When you imagine a perfect Christmas day, you envision smoke coming out of chimneys, rooftops covered in snow, families wearing scarves, jackets, and long boots gathering to celebrate the most anticipated festivity of the year. This picture is accurate in many parts of the US, where the weather is chilling cold during the holiday season.
But in some parts of America, winters mean unbearably cold temperatures. The latitude of cities such as Atqasuk, Dubois, and Alma is not the only factor responsible for making them some of the coldest in the country. Some other factors like wind patterns, landscapes, and nearby bodies of water also play a vital role in the falling temperatures in these areas.
The range of cold temperatures during the winter months vary significantly across the United States, especially between the southern and northern regions of the country. While many cities experience cold temperatures in November, December and January, some cities experience record-breaking temperatures in the negatives during their coldest months. Many times, these temperatures last for more than just a few months.
This kind of extreme weather can have negative impacts on the livelihoods of local people and communities. Some of the challenges they may face include prolonged road closures, delayed public transportation, potential accidents, power outages, and property damage. Cold temperatures can also lead to an onslaught of health conditions such as respiratory and breathing problems, pneumonia, and hypothermia. In severe conditions, extreme cold can even take lives.
The Coldest Cities in the United States
Curious to see which cities and states top the list of the coldest in the country? Here they are. But before we get started, a quick precursor- most of the coldest cities in the US over the last decade are in the state of Alaska, so we haven’t focused on the top ten cities per say. Instead, we rounded up a list of other cities in different states that are among the coldest outside of just Alaska. But by far, the coldest state is Alaska. The average cumulative temperature of coldest cities in this state is a bone chilling 27 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now, here is a list of some of the coldest cities in the US and their average temperature:
1. Atqasuk, AK (Alaska) – 16.4 degrees F
2. Arctic Village, AK (Alaska)- 22.28 degrees F
3. Fairbanks, AK (Alaska) – 26.42 degrees F
4. Dubois WY (Wyoming)- 32.24 degrees F
5. Alma, CO (Colorado) 33.29 degrees F
6. Wyola, MT (Montana) 34.16 degrees F
7. Dayton, WY (Wyoming) 34.16 degrees F
8. Lodge Grass, MT (Montana) 34.16 degrees F
9. Duluth, MN (Minnesota) 35.01 degrees F
10. Ohio City, CO (Colorado) 35.06 degrees F
For the full list, you can access more information here.
So, what are the coldest cities in some of the coldest states in the US? In 2021, they were in North Dakota, Alaska, Minnesota, and South Dakota.
Coldest Cities in Alaska
Most of you may already know that the coldest region of the US is its northern state Alaska. Fairbanks, a city in Alaska’s central region with a population of nearly 32,000 people, is one of the coldest cities in the country. It’s also known as the ‘Golden Heart of Alaska.’ The coldest temperature recorded to date in Fairbanks is -54 degrees C/ -66 degree F. During the coldest months, the city experiences the minimum average temperature of -27 degree C/-16.9 degree F. It’s also the second-largest city in the state.
Ocean currents heavily impact the climate of cities located on the Alaskan Coast; however, the climate in Fairbanks is more influenced by wind patterns. Cold air enters the state’s interior from Siberia and northern Canada in the winter months. This results in unbearably cold temperatures. Another critical factor contributing to Fairbanks’ frigid cold is the lack of sunlight during specific months. The city only gets four to ten hours of weak sunlight each day from November to March. This, paired with the cold winds, significantly lowers the region’s temperature, leading to temperatures that reach well below freezing point.
The city of Barrow is located on the farthest northern corner of Alaska. It experiences temperature drops to -14 degrees F during the winter months. This temperature is a bit higher than the temperature in Fairbanks. The average cold temperature of this city is -3 degrees F in winters, while the average recorded temperature in the month of January is -8 degrees F.
Coldest Cities in North Dakota
Four out of the ten coldest cities in the US are in North Dakota. Among them, Grand Forks is considered one of the coldest and experiences temperatures as low as -45 degrees F. Other cold cities in this state include Fargo, Bismarck, and Williston. The reason behind the frigid temperature of North Dakota is it’s location in the extreme corner of the northern Midwest. Additionally, the strong winds blow in the region at high speed because most of the land in the state is flat, with few trees and mountains. This allows easy movement of the arctic air from the south towards North Dakota, causing drops in temperature.
Coldest Cities in Minnesota
Minnesota is also known as the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’. This state is home to two of the oldest cities in the US– St. Cloud and Duluth. The continental climate of this state is responsible for the harsh winter and summer seasons. Minnesota also shares a border with Lake Superior, one of the Great Lakes. This helps moderate temperatures in the region, especially in the northern part of Minnesota, where the winter season is intense and can cause frost even during the summers.
Coldest Cities in South Dakota
Huron and Aberdeen are the two cities in South Dakota that are among the coldest in the country. This region has a similar climate and landscape as North Dakota, without many trees and mountains, which means the strong winds from Canada can easily enter the state without hindrance. Additionally, the moist and warm air from the Gulf of Mexico or Texas also enters the region, which can cause warmer temperatures. These factors cause erratic weather and drastic temperature changes in the region.
However, in Aberdeen and Huron, the temperature variance is low and generally stays very cold. During the winter months, the temperature in Huron falls to -14 degrees C/6.6 degrees F in winter, while the temperature in Aberdeen can drop to -16 degrees C/ 1.5 degrees F.
Living in the coldest cities in the country means experiencing bone chilling temperatures and having precautionary measures in place to deal with its impacts. But this frosty weather may not be for everyone. Some people enjoy warm weather and the four seasons in all its glory. One thing’s for sure- if you’re looking for an adventure into one of the coldest regions of the country, Alaska should be at the top of your destination list!
This data was populated using our easy to download, historical weather data spreadsheets. To access average historical temperature data sets by zip code, click here.