by Linda Lam
At a Glance
- Every state in the continental U.S. has seen temperatures drop below zero
- The only state that has not seen a subzero temperature is Hawai'i
The map below indicates the coldest temperature ever recorded in all 50 states, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). When taking a close look at the data there are some surprises.
One of the most interesting facts is that every state in the continental U.S. has seen temperatures drop below zero.
Even Florida dropped to 2 degrees below zero on Feb. 13, 1899, in Tallahassee. This occurred during an Arctic outbreak during which numerous all-time record low temperatures were set, including Washington D.C. (15 degrees below zero); Atlanta, (9 degrees below zero); and Dallas (8 degrees below zero). Flurries were even reported from Tampa to New Orleans during that massive outbreak.
The only state that has not seen a subzero temperature is Hawai'i. The coldest temperature recorded in Hawai'i is 12 degrees at the Mauna Kea Observatory, which is at an elevation of 13,796 feet, on May 17, 1979.
Of course, as expected, the coldest temperature in the U.S. was set in Alaska. The mercury plummeted to 80 degrees below zero on Jan. 23, 1971 in Prospect Creek in central Alaska, north of Fairbanks.
The coldest temperature recorded in the contiguous U.S. is 70 degrees below zero, measured at Rogers Pass, Montana, on Jan. 20, 1954.
The oldest record was set on Jan. 22, 1885 on Mount Washington, New Hampshire, the highest peak in the Northeast, when the thermometer dropped to 50 degrees below zero.
The most recent record on the list was set on Feb. 10, 2011 in Nowata, Oklahoma, when the temperature reached 31 degrees below zero.
Notables By Region
In the Northeast, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont all have recorded 50 degrees below zero as the coldest temperature. New York has the coldest record in the region with 52 degrees below zero, and Delaware has the warmest record at 17 degrees subzero.
Records in the South are colder than you might expect. South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana all have dropped to the teens below zero, while Tennessee has seen the mercury plunge as low as 32 degrees below zero.
One interesting, but not unexpected, note about the Midwest is the difference in temperature records with states south of the Great Lakes to those near and northwest of the Great Lakes. Illinois, Indiana and Ohio all have records in the 30-degree below zero range, while Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa have records that range from 45 to 55 degrees subzero.
In the West, elevation makes a difference, as does being in the interior. Rogers Pass, Montana, which holds the record for coldest temperature in the Lower 48, 70 degrees below zero, rises to an elevation of 5,610 feet above sea level and is located on the Continental Divide. In Arizona, the record of 40 degrees below zero was set at Hawley Lake at an elevation of 8,200 feet.