Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Excel versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Excel 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Excel, click here: Calculating Averages by Date.
by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 3, 2020)
Suppose that you have a huge worksheet that contains all the rainfall readings for a given locale for the past hundred years or so. In cells A2:A37987 you have the dates, 1 January 1903 through 31 December 2006. In cells B2:B37987 you have the measurements for each date. Further, some of the measurements can be zero (if there is no rainfall for the day) or blank (if no reading was taken that particular day). With all this information, you want to calculate the average historic rainfall for any given day of the year.
One solution involves the use of array formulas, as detailed here:
This approach works, but it takes quite a while to calculate. This is because you effectively entered 730 array formulas, each checking over 37,000 cells. This is a lot of work, and consequently it may appear like your machine has "hung" after you complete step 7. It has not hung; it will just take it a while to complete the calculations.
To decrease the number of calculations that must be performed, you can use a variation on the above steps. Follow steps 1 through 3, as noted, and then place the following array formula into cell E2:
You can then copy the formula down for all the dates shown in column D. The result of this formula is the actual average rainfall, the same as had been shown in column G in the previous approach.
This formula works because of the way that Boolean arithmetic works in Excel. The ISNUMBER function returns either True or False, and the comparisons (MONTH and DAY) return either True or False. These results are all multiplied against each other, resulting in True only if all the individual tests are True. Only if they are all True will the average of the Rainfall for that particular date be calculated.
You can reduce the calculation overhead even further by simply getting rid of all the table that calculates the averages for every day of the year. With your dates and rainfall in columns A and B, follow these steps:
That's it. Now, you can change the date in cell D2 as desired, and cell E2 will always indicate the average rainfall for that date. The formula in cell E2 is the same as the formula used in the last approach; the difference is that you aren't calculating it for all the days in a year, and thus the calculation is done much quicker.
Another approach involves the use of Excel's filtering capabilities. Before you can use them properly, however, you must create a column that shows only the month and day for each date in your data. Use this formula in cell C2:
=MONTH(A2) & "-" & DAY(A2)
Now, turn on AutoFiltering (Data | Filter | AutoFilter) and use the drop-down list at the top of the new column to select the date for which you want an average. You then use the following formula, placed in any cell desired, to show the average rainfall for the selected date:
ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (2350) applies to Microsoft Excel 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Excel (Excel 2007 and later) here: Calculating Averages by Date.
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