What's The Coldest City In The US?

By Geoffrey Migiro on February 19 2020 in Environment

 Phelan Creek in early spring in the Alaska Range
Phelan Creek in early spring in the Alaska Range
  • Fairbanks is the coldest large city in the United States.
  • The city receives less than 4hours of sunlight from December 21 to December 22 every year.
  • Fairbanks’s lowest recorded temperature is -54 °C.

Winter temperatures in the U.S. vary significantly between the southern and northern parts of the nation, with the temperature of many places in the U.S. dropping below 0°C during winters. Some American cities like Chicago have recently experienced record-breaking temperatures. Chicago experienced the lowest temperature in 34 years on January 30, 2019. Rockford broke its all-time lowest temperature on January 31, 2019, of -31°C. However, these are not the coldest cities in the country.

What Is The Coldest American City?

The coldest large city in the United States is Fairbanks, Alaska. It is one of Alaska’s biggest cities which had a population of 31,516 in 2018. It is home to the Alaska Fairbanks University the founding campus of Alaska System University. Fairbanks occupies an area of about 32.62 sq miles. The city was established in August 1901 by Elbridge Barnette while he was heading to Tanacross, where he wanted to set-up a trading post. Fairbanks was named after Fairbanks Charles, the twenty-sixth American vice president.

Geography Of Fairbanks

Fairbanks is situated in the central parts of Tanana Valley, spanning River Chena near where it merges with River Tanana. There is a chain of hills on the northern parts of Fairbanks, while River Tanana forms part of the city’s southern boundary. There are low valleys on the western and eastern parts of the city that are separated by ridges of hills. There are numerous rivers and streams that cross Tanana Valley and flow into River Tanana. River Chena flows west until it merges with River Tanana. Noyes-Slough creates a Garden-island that is connected to the rest of the city by culverted roads and bridges.

Climate Of Fairbanks

The city’s experiences short warm-summers and long cold-winters. Fairbanks receives snow from October to May; however, the snowiest months in the city begins in October and ends in January. The last and first dates with freezing temperatures in the city are May 15 and September 9, respectively, which are followed by a growing season that lasts for 116 days. The snowiest winter in the city’s history was the 1990/1991 season, while the least snowiest was the 1918/1919 winter. 

Fairbanks is the coldest U.S. city whose average monthly temperature ranges from -22.2°C  to 16.9°C. The temperature of the city reaches -40°C and 27°C every year. The lowest recorded temperature in this city of -54°C was recorded in 1934. 1956 was the coldest year in Fairbanks when the temperature averaged at -5.9°C, while the warmest was 1925 when the annual mean temperature was 0.2°C. January 1906 was the coldest month in the city when the temperature averaged at -38°C, while the hottest was July 1975 at 20.2°C.

The extreme temperature variations in Fairbanks are caused by wind direction, temperature inversion, and daylight. During winter, the city’s location in Tanana Valley forces cold air to accumulate in the region. In contrast, warm air rises to the top of the hills resulting in one of the world’s biggest temperature inversion. The city receives less than 4hours of sunlight at the winter-solstice and it receives more than 22hours during the summer-solstice.

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