Weather Blog: How Weather Impacted U.S. Presidential Inaugurations Over The Years

Weather Blog

The U.S. Capitol building during a Presidential Inauguration. https://www.aoc.gov/what-we-do/programs-ceremonies/inauguration

On Wednesday, January 20 at 12 P.M. EST/11 A.M. CST, President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will be sworn into office during an outside ceremony. With the festivities taking place outside, weather is always a big concern for organizers.

Typical January weather for Washington D.C. on Inauguration Day is a daily high temperature of 43°F and daily low of 28°F. NWS Baltimore/Washington reports the average temperature at noontime is 37°F.

President Donald Trump taking the oath of office on January 20, 2017. Image: share.america.gov

Precipitation-wise, there is about a 1/3 chance of measurable precipitation on inauguration day and 1/6 chance during the ceremony. There’s a 1/10 chance of measurable snow on the day itself statistically and 1/20 chance of snow during the ceremony. The NWS reports a 1/6 possibility of having at least 1″ of snow on the ground from a previous storm during an inauguration ceremony.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. administers the oath of office to President Barack Obama during the inaugural swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2013. First Lady Michelle Obama holds a Bible that belonged to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Lincoln Bible, which was used at President Obama’s 2009 inaugural ceremony. Daughters Sasha and Malia stand with their parents. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

Weather Record-Breaking Inauguration Years

In terms of records, the warmest January inauguration was Ronald Reagan’s in 1981 (temperature = 55°F). Woodrow Wilson’s 1913 inauguration holds the official record for the warmest March inauguration (55°F), but George Washington’s 1793 inauguration unofficially reported the warmest temperature at 66°F. The warmest non-traditional inauguration date was Gerald Ford’s on August 9, 1974 with temperatures at 89°F after President Nixon’s resignation.

The Reagans walking to St. Johns Episcopal Church with James Brady on January 20, 1981. Image: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

Four years after having the warmest January inauguration on record, President Reagan’s 1985 inauguration was the coldest on record with bitterly cold noontime temperature at 7°F. The morning low was -4°F and the wind chill throughout the day was -10°F to -20°F. President Reagan ended up having his ceremony inside and the parade cancelled. The coldest March inauguration was Ulysses Grant’s 1873 ceremony when the temperature during the inauguration was 16°F.

The first outside inauguration took place in 1817 when President James Monroe was sworn in.

James Monroe Presidential Inauguration, March 4 1817. Image: The James Monroe Memorial Foundation

William H. Taft has the snowiest inauguration on record after a winter storm dropped 9.8 inches of fresh snow on the Capital region the day before. 6,000 men & 500 wagons worked through the night to clear the snow and slush from the parade route.

President and Mrs. William H. Taft riding in an landau on a snowy inauguration day in 1909. Image: The White House Historical Association

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inauguration in 1937 had 1.77″ of rain with 0.69″ of rain falling from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M.

Franklin D. Roosevelt during his Inauguration speech in 1937. Image: history.com

Weather Reports From Past Inaugurations

Below is a table of all the weather conditions at the time of traditional Presidential Inaugurations since 1873 (data provided by NWS Baltimore/Washington).

Traditional January Inaugurations –Beginning with Most Recent

YearPresidentNoon
Temp.
 Remarks
2017Donald J. Trump48ºFCloudy. Sprinkles at swearing in ceremony; light rain at start of parade. S winds around 5 mph.
2013Barack Obama45°FCloudy. South wind 7 mph.
2009Barack Obama28°FFiltered sun through the thin cirrus clouds. Breezy with northwest winds around 15 mph, gusting 20-25 mph. Wind chill values in the mid teens.
2005George W. Bush35°FMostly cloudy with some sunny breaks. Northwest wind 14 mph. Around 1″ of snow already on the ground.
2001George W. Bush36°FA cool dreary day, with rain and fog – visibility 2 miles. An inch of rain had fallen the day before, with another third of an inch falling on Inauguration Day. Rain changed to a little light snow (0.3″) late in the evening.
1997William Jefferson Clinton34°FPartly sunny with a high overcast. Winds were from the south at 7 mph.
1993William Jefferson Clinton40°FSunny and pleasant.
1989George Bush51°FMostly cloudy, mild and breezy.
1985Ronald Reagan7°FSunny, but bitter cold. Wind chill temperatures fell into the -10° to -20°F range in the afternoon.
1981Ronald Reagan55°FMostly cloudy and mild.
1977Jimmy Carter28°FCold and sunny. The wind chill temperature was in the teens.
1973Richard Nixon42°FCloudy and windy.
1969Richard Nixon35°FCloudy with rain and sleet later in the day.
1965Lyndon B. Johnson38°FSkies were cloudy and one inch of snow on the ground.
1961John F. Kennedy22°FSnow into the early morning left 8 inches on the ground. It was sunny but cold the rest of the day.
1957Dwight D. Eisenhower44°FJan. 21: Light snow in the early morning. Cloudy skies with a few flurries in the mid afternoon.
1953Dwight D. Eisenhower49°FCloudy skies.
1949Harry S. Truman38°FMostly sunny and windy.
1945Franklin D. Roosevelt35°FLight snow ended around 9 a.m. that morning. Cloudy skies.
1941Franklin D. Roosevelt29°FSunny, but cold with a brisk wind. Wind chill 10°F.
1937Franklin D. Roosevelt33°FCold with heavy rainy. Between 11 am and 1 pm, 0.69 inches of rain fell.  Some sleet and freezing rain fell in the morning.

Traditional March Inaugurations – Beginning with 1933 and going back to 1871 (1871 = Beginning of official government weather records)

YearPresidentNoon
Temp.
 Remarks
1933Franklin D. Roosevelt42°FMostly cloudy with a few peaks of sun.
1929Herbert C. Hoover48°FA heavy rain began just before the oath of office was administered, and the Capitol grounds and parade route were so crowded that it was impossible for anyone to run for cover. By the time he completed his inaugural address, President Hoover’s face was beaded with water and his suit was wringing wet. Herbert Hoover’s inaugural parade moved up Pennsylvania Avenue during a lull in the rain. Intermittent rain continued through the day. Total rainfall was 0.40 inches.
1925Calvin Coolidge44°FMostly sunny skies.
1921Warren Harding38°FSunny.
1917Woodrow Wilson38°FPartly Cloudy and windy. Ceremony on March 5.
1913Woodrow Wilson55°FOvercast, but mild.
1909William H. Taft32°FHeavy snow, drifting snow, and strong winds. The 10 inch snow fall ended at 12:20 pm but the afternoon remained cloudy and windy.
1905Theodore Roosevelt45°FSunny with strong northwest winds. Patches of snow remained on the ground from a light snow fall the day before.
1901William McKinley47°FOvercast. It rained overnight and then began again during the ceremony and ended at 3:45. Total rainfall was 0.32 inches.
1897William McKinley40°FClear.
1893Grover Cleveland25°FSnow began during the early morning and ended around 1 pm. One to two inches fell across the area. A biting wind blew from the northwest. The crowd was small for the ceremony. Many planned events were canceled.
1889Benjamin Harrison43°FRained all day. Total rainfall was 0.86 inches. Took oath of office in a downpour under an umbrella.
1885Grover Cleveland54°FSunny.
1881James A. Garfield33°FSnowed all night until about 10 am. The afternoon was sunny and windy.
1877Rutherford B. Hayes35°FCloudy with brief periods of light snow. Ceremony was on March 5.
1873Ulysses S. Grant16°FClear, windy and bitterly cold. Morning low of 4°F remains the coldest March day on record. Wind chill temperature of -15°F.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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