Step Off New Hampshire, Montana is Still Colder
If you were worried you couldn't call your out-of-state friends and boast about living in the coldest state in the Lower 48 any longer after last weekend's "polar vortex" in the Northeast, put your mind at ease.
While New Hampshire was making headlines after getting blasted with incredible cold, Montana's grip on the coldest temperature ever recorded outside of Alaska remains firm, contrary to some published reports.
And judging from where the new all-time wind chill temperature was recorded, and how long the actual ambient air temperature record is for that location, Montana's mark still crushes the Granite State's record by a solid 20 degrees.
First an explanation
In the weather forecasting business, there are two key metrics that are used to explain temperature during a storm. Those are air temperature and wind chill. The first can be expressed as ambient air temperature which is the air of an environment, frequently used for measuring the temps around equipment or a location. The second is wind chill, which "calculates the wind speed at an average height of five feet, the topical height of an adult human face," which incorporates heat transfer theory, based on the body's losing heat based on surroundings.
Anyone who's stood in Hellgate Canyon in a storm gets that
But for weather record keeping, the two measurements are related but don't replace one another. As NWS explains, the lowest temperature is what's "recorded during a specified period of time." That can be anywhere from 6 to 24 hours. It's what is called the daily minimum temperature or "low".
There's no question that New Hampshire was crazy cold
Even if you were out in our two most recent arctic blasts this winter it's hard to fathom what happened in New England over the weekend. At the legendary landmark of Mount Washington, the National Weather Service recorded a new world record windchill of -108 degrees. That's so cold it was off the wind chill charts we all use every winter. Winds were gusting to 100 mph and above, pushing the air temps of -48 to as cold as -50 to insane, Siberian winter marks.
But here's why Montana is still the champ
For decades, Rogers Pass proudly displayed a sign showing the -70 degree reading as the coldest ever recorded in the Lower 48 states (it's easier to say "outside Alaska" since I doubt Hawaii will ever come close). That record has been firm since January 20, 1954. And it shattered the previous record of -66 set in West Yellowstone in 1933.
And firm it will stay. Because while the New England record air temperature might have been matched at -50 below, a record dating back to 1885, that's still a long way behind the Montana record.
However, we have some work to do
If Montana ever hopes to match the new record of -108 wind chill we may all have to get out and push the next storm through. For example, during the brutal storm before Christmas, Lincoln made headlines when the temperature plunged to 49 below zero. And Malta recorded a wind chill of -72 that same week, which would top the previous mark of -69 wind chill in Havre in December 1983.
Watch out, New Hampshire. In Montana, we love to be competitive. As long as we have the layers.
Extra: See video from last weekend's storm on New Hampshire's Mount Washington
More: The cat that ignores the cold and calls Mount Washington home