I received this question: During the winter months we often hear you say that the coldest temp has occurred in International Falls, MN. Is there a geographic reason for this? If so, what is this reason?
When looking at a map of the continental United States you find that the top 5 coldest mean temps for the entire year come from the some of the most northern points in the continental US. Check out a United State map and see how far north all of these cities are. The only one that is a little skewed is Mt. Washington because it is elevated ( over 6000 feet). Out of 250 major weather stations these five cities have an average mean temperature of less than 40 degrees or less: (mean is average between high and low in a day)
Mount Washington, New Hampshire 27.2
International Falls, Minnesota 37.4
Marquette, Michigan 38.7
Duluth, Minnesota 39.1
Caribou, Maine 39.2
Overall there is not one city that can take the cake as the coldest in the United States because is varies from season and from year to year. It can also be skewed because of climate and height, high and low temp. Using the mean are we looking at the average between the high and low of that day but sometimes people refer specifically to the high or low temp of that day.
For example International Falls can get bitterly cold during the winter but it can also be hot and humid during the summer. It is classified as continental humid climate by the Koppen climate classification because of the varying seasons and temps the city sees. It is at a low elevation, just over 1100 feet. The record coldest that it has ever been in International Falls is -55 in January in contrary the record high is 103 in July. So yes, during the winter it can usually be seen as one of the coldest cities in the United States because it is low, flat and dry. Average low temps from December through February are below zero. Highs during December and January are in the teens.
The cities that usually during a year take the overall coldest records for days in a year are usually high elevation valleys that receive chilled air draining from the surrounding mountains. This is because they stay cool in the Spring and in Autumn.
In summary, International Falls is on average one of the coldest spots in the United States during the winter months because of its northern location and because it is relatively flat.
Till next time! Meteorologist Kristen Connolly