|Monthly Temperatures (Degrees F)||Monthly Precipitation (inches)|
State College 100-Year Daily Temperatures (1896 - 1995)
State College is located in the broad fertile Nittany Valley and almost in the exact geographical center of Pennsylvania. The valley itself is one among many in the Ridge and Valley Region which bisect the state in a northeast-southwest direction. Including its extensions, Nittany Valley is 90 miles long and up to 9 miles wide. State College lies near the center at the broadest part of the valley and is the largest town in the area. Five miles to the northwest is Bald Eagle Ridge rising 600 feet above the valley floor to an elevation of 1800 feet above sea level. Tussey Mountain, 4 miles southeast of the town, merges with the Seven Mountains further north and rises to an elevation of 2000 feet above sea level. Considerable agricultural land lies in the valley much of which is under cultivation. Second growth forests of Oak and Hickory provide the vegetative cover on the surrounding higher elevations. The greatest attraction, of course, is the Pennsylvania State University located on the north side of town.
Because of the proximity of the nearby mountains, the climate of the valley is considerably different from that of the higher elevations and comes under the mountain and valley influence, i.e. greater minimum temperature extremes due to cold air drainage are experienced at State College than at surrounding higher elevations. This effect is most noticeable on clear nights when air cooled by radiation drains into the valley from the surrounding hillsides thereby lowering minimum temperatures by several degrees. This condition is responsible for shortening the growing season in the valley by causing below freezing temperatures later in spring and earlier in fall than would otherwise occur. However, growing seasons are long enough to produce at least one crop of staples per year, averaging 166 days in length and extending from April 29 to October 12. Year-to-year fluctuations in duration are considerable with the shortest season being only slightly more than 100 days.
Temperatures at State College are representative of those in other valley sections of Central Pennsylvania, averaging about 4 degrees lower than those in southeastern counties and 2 degrees higher than in areas farther to the northwest. The annual march of temperature is very regular and yearly or even monthly deviations from the norm are relatively small. In summer, the days are sometimes oppressive due to a combination of high temperatures, high relative humidity and light winds, however, temperatures generally cool to comfortable levels during the night so that heat waves of the variety occasionally experienced in the southeastern part of the Commonwealth are extremely rare. An examination of the records for State College reveals the highest temperature ever recorded was 102 degrees on July 9, 1936 and on July 17, 1988 and the lowest was minus 20 degrees on February 10, 1899. A minimum temperature of one degree above zero was reported as late as April in 1923. Freezing temperatures have been experienced during all the months except June and July with a minimum temperature of 30 degrees reported in August 1893. Extremes for other months exhibit only minor variations from those of the last 31 years as shown above. On the basis of mean temperature the coldest month was January 1977 with a mean of 13.4 degrees while the warmest month was July 1955 with a mean of 76.5 degrees.
The surrounding mountain ranges have an effect on precipitation in the valley. Average precipitation for State College may be 20 percent below that at nearby higher elevations. Precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year with the difference between the normal precipitation of the wettest month (June) and the driest month (February) being only 1.47 inches, however, individual months deviate considerably from the mean. The record for State College shows that monthly precipitation extremes range from 0.08 inch in October 1963 to 12.82 inches during June 1972 while yearly extremes range from 24.81 inches in 1930 to 59.30 inches in 1996. Occasionally this area, along with others in the United States, is subjected to dry spells that persist up to several months and are of special interest during the growing season, April through September. For this season, the year 1900 was driest with 13.71 inches for a deficiency of 7.67 inches. The warm spell rains occur mostly as afternoon and evening showers which many times are shunted through the valley from the southwest. These showers are generally produced from thunderstorms which average about 40 per year - 25 during the summer months - and occasionally are severe enough to cause property damage from hail, wind, lightning and local flash flooding. Eastward moving storms frequent the area mostly in winter and spring, bringing rain, snow, sleet and ice. Measurable snowfall occurs during the average October through April, however, measurable amounts have fallen as late as June. The heaviest monthly snowfall (47.5 inches) was reported in March 1942.
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