As I grow older and older (and older), my viewpoint changes on some things.

For example, I’ve come to realize I truly don’t like temperature extremes on either end of the spectrum. Yep, I don’t care much for “hard freezes” in the winter or summer days when the mercury rises above 95 and the relative humidity is at about the same number. And while we’re getting a break this week, we’ve certainly had our share of hot-and-humid days in 2020.

So to escape the heat for a while, I recently thought I’d look online for information about well-populated places in the U.S. that are renowned as hotbeds of cold. I found some interesting data on minimum monthly temperatures for a 20-year period generated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for a “Comparative Climatic Data” report.

Basically, the information was used to rank the top 25 “coldest cities in the nation.” Here are a few random tidbits from the rankings.

25. Dubuque, Iowa.

Located in the northeastern part of the Hawkeye State, this town of 58,000-plus residents isn’t that far north of the Ozarks. But according to the NOAA report, its average monthly minimum temperature is 11.2 degrees Fahrenheit and its average high is 62.1.

More than 40 inches of snow falls every year and it doesn’t melt much. That’s why there’s usually some on the ground when you ride the tram on the steep hill (called the Fourth Street Elevator) in winter.

22. Anchorage, Alaska.

It’s certainly not surprising to see this city of 295,000 on the list.

NOAA said its average monthly low is 11.1 and high is 52.2. With its northerly latitude, the only thing that keeps it from being even colder is the proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

Should you consider dwelling in the City of Lights and Flowers, keep in mind more than 72 inches of snow typically falls each year. Taking all those numbers into consideration, I’d say most of the flowers must be indoors.

19. Burlington, Vt.

Nestled in the northwest section of Vermont on the shores of Lake Champlain, its population of more than 42,000 makes it the largest city in the Green Mountain State.

But despite its elevation of only 200 feet, NOAA puts its average monthly low temperature at 10.2 degrees and its high at 60.3. Conditions can be right for snow during many months of the year, and close to 81 inches of the white stuff falls each year.

That’s kind of a lot.

16. Green Bay, Wis.

There’s good reason the NFL Packers are said to play on “the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.” NOAA reports that residents of this Lake Michigan port city of close to 105,000 live with an average monthly low of 9 and the region has an average high of only 58.4.

Sure, only about 50 inches of snow falls each year, but you can bet what comes down often stays for a while. And sure, that average monthly maximum temperature includes lots of pretty hot summer months, so that means it must also take into account some dang cold winter months.

12. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.

I’m not sure I get how a metropolis of almost 700,000 people functions with an average monthly low of 7.5 degrees, but they get it done in the Twin Cities – even with 50 inches of snow topping off all the days with lows below zero and highs barely above it.

The average high of 64.1 reported by NOAA makes it apparent the summers aren’t so cold.

9. Marquette, Mich. With 21,000-plus residents, Marquette is the most populated city on the UP (Upper Peninsula).

NOAA says that people there live in a place that averages more than 146 inches of snowfall per year and has an average monthly low of 5.2 degrees and high of 54.6.

I guess if you can’t endure the winters, you don’t deserve the summers, right? I admit it – I don’t deserve the summers.

5. Duluth, Minn.

It stands to reason that this city of more than 86,000 people would be listed.

It’s located in the upper portion of the Upper Midwest, on the north shore of Lake Superior (which as Gordon Lightfoot told us, “never gives up her dead”). It checks in with an average low of 1.5 degrees (!) according to NOAA, and a high of 55.4. Only about 37 inches of snow falls on average per year, so I guess you can see the ice on the lakeshore in February.


3. Fargo, N.D.

I’d say it was inevitable to find this city of more than 108,000 near the top. And yep, it’s well deserved according to NOAA, because while the average monthly high is 59.5 degrees, the average monthly low is – wait for it – .1.

A tenth of a degree! Above zero, right? My thermometer doesn’t do fractions, so I’m giving the largest city in the Peace Garden State an average of no degrees.

Nothing. Nada. Bupkiss on the mercury. On average!

And if you go t Fargo, make sure to watch out for that crazy guy with the cigarette butt hanging from his lip. He’s not against using the chipper on you.

1. Fairbanks, Alaska.

In a way, this “contest” was unfair from the get-go, because “unFairbanks” is in its own league in the sport of cold.

Get this: The NOAA report said the Golden Heart City in the Last Frontier has an average monthly low temperature of minus 16.9 degrees.

Fine, the population of more than 31,000 Fairbanksians (Fairbankers?) enjoys an average monthly high of 52.3, but that’s because the Sun never sets for months on end. But the flip side of that is Fairbanks never sees our closest star for a long time each year, so the temperature gets frigid and just stays that way.

Can you imagine? I’m not prepared for that extreme of an extreme. And I like knowing the Sun is there.

Come to think of it, I guess Missouri’s 95s and minus 5s don’t look so bad.

FACT CHECK See inaccurate information in this story? Tell us here.


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