Dear Tom,

An elderly relative, born in 1916, tells us that the phrase “pneumonia weather” originated during the Great Influenza of 1918 and was used ever since. What is “pneumonia weather”?

Joy Hajduk-DeGraff

Dear Joy,

While not a meteorologically or medically-correct term, pneumonia weather has come to be associated with a rapid temperature change that causes people to be improperly dressed for the weather, supposedly making them susceptible to illness. The term “pneumonia front”, was coined by the National Weather Service office in Milwaukee to describe a rapid temperature drop along the lakefront from a fast-moving cold front moving down Lake Michigan in spring or summer that can crash temperatures 30 or more degrees in just a few minutes as strong, gusty northeast winds deliver the lake-chilled air.

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