Detailed Findings & Methodology
Six of these 50 cities — Flint, Michigan; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Duluth, Minnesota; Rockford, Illinois; Waterloo, Iowa; and Lincoln, Nebraska — reported the coldest Dec. 23 through Jan 5. period on record in the past two weeks. Lincoln experienced a low of minus 17 degrees on Dec. 27, the city’s record for the day, and Flint set a daily record low on Jan. 5, when the temperature reached 10 degrees below zero.
Most of the cities on this list are located in the Midwest, with the top 10 coldest cities mostly in Minnesota and the Dakotas. Overall, the list includes cities from 19 states. Six of the 50 coldest cities are in Nebraska — the most in any state.
The coldest cities not only have the lowest temperatures, but also the longest winters. While winter is considered to last for about 90 days, all of these cities have at least 120 days a year when temperatures drop below freezing. In Fairbanks, Alaska, the temperature is below 32 degrees 226 days a year.
In nearly one-third of the coldest cities, more than 5 feet of snow falls every year. Snow can be extremely costly for local governments. This is especially true in dense urban areas where snow needs to be fully removed and not just pushed to the side of the road.
In Minneapolis, Minnesota — which gets over four feet of snow annually — snow removal can cost $202,000 per inch, according to local reports. In the 2013-2014 winter season, Minneapolis spent $136 million on snow removal, up from $62 million in the previous winter season.
Extremely cold climates can be dangerous to those not wearing appropriate clothing. When wind speeds are high, humans and animals feel even lower temperatures due to the wind chill effect. In Fargo, North Dakota, a relatively windy area, the average wind speed is 11.1 miles per hour. With the wind chill, Fargo’s average low temperature of 0.1 degrees in January feels like minus 16.7 degrees.
In extremely low temperatures, even calm winds have dramatic effects. In Fairbanks, the average wind speed is only 4.4 miles per hour. Still, with the wind chill, the average low temperature of minus 16.9 degrees feels like minus 29.2 degrees. According to the NOAA, frostbite can occur within only 30 minutes in these conditions.
To determine America’s 50 coldest cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the minimum average temperature for each city’s coldest month between 1981 and 2010 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The cities listed have medium to large populations and are near weather stations, also known as Local Climatological Data stations. Record low temperatures, average annual snowfall, and average wind speed come from NOAA’s 2015 Comparative Climatic Data report. The record low temperature and average annual snowfall for Marquette, Michigan is from 2012, the most recent data available for the city. We also used population data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey to ensure each city has at least 10,000 residents.