Where's the coldest spot or lowest temperature ever recorded in Utah?
It's not Woodruff or Randolph, Rich County communities, or Lewiston, Cache County, although all are well-known for their icebox weather.No, the lowest official minimum temperature ever in Utah was 69 below zero, recorded Feb. 1, 1985, in uninhabited Peter Sink near the top of Logan Canyon.
In an inhabited area, the lowest temperature ever recorded was 50 below zero on Feb. 6, 1899, at Woodruff, according to "Utah's Comprehensive Weather Almanac."
A minus 50-degree reading was also taken Jan. 5, 1913, at Strawberry East Portal, a weather station in Daniels Canyon, Wasatch County, said William J. Alder, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake office of the National Weather Service.
Randolph and Woodruff recorded icy 17- and 16-below zero readings, respectively, Jan. 13.
Conditions are ideal for sub-zero temperatures in low-lying areas such as Peter Sink, weather where the elevation drops very rapidly. The elevation at the top of Logan Canyon is 8,500 feet and drops to 8,092 at Peter Sink, an unmanned weather station in Cache County close to the Cache Rich county line and a few miles southwest of the canyon summit.
Warmer temperatures rapidly leave an area such as Peter Sink particularly when the sky is clear and there's fresh snow cover. Clouds serve as a blanket, keeping heat at lower levels for a longer time.
The Solitude area, at the the 8,180-foot level of Big Cottonwood Canyon, is a type of sink, Alder said, and recently recorded a minus 31-degree reading.
Mike Goar, vice president of mountain operations at Solitude, said that reading was taken early on Dec. 27 in a spot lower than the base of the ski resort's chair lifts.
Cache Valley is colder than many other Utah areas, because it is surrounded by mountains, which trap cold, stagnant air. Where there is less movement the air tends to be cooler. But Heber Valley, Huntsville, Coalville, Morgan and other are often equally as cold.
Drainage-type winds and the configuration of the Salt Lake Valley are among factors that contribute to more moderate Utah temperatures during the winter.
The mercury doesn't plunge far below zero very often in the Salt Lake Valley, although it occasionally drops to zero or 5 below in communities stretching between Weber and Utah counties.
But a record low of 30 below was recorded at the Salt Lake Airport on Feb. 9, 1933, Alder said.
People may complain about weather in Utah, but it doesn't hold an icicle to other parts of the country, including places such as International Falls, Minn., Fargo, N.D., and Buffalo, N.Y.
"We don't have the chill factors that some areas have. Some areas have chill factors 50 or 60 degrees below zero. Areas in Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin have much more severe winter weather. At least in the valleys, we don't have really frequent problems with blowing, drifting snow," Alder said.
Residents in the northern states frequently must endure what has become known as the "Alberta Clipper," which sometimes moves south out of the area near Alberta, Canada. Although they don't always produce a lot of snow, frigid northern cold fronts can be accompanied by 20-to 30-mph winds, which put chill factors at 60 to 70 degrees below zero.