A devastating cold front, complete with extreme low temperatures, wind, and precipitation, is expected to hit much of the United States this week. The phenomenon, known popularly as a “polar vortex,” will move across the Midwest and Northeast, keeping temperatures in many places well below freezing for an extended period of time — and wind chill levels at life-threatening lows.
In parts of Minnesota, the wind chill factor could reach as low at -65°F. Chicago might break its record low for temperature excluding wind chill, -27°F, set on Jan 20, 1985. But even if temperatures fall below that level, it will likely not come close to Illinois’ all-time low temperature, a staggering -36°F set in Bloomington in 1999.
Based on records from the State Climate Extremes Committee, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the coldest temperature on record in every state. Most state record lows have lasted for decades, in some cases over a century, and as U.S. average temperatures continue to rise, record high temperatures being set are exceeding record low temperatures by a ratio of 2:1. Only two states’ record low temperatures have been set in the 21st century. The vast majority of states’ record lows have stood unbroken for well over 50 years.
In a few cases, records have been tied but remained unbroken. In Massachusetts, the record low temperature of -35°F has been recorded at weather stations within the state three times: first in 1904, then in 1943, and finally 1981. In a few states, the record low was recorded on separate days. In Wisconsin, the state’s record of -55°F was set in Stone Lake on Friday, Feb. 2, 1996, and then in the same place two days later.
To identify the coldest days in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the State Climate Extremes Committee’s (SCEC) records of extreme cold temperatures in every state, then listed the city / location closest to the weather station that recorded the extreme weather event. Data was sourced from the Nautical Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).