bad--1853: President Franklin Pierce was sworn into office on another cold and snowy day. He awoke to heavy snow in the morning which continued until about 11:30 am. Skies looked to be brightening by noon. Shortly after Pierce took his oath of office, as he began his inaugural address, snow started again. It came down heavier than ever dispersing much of the crowd and ruining plans for the parade. Abigail Fillmore, First Lady to the outgoing President Millard Fillmore, caught a cold as she sat on the cold, wet, exposed platform during the swearing-in ceremony. The cold developed into pneumonia and she died at the end of the month.
Worst Weather Day--1909: President William H. Taft's ceremony was forced indoors due to a storm that dropped 10 inches of snow over the Capital city. The snow and winds began the day before. Strong winds toppled trees and telephone poles. Trains were stalled and city streets clogged. All activity was brought to a standstill. Sanitation workers shoveled sand and snow through half the night. It took 6,000 men and 500 wagons to clear 58,000 tons of snow and slush from the parade route. See pictures. Despite the freezing temperatures, howling wind, snow, and sleet, a large crowd gathered in front of the Capitol to view the inauguration, but the weather forced the ceremony indoors. Just after the swearing-in, the snow tapered off.
Warmest January Inauguration: 1981, Ronald Reagan; 55°F under mostly cloudy skies.
Coldest Inauguration: 1985, Ronald Reagan. His second swearing-in ceremony on January 21 had to be held indoors and the parade was canceled. The outside temperature at noon was only 7°F. The morning low was 4° below zero and the daytime high was only 17°. Wind chill temperatures during the afternoon were in the -10 to -20°F range.
Figure 2. Photo taken in front of Presidential Reviewing stand during President Taft's inauguration in 1909. Image credit: National Weather Service, Baltimore/Washington D.C.
Wicked hot in South Africa
The mercury soared to 48.4°C (119°F) in Vioolsdrif, South Africa on Wednesday January 16, marking the third hottest temperature ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere portion of Africa, according to weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera. The two hottest temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere portion of Africa were also measured at Vioolsdrif: a 48.8°C (119.8 °F) reading on Jan 3, 1993, and a 48.7°C reading in January, 1995. Clouds moved in yesterday just as the temperature was peaking in Vioolsdrif, or else a new record would have been set.
Another super-hot day in Australia
Unusually hot weather continues in Australia, where a two-week heat wave has brought some of the hottest weather in the nation's history, including the Southern Hemispheres's hottest temperature measured so far in 2013--a 49.6°C (121.3°F) reading from Moomba Airport in South Australia on January 12. The record for all-time hottest temperature in Australian history is the 50.7°C (123.3°F) reading on 2 January 1960 at Oodnadatta, South Australia. The nation's average high temperature exceeded 102°F (39°C) for seven consecutive days January 2 - 8, 2013--the first time that has happened since record keeping began in 1910. To put this remarkable streak in perspective, the previous record of four consecutive days with a national average high temperature in excess of 102°F (39°C) has occurred once only (1973), and only two other years have had three such days in a row--1972 and 2002. Part of the reason for the extreme heat this year is the presence of a stubborn ridge of high pressure that has delayed the onset of the yearly monsoon by three weeks. Extremely hot high temperatures reaching into the mid-40s over eastern Western Australia, South Australia, western Queensland and large parts of Victoria and NSW are expected today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday), causing continued problems for firefighters. However, the monsoon is now pushing southwards across Australia, and is expected to bring cooler and wetter conditions to northern Australia this weekend. The monsoon will gradually work its way southwards next week, helping flush out the heat that has accumulated in Australia's interior.
Jan 16 2013 Ice Storm (JNCali