ASK TOM WHY: Can February ever be colder than January?

Dear Tom,

After such a mild start to winter, I was hoping it would continue, but now February has turned colder. Can February ever be colder than January, which I always thought was Chicago’s coldest month?

— George Levy, Chicago

Dear George,

On average, January IS the city’s coldest month, but our tempestuous weather sometimes veers widely from the averages. Long-term averages at Midway Airport rank January as the city’s coldest month, with 23.9 degrees followed by February at 27.9 degrees and December at 28.9. However, temperature data during the past 84 winters suggest it’s premature to assume winter’s coldest readings are behind us. Since 1928, January was the season’s coldest month in 52 winters, but February was the coldest in 18, December in 13 and March, the first month of spring, was the season’s coldest in the winter of 1931-32.

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