WunderBlog Archive » Weather Extremes

Category 6 has moved! See the latest from Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson here.

January 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary

By: Christopher C. Burt, 7:02 AM GMT on February 11, 2012

January 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary

January was a mild and dry month for the contiguous U.S. but one of the coldest on record for Alaska. Excessive rainfall induced flooding conditions in parts of Australia and Brazil. A massive cold wave began to affect Europe towards the end of the month. A powerful Category 4 tropical cyclone swirled in the waters between Madagascar and Mozambique in Africa. The coldest summer maximum temperature ever recorded in Australia was measured on January 11th.

Below is a summary some of the month’s highlights.


Without doubt the biggest weather story in North America during January was the remarkable and persistent cold that engulfed Alaska. Several locations recorded their single coldest month on record: Galena with an average of -32.6°F (-35.9°C), McGrath with an average of -28.5°F (-33.6°C), and Bettles with an average of -35.6°F (-37.6°C). Records only go back to the 1939-1951 period for these sites, but at Nome the average of -16.7° (-27.1°C) was the 2nd coldest month on record (coldest was -17.3°F/-27.4°C in February 1990) and records here go back to 1907. Fairbanks endured its coldest month (avg. -26.9°F) since January 1971 (-31.7°F). The absolute minimum for the month in the state was -66°F (-54.4°C) three nights at Fort Yukon COOP site the last three days of the month.

I just couldn’t resist reposting this great photo which first appeared in one of Jeff Master’s January blogs. One of the all-time best wunderground.com photo submissions. The date was January 29th. Photo kudos to wunderphotographer Terezka Sunshine!

A relatively snowless month in the lower 48 states had a strange exception in Midland, Texas where 10.6” of snow fell on January 9th, its greatest snowstorm on record (previous record was 9.8” on December 10-11, 1998). Coupled with a 5” snowfall on Christmas Eve, this storm enabled Midland to also break its snowiest season on record as well.

Reno, Nevada completed a seven-month stretch of dry weather with a total of just .33” (8mm) precipitation to mid-January when some significant rainfall occurred. However, prior to the onset of the rain high winds gusting to 85mph on January 19-20 sparked a rare mid-winter wild fire that engulfed six square miles and 29 homes.

One of the 29 homes that burned to the ground during the Reno area wildfire on January 19-20. Photo by Liz Margerum/The Reno Gazette-Journal.

74 tornadoes were reported during the month, the 2nd most for a January on record. Jeff Masters blogged about this and other significant January weather events in the USA in his blog posted on February 8th.


All-time record highs were set at Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina with a 104.4°F (40.2°C) and Paso de Indios, Argentina with a reading of 103.8°F (39.9°C) in early January.

Heavy rains in Rio de Janeiro and the neighboring state of Minas Gerais, Brazil caused mudslides that killed at least 23 people on January 5-9. The town of Sapucaia was especially hard hit.

The warmest temperature measured in the northern hemisphere this past January was 104.9°F (40.5°C) at Los Pinzanes, Mexico on January 18th (a tie with Nigeria, see below).


A fairly unremarkable month in most of Europe. It started mild and ended with the beginning of an historic cold wave that continues into February as I wrote (the cold wave will be discussed in my February summary next month). An exceptionally cold reading for Greece was reported from Florina on January 17th when the temperature fell to -13.2°F (-25.1°C). This is fairly close to the Greek national record of -18.0°F (-27.8°C) set at Ptolemaida in January 1963.

In the U.K. the warmest temperature measured was 57.2°F (14.0°C) at Teignmouth, Devon on January 18th and the coldest 13.1°F (-10.5°C) at Aboyne, Aberdeednshire on January 16th. Maximum 24-hour rainfall was 64.8mm (2.55”) at Kinlochewe, Highland on January 11-12 and highest wind gust 102 mph at Blackford Hill, Edinburgh on the 3rd.


One of the most powerful southern Indian Ocean tropical cyclones on record churned in the open waters between Madagascar and Mozambique the week of Jan.18-25. Tropical Cyclone Funso never made landfall with its 140mph winds but did spin off heavy bands of rain in Mozambique resulting in floods that killed at least 22.

Cyclone Funso (with winds of 140mph) conveniently churned away through the Mozambique Channel never making landfall. Image from NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team.

Extreme heat continued in southern Africa in January as it did in December. All-time record highs were established at Twee River, South Africa with a 112.6°F (44.8°C) reading in mid January. The temperature peaked at 114°F (45.6°C) at Vredenal in South Africa and 110.8°F (42.8°C) in Namibia at Hardap (an all-time record for the site). Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, also broke its all-time heat record with a temperature of 103.1°F (39.5°C).

The warmest temperature measured in the northern hemisphere this past January was 104.9°F (40.5°C) at Yelwa, Nigeria on January 31st (a tie with Mexico).


The coldest temperature in the northern hemisphere and on earth during January was -68.4°F (-55.8°C) at Amga, Russia on January 13th and 14th.

All-time record low temperatures were reported for the Indian sites of Mysore (45.9°F/7.7°C) and Nizamabad (39.2°F/4.0°C).


Heavy rains were the biggest story in Australia during the month. The rains in Queensland (291 mm/11.46” fell in a single calendar day at Springbrook Road on January 25th) resulted in record flooding in February at some locations. In Western Australia tremendous rains accumulated at several locations including Cygnet Bay where 729mm (28.70”) fell in the four-day period of January 25-29. New South Wales recorded its wettest month since 1996.

The hottest temperature measured in the southern hemisphere and the world was 117.5°F (47.5°C) at Birdsville Airport on January 7th. The coolest temperature in Australia during the month was 25.3°F (-3.7°C) at Thredbo AWS in New South Wales on January 12th. This is an amazing low temperature for Australia during January (their warmest month normally). An extreme cold wave hit Victoria and southern New South Wales on January 11-12. Many all-time monthly lows were broken and some incredible all-time low maximums like the high of just 33.1°F (0.6°C) at Mount Hotham, Victoria on January 11th which is the coldest July day on record for anywhere in Australia (previous record was 35.4°F (1.9°C) also at Mount Hotham in 1994 and 1983).

In Papua, New Guinea heavy rains caused a landslide in the central part of the country that killed 40-60 people on January 23-24.

The massive landslide in central Papua New Guinea that buried an estimated 40-60 people on January 24th. Photo AP/Post-Courier.


The highest temperature measured in New Zealand during January was 89.1°F (31.7°C) at Lake Pukaki on January 4th and the lowest 30.4°F (-0.9°C) at Ranfurly on January 3rd. Greatest calendar day rainfall was 145mm (5.71") at Milford Sound on January 31st and peak wind gust was 185km/hr at the Rock and Pilar range, Central Otago on January 31st.

Severe flooding and landslides killed six in Fiji January 24-26 following 292mm (11.50”) of rainfall in 24 hours on January 24-25.

A baby reef black-tip shark was found cruising down one of the Fijian town of Nadi’s streets during the floods of January 25th. Photo from The Fiji Times.


The coldest temperature in the southern hemisphere during January was -54.4°F (-48.0°C) recorded at Concordia on January 28th.

KUDOS Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera for global temperature extremes data, Stephen Burt for the U.K. extremes, and Jeremy Budd for New Zealand weather extremes.

Christopher C. Burt

Weather Historian

Extreme Weather

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.