-40 degree weather returns to Minnesota

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The long Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend was cold, to state the obvious. It was the first real taste of arctic air for the metro as we finally dropped below zero for the first time this season. 

While it wasn’t the first taste for northern Minnesota, it was certainly the coldest so far. Temperatures dipped to a mind-numbing -49 in Cotton, which was the coldest place in the Lower 48 states on Sunday. While that sounds record shatteringly cold, it wasn’t. In fact, it’s perfectly “normal”.

While 40 below zero isn’t something the state dabbles in everyday, it is a threshold we hit on average at least one morning every year. That -46 degrees is actually right in line with the last several years with coldest yearly temperatures in the state. There have been a few colder temperatures in the 21st century, but you have to go back to 2005 to find anything in the -50s, when Embarrass dropped to -54. That year, 47 cities in the state got below -40 degrees on at least one occasion. 

Over the weekend, nine cities dropped to the -40s, which is actually one above average and more than the last 4 years. See, it’s not all that uncommon.

For the Twin Cities metro, though, the -40s are exceedingly uncommon. We’ve only managed it once when we hit -41 on January 21, 1888.

Even the -30s are pretty rare, last occurring in the metro back in 1996. Before that, it was 1977.  They were certainly far more common back in the late 1800s and then scattered about in the early to mid 20th century. The “typical” coldest temperature for the metro each season is right around -15°.