Special Report

America's 50 Coldest Cities

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Every winter seems a little different from the one before, and nothing is as notoriously unpredictable as the weather. The expectation of a harsh winter is part of life in many parts of the country. And in certain sections of the Northern United States, average temperatures during winter would make anyone cringe.

Using daily temperatures tracked over a 30-year period, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines the normal high and low temperatures for every month for over 250 cities.

To identify America’s 50 coldest cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the minimum average temperature for the coldest month from 1981 to 2010 for every city with at least 10,000 residents.

Click here to see America’s 50 coldest cities.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Missoula, Montana
Source: Djembayz / Wikimedia Commons

50. Missoula, Montana
> Normal low in coldest month: 16.7° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -33° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 45.6 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 5.5 mph
> Population: 69,190

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Chicago, Illinois
Source: Thinkstock

49. Chicago, Illinois
> Normal low in coldest month: 16.5° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -27° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 39.1 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 9.9 mph
> Population: 2,717,534

Pocatello, Idaho
Source: Wikimedia Commons

48. Pocatello, Idaho
> Normal low in coldest month: 16.0° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -33° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 40.0 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 9.6 mph
> Population: 54,549

Kalispell, Montana
Source: Thinkstock

47. Kalispell, Montana
> Normal low in coldest month: 15.8° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -38° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 60.6 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 5.0 mph
> Population: 21,142

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Syracuse, New York
Source: Thinkstock

46. Syracuse, New York
> Normal low in coldest month: 15.7° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -26° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 113.9 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 8.3 mph
> Population: 144,564

Binghamton, New York
Source: Wikimedia Commons

45. Binghamton, New York
> Normal low in coldest month: 15.7° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -20° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 84.0 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 8.9 mph
> Population: 46,495

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Milwaukee, Wisconsin 3
Source: Thinkstock

44. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
> Normal low in coldest month: 15.6° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -26° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 48.3 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 10.2 mph
> Population: 599,498

Flint, Michigan
Source: Flintmichigan / Wikimedia Commons

43. Flint, Michigan
> Normal low in coldest month: 15.3° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -25° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 48.3 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 9.1 mph
> Population: 99,802

Great Falls, Montana
Source: Thinkstock

42. Great Falls, Montana
> Normal low in coldest month: 14.9° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -43° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 60.4 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 11.5 mph
> Population: 59,563

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Lincoln, Nebraska
Source: Thinkstock

41. Lincoln, Nebraska
> Normal low in coldest month: 14.5° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -33° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 26.9 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 9.8 mph
> Population: 269,726

Albany, New York
Source: Andy Arthur / Wikimedia Commons

40. Albany, New York
> Normal low in coldest month: 14.5° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -28° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 61.8 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 7.9 mph
> Population: 98,468

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Grand Island, Nebraska
Source: Wikimedia Commons

39. Grand Island, Nebraska
> Normal low in coldest month: 14.4° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -28° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 29.2 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 11.1 mph
> Population: 50,582

Moline, Illinois
Source: Kepper66 / Wikimedia Commons

38. Moline, Illinois
> Normal low in coldest month: 14.3° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -28° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 33.8 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 8.5 mph
> Population: 43,062

Pueblo, Colorado
Source: David Shankbone / Wikimedia Commons

37. Pueblo, Colorado
> Normal low in coldest month: 14.0° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -28° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 30.8 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 8.3 mph
> Population: 108,073

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Elko, Nevada
Source: Famartin / Wikimedia Commons

36. Elko, Nevada
> Normal low in coldest month: 13.9° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -43° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 38.7 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 5.7 mph
> Population: 19,709

Omaha, Nebraska
Source: Collinulness / Wikimedia Commons

35. Omaha, Nebraska
> Normal low in coldest month: 13.6° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -23° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 29.1 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 10.0 mph
> Population: 440,034

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Casper, Wyoming
Source: Andrew Farkas / Wikimedia Commons

34. Casper, Wyoming
> Normal low in coldest month: 13.5° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -41° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 76.9 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 12.0 mph
> Population: 58,817

Rockford, Illinois
Source: Jake Mackenzie / Wikimedia Commons

33. Rockford, Illinois
> Normal low in coldest month: 13.5° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -27° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 36.2 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 9.2 mph
> Population: 150,283

Portland Lighthouse, Maine
Source: Thinkstock

32. Portland, Maine
> Normal low in coldest month: 13.4° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -39° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 69.6 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 8.0 mph
> Population: 66,490

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Rapid City, South Dakota
Source: Thinkstock

31. Rapid City, South Dakota
> Normal low in coldest month: 12.9° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -31° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 42.2 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 10.7 mph
> Population: 71,692

Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Source: Bobak Ha'Eri / Wikimedia Commons

30. Scottsbluff, Nebraska
> Normal low in coldest month: 12.5° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -46° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 38.4 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 9.8 mph
> Population: 14,955

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Norfolk, Nebraska
Source: Wikimedia Commons

29. Norfolk, Nebraska
> Normal low in coldest month: 12.1° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -30° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 29.8 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 10.7 mph
> Population: 24,393

Helena, Montana
Source: Wikimedia Commons

28. Helena, Montana
> Normal low in coldest month: 11.9° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -42° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 43.8 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 6.9 mph
> Population: 29,600

Alpena, Michigan
Source: by Dylan L. Tanner / Wikimedia Commons

27. Alpena, Michigan
> Normal low in coldest month: 11.4° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -37° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 75.8 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 7.7 mph
> Population: 10,273

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Des Moines, Iowa
Source: by Dylan L. Tanner / Wikimedia Commons

26. Des Moines, Iowa
> Normal low in coldest month: 11.4° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -26° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 34.9 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 9.9 mph
> Population: 208,020

Dubuque, Iowa
Source: DMichael Burns / Wikimedia Commons

25. Dubuque, Iowa
> Normal low in coldest month: 11.2° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -30° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 43.3 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 10.3 mph
> Population: 58,409

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Madison, Wisconsin
Source: Daniel J Simanek / Wikimedia Commons

24. Madison, Wisconsin
> Normal low in coldest month: 11.1° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -37° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 44.5 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 8.3 mph
> Population: 243,122

North Platte, Nebraksa
Source: Wikimedia Commons

23. North Platte, Nebraska
> Normal low in coldest month: 11.1° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -34° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 29.7 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 9.3 mph
> Population: 24,420

Anchorage, Alaska
Source: Thinkstock

22. Anchorage, Alaska
> Normal low in coldest month: 11.1° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -34° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 73.7 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 7.0 mph
> Population: 299,107

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Sheridan, Wyoming
Source: IreneWyo / Wikimedia Commons

21. Sheridan, Wyoming
> Normal low in coldest month: 10.6° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -37° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 73.1 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 7.2 mph
> Population: 17,775

Concord, New Hampshire
Source: John Phelan / Wikimedia Commons

20. Concord, New Hampshire
> Normal low in coldest month: 10.4° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -37° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 65.1 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 6.0 mph
> Population: 42,537

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Sioux City, Iowa
Source: Thinkstock

19. Sioux City, Iowa
> Normal low in coldest month: 10.2° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -26° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 33.4 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 10.4 mph
> Population: 82,792

Burlington, Vermont
Source: Doug Kerr / Wikimedia Commons

18. Burlington, Vermont
> Normal low in coldest month: 10.2° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -30° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 80.4 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 8.3 mph
> Population: 42,570

downtown_waterloo_iowa
Source: Stephen Cummings / Wikimedia Commons

17. Waterloo, Iowa
> Normal low in coldest month: 9.5° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -34° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 33.3 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 9.8 mph
> Population: 68,432

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Green Bay, Wisconsin
Source: Thinkstock

16. Green Bay, Wisconsin
> Normal low in coldest month: 9.0° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -36° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 49.2 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 8.8 mph
> Population: 104,847

La Crosse-Onalaska, Wisconsin
Source: Runner1928 / Wikimedia Commons

15. La Crosse, Wisconsin
> Normal low in coldest month: 8.9° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -37° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 42.4 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 8.6 mph
> Population: 51,993

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Rochester, Minnesota
Source: Jonathunder / Wikimedia Commons

14. Rochester, Minnesota
> Normal low in coldest month: 7.7° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -40° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 44.8 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 12.2 mph
> Population: 110,275

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
Source: Kate Ter Haar / Wikimedia Commons

13. Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
> Normal low in coldest month: 7.6° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -37° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 118.3 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 7.8 mph
> Population: 14,048

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Source: Thinkstock

12. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
> Normal low in coldest month: 7.5° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -34° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 49.4 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 9.7 mph
> Population: 694,993

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Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Source: Wikimedia Commons

11. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
> Normal low in coldest month: 6.9° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -36° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 40.6 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 10.3 mph
> Population: 164,341

Huron, South Dakota
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sdho/

10. Huron, South Dakota
> Normal low in coldest month: 6.6° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -43° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 36.2 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 10.4 mph
> Population: 13,159

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Marquette, Michigan
Source: Darrell Harden / Wikimedia Commons

9. Marquette, Michigan
> Normal low in coldest month: 5.2° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -34° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 149.1 in.
> Avg. wind speed: N/A
> Population: 21,444

Bismarck, North Dakota
Source: Thinkstock

8. Bismarck, North Dakota
> Normal low in coldest month: 2.2° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -44° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 45.3 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 9.4 mph
> Population: 66,980

St. Cloud, Minnesota
Source: Elkman / Wikimedia Commons

7. St. Cloud, Minnesota
> Normal low in coldest month: 1.8° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -43° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 44.7 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 8.3 mph
> Population: 66,298

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Aberdeen, South Dakota
Source: Wikimedia Commons

6. Aberdeen, South Dakota
> Normal low in coldest month: 1.5° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -46° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 38.8 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 10.7 mph
> Population: 27,418

Duluth, Minnesota
Source: Thinkstock

5. Duluth, Minnesota
> Normal low in coldest month: 1.5° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -39° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 83.1 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 10.1 mph
> Population: 86,178

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Fargo, North Dakota 2
Source: Thinkstock

4. Fargo, North Dakota
> Normal low in coldest month: 0.1° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -39° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 42.3 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 11.1 mph
> Population: 113,464

Williston, North Dakota
Source: Andrew Filer / Wikimedia Commons

3. Williston, North Dakota
> Normal low in coldest month: 0.1° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -50° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 35.8 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 9.2 mph
> Population: 22,051

Grand Forks, North Dakota
Source: Wikimedia Commons

2. Grand Forks, North Dakota
> Normal low in coldest month: -3.1° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -43° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 41.6 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 10.2 mph
> Population: 54,944

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Fairbanks, Alaska
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/11127719@N04/

1. Fairbanks, Alaska
> Normal low in coldest month: -16.9° F
> Lowest temp. on record: -66° F
> Annual avg. snowfall: 64.5 in.
> Avg. wind speed: 4.4 mph
> Population: 32,193

Detailed Findings

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 Fahrenheit 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 of 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 4 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. High wind speeds cause temperatures to feel even lower than they are 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 Fahrenheit.

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.

Methodology

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.

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