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Old 11-24-2010, 06:50 PM
 
Location: USA East Coast
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How cold is cold?

Many folks I've come into contact with who study climate/weather always seem to tell me that much about the weather is relative. This seems so true here in the United States: A cold night in northern Minnesota is -35 F…a cold night in southeast in Virginia is 25 F…while a cold night in southern California is below 50 F…and they get the jackets out in Miami when the temp falls below 60F . Sometimes I have to laugh when someone tells me that 32 F (0 C) is cold.

Extreme cold in the USA is centered in the interior and high elevation Western states. So I looked to see what are the coldest of the cold in the USA: Here are the 10 coldest temperatures ever recorded in the lower 48 in the last 150 years or so.

1. Rogers Pass, Montana …-70 F
2. Peters Sink, Utah…-69 F
3. Moran, Wyoming…-63 F
4. Maybell, Colorado…-61 F
5. Tower, Minnesota…-60 F
6. Parshall, North Dakota…-60 F
7. Island Park Dam, South Dakota…- 60 F
8. Mcintosh, South Dakota…-58 F
9. Couderay, Wisconsin…-55 F
10. Seneca, Oregon….-54 F

At times in places like Tower, Minnesota…the combination of extreme low temperatures (-20 or -30 F) and a northern Plains blizzard…and can produce wind chills to –60 F (70 below zero).

It is all-relative of course. The above temps are quite “balmy” when one considers what inhabits of Siberia endure in winter. The coldest “city” on earth is Verkoyansk in Russia’s far east. The normal mean temperature in January is - 58 F (58 below zero)…the “highs are in the -48 F range, while the overnight lows are around –63 F. Frequently in winter… Verkhoyansk has wind chills around -90 F . Of course, even those temps are “warm”compared to Vostok, Antarctica. Vostok routinely experiences still (non- wind chill) temperatures of - 90 F…. while the extreme low is –129 F. At times the wind chill is estimated at -140 F (140 F below zero) in winter.

Although we are not expecting anything that extreme in the USA in the near future…here is a current emergency message from the NWS in the Riverton, WY :


URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE RIVERTON WY
240 PM MST WED NOV 24 2010

...AREAS OF STRONG WINDS COMBINED WITH COLD TEMPERATURES WILL
PRODUCE BITTER COLD WIND CHILLS TONIGHT AND EARLY THURSDAY
MORNING...

WYZ025-026-251000-
/O.CON.KRIW.WC.W.0002.101125T0000Z-101125T1500Z/
UPPER GREEN RIVER BASIN FOOTHILLS-UPPER GREEN RIVER BASIN-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...PINEDALE...LA BARGE...BIG PINEY...
FARSON
240 PM MST WED NOV 24 2010

...WIND CHILL WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 AM MST THURSDAY...

A WIND CHILL WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 AM MST THURSDAY.

* SUMMARY AND TIMING...FROM 5 PM MST THIS AFTERNOON THROUGH 8 AM
THURSDAY MORNING...BITTER COLD WIND CHILLS ARE EXPECTED.

* WIND CHILL VALUES...WEST WINDS OF 25 TO 35 MPH WITH HIGHER
GUSTS WILL PRODUCE WIND CHILLS OF 35 BELOW TO 45 BELOW ZERO.


* IMPACTS...EVEN BRIEF EXPOSURE OUTSIDE TONIGHT MAY PRODUCE
HYPOTHERMIA AND FROST BITE WITHOUT HEAVY WINTER CLOTHING.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WIND CHILL WARNING MEANS THE COMBINATION OF VERY COLD AIR AND
STRONG WINDS WILL CREATE DANGEROUSLY LOW WIND CHILL VALUES. THIS
WILL RESULT IN FROST BITE AND LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA OR DEATH IF
PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN.




Now is 32 F (0 C) really all that cold?
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Old 11-24-2010, 07:04 PM
 
Location: Vancouver, BC
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Like you said it's all relative. To someone living in South Florida... 32F feels would feel like the world is going to end... to someone living in Minnesota.. just another "mild" winter day.
I often wonder for people who live in the south who are tired of heat and long for snow and cold.. if most of them really understand what -35F and blizzards really feel like. If they did, would they change their mind about cold?
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Old 11-24-2010, 07:08 PM
 
Location: Toronto
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You're right about it being all relative. It's also pretty neat that the United States is unique among countries in the world for its diversity of climates. I don't think any others can compare.

But a temperature of (or that feels like) -35 f (-37 C) to -45f (-43C) would be cold to the great majority Americans, based on population distribution. It would probably be so even for most Canadians.

I wonder if 32F (0C) would be cold to a majority of the population, taken worldwide. A good number of the world lives in the tropics.

Last edited by Stumbler.; 11-24-2010 at 08:28 PM..
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Old 11-24-2010, 08:26 PM
 
Location: Long Island/NYC
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32F is very cold to me being from NYC/LI lol.

It's around the coldest I typically see (upper-20's/low-30's).
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Old 11-24-2010, 08:30 PM
 
Location: montana
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it was -12 this morning in columbus montana, the high today was -6 and the windchill tonight could reach -50
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Old 11-24-2010, 08:39 PM
 
Location: New York City
2,790 posts, read 4,931,194 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Infamous92 View Post
32F is very cold to me being from NYC/LI lol.

It's around the coldest I typically see (upper-20's/low-30's).
Really? Over 70 days a year drop below 32F in NYC.
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Old 11-24-2010, 08:53 PM
 
Location: Long Island/NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrMarbles View Post
Really? Over 70 days a year drop below 32F in NYC.
I'm rarely outside during the early early morning hours when it's actually 26-27 degrees, plus the sun rises earlier in the Winter. I do experience lower but it's rare enough that I'm not really used to it.
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Old 11-24-2010, 10:57 PM
 
Location: still in exile......
29,910 posts, read 8,187,265 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deneb78 View Post
Like you said it's all relative. To someone living in South Florida... 32F feels would feel like the world is going to end... to someone living in Minnesota.. just another "mild" winter day.
I often wonder for people who live in the south who are tired of heat and long for snow and cold.. if most of them really understand what -35F and blizzards really feel like. If they did, would they change their mind about cold?
Same can be said about people who long for heat...I wonder if they have felt 120F heat indices? Or 90+ weather for 6 months in a row without a break? Makes me think if they would change their minds about loving heat....

I have felt -35F before, and I still love cold weather. Maybe not THAT cold, but I do love it when it's 10F and sunny.
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Old 11-24-2010, 11:06 PM
 
Location: New Jersey
14,998 posts, read 12,701,288 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deneb78 View Post
Like you said it's all relative. To someone living in South Florida... 32F feels would feel like the world is going to end... to someone living in Minnesota.. just another "mild" winter day.
I often wonder for people who live in the south who are tired of heat and long for snow and cold.. if most of them really understand what -35F and blizzards really feel like. If they did, would they change their mind about cold?
-35 F is pretty extreme. Even those who experience cold weather for several months a year would find that temperature very brutal.
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Old 11-25-2010, 12:01 AM
 
4,925 posts, read 9,297,709 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Infamous92 View Post
I'm rarely outside during the early early morning hours when it's actually 26-27 degrees, plus the sun rises earlier in the Winter. I do experience lower but it's rare enough that I'm not really used to it.
I'm trying to figure out how the sun rises earlier in the winter...when days are shorter...

It is relative. As a kid, I've seen -40 air temps...and I have no idea how cold wind chill made it. All I know is that to me, when it started getting to where ice started building on your upper lip and your nostrils stuck shut when you sniffed, it didn't matter how much lower the thermometer went--it was cold.

But that was in a fairly dry climate. I've decided over the years that 35 degrees where I grew up and 35 where I live now are two different things. Where I live now is humid, and 35 damp degrees sure feels colder to me than 35 dry degrees.

Where I've lived in the dry parts of the west, when it hits 40 degrees the t-shirts and shorts start coming out. Where I live now, when it hits 60 and the sun goes down, the jackets start coming out...I think it's both what you get used to and humidity levels.
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