At noon on January 20, 2009, in Washington, DC, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. That January date was established by the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1933). Prior inaugurations were held in March.
And while all types of security and traffic actions can be taken, nothing can be done about the weather. Nothing, that is, except assess what has happened in the past.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Sterling, Virginia has done that for us. And their online article about past Inauguration Day weather contains a wealth of statistical information and anecdotes. Included are brief weather summaries for all inaugurations since they started to be held outdoors in 1817. There is even a breakout of January events (1937 to date) versus those held in March (1933 and prior years).
But no one has compared inaugurations held for Democrats and those for Republicans. Hence, I decided to look at the data and see if either political party was prone to better weather than the other. I keyed only on January inaugurations since the weather six weeks later in early March can be warmer and wetter climatologically. All comparisons were made for noontime conditions, the time of the inauguration.
The first thing of note was that since 1937 each political party has had 9 inaugurations. Of their nine, the Republicans have experienced both the coldest (7oF) and hottest (55oF) events, giving them a range (difference between highest and lowest values) of 48oF. The Democrats, on the other hand, only have a range of 18oF (22oF – 40oF).
The average noon temperature for Republicans is a balmy 39.3oF; Democrats have averaged just one degree above freezing (33oF). The Republican median (middle value of a data set) is 42oF while the Democratic median is 34oF.
There is an equally striking variation in weather between the two parties. This isn’t surprising because clouds and precipitation are often linked to temperature.
At midday, Republicans have had 7 cloudy inaugurations, 1 sunny one and 1 rainy one. Democrats have had 5 sunny inaugurations, 2 cloudy ones, and one each partly cloudy and rainy.
Although the data set I used may not be statistically meaningful, it does suggest that Democrats have a more consistent, sunnier, and chillier disposition. But, you can be the judge!
Based on this set of simple statistics, the weather at Barrack Obama’s inauguration should be sunny with a high temperature of 33oF.
As of early morning on January 14th, I also took a look at three separate forecasts for Inauguration Day. Note that the predicted high temperatures are for the whole day, not just at the time of the inauguration. Since afternoon high temperatures peak at about 2pm to 3pm, the expected noon time temperature should be a few degrees lower.
The NWS Sterling, Virginia Office is forecasting “mostly sunny skies with highs in the mid 30’s;” the Weather Channel is looking for “partly cloudy and windy conditions with a high of 34oF;” while AccuWeather is predicting “a high of 42oF with sunshine and patchy clouds.”
Update: It was overcast (sky covered by cirrostratus clouds) with temperature of 28oF at noon on Inauguration Day 2009. A brisk northwest wind made it feel as if the air temperature was in the mid-teens.
Consensus suggests that the small sample statistical average I have computed for the Democrats will not be far from what actually happens. However, as with any longer term weather forecast, stay tuned just in case updates are needed.