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Swing States: America's Most Extreme Temperature Ranges

Nick Wiltgen
Published: July 10, 2013

#50: Hawaii

#50: Hawaii

Hawaii has the nation's narrowest temperature range of any state thanks to is tropical location surrounded by water. The state record high was set in April 1931, and the state record low was set in May 1979 at an elevation of 13,733 feet.

  • #50: Hawaii
  • #49: Florida
  • #48: Delaware
  • #47: Georgia
  • #46: Louisiana
  • #44 (tie): South Carolina
  • #44 (tie): Rhode Island
  • #43: Mississippi
  • #42: Connecticut
  • #41: Alabama
  • #40: Virginia
  • #39: Massachusetts
  • #38: Texas
  • #36 (tie): New Jersey
  • #36 (tie): North Carolina
  • #35: Tennessee
  • #32 (tie): Maryland
  • #32 (tie): West Virginia
  • #32 (tie): Arkansas
  • #30 (tie): Kentucky
  • #30 (tie): Oklahoma
  • #28 (tie): Ohio
  • #28 (tie): Indiana
  • #26 (tie): Pennsylvania
  • #26 (tie): Illinois
  • #25: Maine
  • #24: New Hampshire
  • #23: Vermont
  • #22: Missouri
  • #21: New York
  • #20: Kansas
  • #19: Michigan
  • #17 (tie): Iowa
  • #17 (tie): Nebraska
  • #16: Washington
  • #15: Utah
  • #14: Arizona
  • #13: Wisconsin
  • #12: New Mexico
  • #11: Oregon
  • #8 (tie): Colorado
  • #8 (tie): Minnesota
  • #8 (tie): Nevada
  • #6 (tie): Idaho
  • #6 (tie): South Dakota
  • #5: California
  • #4: Alaska
  • #2 (tie): North Dakota
  • #2 (tie): Wyoming
  • #1: Montana

This Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the official record-high air temperature on the planet Earth, and it took place right here in the U.S. – 134 degrees at Greenland Ranch in Death Valley National Park on July 10, 1913.

But did you know that California has also had extreme subzero cold?

One way a state can see huge ranges in temperatures is to have a wide range of elevations – and California is tough to beat in that category, with Death Valley sitting 282 feet below sea level while 14,000-foot mountain peaks sit less than 100 miles away.

Another recipe for huge temperature ranges is to sit as far as possible from oceans. Large bodies of water heat and cool slowly, keeping adjacent land areas milder in winter and cooler in summer relative to areas farther inland.

A third factor in having a climate of wild temperature swings is latitude. Places in the tropics do not have marked seasons, as days do not vary greatly in length over the course of the year. As a result, they don't see huge changes in the amount of sunlight they receive.

By contrast, the farther north you get from the tropics, the larger the difference in the length of daylight between seasons. This amplifies seasonal differences – and the difference between the hottest and coldest days.

In the slideshow above, we take a look at these differences in all 50 states. Each state is ranked by the difference between its all-time record high and its all-time record low, as determined by the National Climatic Data Center.

On each state map, red icons mark the location(s) of the state record high, and blue icons mark the location(s) of the state record low.

The slideshow starts with the narrowest temperature range – tropical Hawaii – and finishes with the largest temperature range. Find out what state that is, and where your state ranks, by clicking the arrows to navigate through the slideshow.

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