Isobar discusses January weather 2014.01.29

By DAVID GREEN

It’s never been this cold for such an extended period of time, right? Not that you can remember.

For that to be true, says Morenci climate observer George Isobar, either you’re rather young or you’re rather forgetful.

“Back in February of 2007, we had six days in a row of sub-zero temperatures, then two more a few days later. We haven’t had that this year.”

The low that month was -8° and this month we’ve had a -16° reading, so give January 2014 a few extra points for that.

In January 1994 and in January 1984 there were 11 days below zero and this time around we will end up with 10 days below zero, Isobar said, just like in January 1981. That goes for December 1989, too: a tally of 10 days below.

“So there are four months in the past 33 years where it’s been really cold for an extended period of time,” he said. “And by the way, it was a lot colder during some of those chilly months.”

In December 1989, the lowest reading was -20°—a few degrees colder than this year's low—but that's just warming up, so to speak. The low in 1984 was -23° and the low in 1994 was -25°. Remember that?

No, Isobar doesn't, either, but it's all in his data book.

That -25° mark is the lowest of the lows since Morenci records have been kept (1980).

"Actually, Tom Buehrer was keeping weather data before that, but not all the details are listed in his charts," Isobar said. "For example, the record book lists 19 days below zero in February 1978, but the low temperature for the month isn't shown."

A year later, January 1979, when a low of -17° was recorded, Buehrer noted in the Observer that it would be tough to beat February's record from the previous year with 19 days below, and he was right. February 1979—with a low of -18°—only had 14 days below zero.

Taking a closer look at those reports from the "old days," 1984 is the year that the Lyons water tower froze. A string of cold nights turned the column on the tower into a giant icicle. In one week, there were readings of -14, -13, -23, -8 and -1.

Ray Yenor of Morenci's DPW received 15 reports of frozen water service lines leading to homes.

In 1989, during a stretch of 13 days, 10 were below zero, including -14,-20, -14 and -14. In 1994, the readings came in at -9, -7, -9 and for two days the temperature never got to 0.

"I'm certainly not going to deny that it's been an unusually cold January," Isobar said, "but as far as this being the coldest stretch ever, it's not even close."

Isobar brought up that stretch of sub-zero days in 2007 one more time.

“I guess anybody over the age of 8 is eligible to talk about the old days,” he said. “Back when I was a kid….”