Fact Sheet - Kentucky's Record Temperature Plunge
Glen Conner
State Climatologist Emeritus for Kentucky
 
Normally, one is interested in the highest temperature yesterday and the lowest temperature this morning. Most of the time, the difference between the two is not a focus of concern. An overnight drop of twenty to thirty degrees on a clear night is rather common. However, when the temperature falls rapidly from warm yesterday to frigid this morning, we perceive it to be colder than it really is. We use the phrase "the temperature plunged".

Plunge is a descriptive word for occasions like those of 18 January 1996. In Bowling Green that day, a high temperature of 68°F was recorded. By the following day, the temperature had plunged 58°F to 10°F. Other plunges for that period were 55°F at Bardwell, Madisonville, and Russellville, 60°F at Beaver Dam, 61°F at Bardstown, Golden Pond, and Covington , 62°F at Gilbertsville, and 63°F at Warsaw Markland.

As chilling as that night was, it wasn't close to being a record plunge. The Kentucky record was set in January 1963. After highs near 50°F on the 23rd , an arctic air mass invaded to produce frigid lows on the 24th. The temperature plummeted as much as 70°F in fourteen Kentucky cities. Among those were Benton, Golden Pond, and Richmond with a 70°F drop, Heidelberg, Hopkinsville, and Somerset with 71°F, Bowling Green with 72°F, McKee with 74°F, Wolf Creek Dam at 75°F, Greensburg with 76°F, and Bonnieville with 81°F. The record setter that night was Bradfordsville where the temperature cooled from a high of 52°F on the 23rd to a low of -30°F on the 24th - a drop of 82°F!

The record plunge of 82°F for Kentucky didn't approach the national record. The largest 24-hour temperature fall in the U.S. was 100°F (from a high of 44°F to a low of -56°F) at Browning Montana on 23-24 January 1916.