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You won’t believe the record for the greatest temperature swing in a 24-hour period

Nearly 5 decades later Loma, Montana, is still the weather champion

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Nearly 50 years have passed and the world record for the greatest temperature change in a 24-hour period of time is still a staggering 103 degrees.

That’s pretty amazing, especially since it happened Jan. 15, 1972. What makes this story so wild is that it didn’t happen in a tropical or desert region. This record belongs to Loma, Montana.

January is the coldest month for Montana, where the average temperature is at or below freezing most days.

The city sits about four and a half hours north of Yellowstone National Park and 90 miles south of the Canadian border, and winter nights in Loma average 8 degrees.

Great Falls, MT closest city to Loma courtesy of National Weather Service in Great Falls, MT.
Great Falls, MT closest city to Loma courtesy of National Weather Service in Great Falls, MT. (NWS)

Winter days lack long periods of strong sunlight to heat up the city. Typical sunrise times are after 8 a.m. and sunset falls around 4:30-5 p.m. during the month of January.

What happened to cause the 103-degree temperature change that day 49 years ago was pretty cool. Actually, more like freezing to cool, in terms of weather.

Arctic air moved in with a cold front a few days prior to the temperature swing, and on Jan. 14 the mercury dropped to a frigid 54 degrees below zero. With high pressure in place, there were clear skies, which helped aid in the record-setting event. Without any clouds to act as a blanket and keep some warmth from the Earth in place, along with the addition of snow on the ground, the air stayed colder longer.

Here’s the interesting part. In addition to arctic blasts of air, Montana is no stranger to Chinook winds. These winds develop as a warm air mass full of moisture flows inland from Pacific Ocean over the Rocky Mountains.

NWS Great Falls on Twitter graphical image of Chinook Winds
NWS Great Falls on Twitter graphical image of Chinook Winds (NWS)

When the wind travels up the mountain, it cools and often brings a lot of snow or rain in the process. Once over the peak and heading down the east side of the mountain, it compresses and heats up fast since it’s now a dry air mass after releasing the moisture content going up the mountain.

The strong winds averaging 40-plus mph sent temperatures soaring rapidly. Loma got to a balmy 49 degrees, courtesy of the Chinook winds, setting the world record for the greatest temperature change in a 24-hour period of time.


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