What is the Coldest Year in United States Weather History?
The Photo Shown is a Snowball Fight on Steps of Florida Statehouse in Tallahassee
For anyone interested in the climate, do you know what is the coldest year in United States weather history? By coldest year I mean the year in which the most record coldest weather temperatures were set in states and cities across the United States.
One year does stand out among all the others in which record coldest weather temperatures were set across the country. The year is not as cut and dry and as the hottest year in United States weather history but it does stand out among all other years.
The second year listed also stands out as many coldest weather temperatures set during the first year listed were broken in the second year. But the scope and breadth of the records in the first year overwhelms the second year on the list.
For the coldest years in United States weather history I'm listing all the states and major cities which saw record coldest temperatures occur during that year. I'm also listing a few other notable coldest weather years in USA history too along with states and cities that set record coldest temperatures in those years.
Some cities may appear more than once in different years because those cities have had the same record coldest weather temperature in multiple years. Interestingly, four states (Maine, Illinois, Hawaii and Oklahoma) have set their record coldest temperatures in the last 10 years but only one state (South Carolina) has set its record hottest temperature over the last 20 years.
What is the Coldest Year in United States Weather History?
1. 1899 - 4 states and at least 21 cities set record coldest temperatures still standing
States - Florida (-2 degrees), Louisiana (-16), Nebraska (-47), Ohio (-39)
Cities - Amarillo (-16), Atlanta (-9), Baltimore (-7), Baton Rouge (2), Birmingham (-10), Brownsville (12), Charlotte (-5), Chattanooga (-10), Columbia MO (-26), Columbia SC (-2), Corpus Christi (11), Dallas (-8), Gainesville (6), Galveston (8), Little Rock (-12), Montgomery (-5), Oklahoma City (-17), Shreveport (-5), Sioux Falls (-42), Tallahassee (-2), Washington DC (-15).
Most but not all of the records for 1899 were set during the Great Blizzard of 1899 which lasted from February 10-14. During the Great Blizzard of 1899, Florida recorded its only below zero weather temperature, the port of New Orleans iced over and ice floes flowed out of the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico and the annual Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans was delayed while snow was shoveled from the roads.
The photo at the top of this article shows a snowball fight taking place on the state capitol steps of Florida in Tallahassee just after the blizzard. Snow flurries were seen as far south as Fort Myers during the Great Blizzard of 1899.
2. 1985 - 5 states and at least 16 cities set record coldest temperatures still standing
States - Colorado (-61), North Carolina (-34), South Carolina (-19), Utah (-69) and Virginia (-30)
Cities - Asheville (-15), Augusta GA (-1), Baltimore (-7), Charleston SC (6), Charlotte (-5), Columbia SC (-2), Daytona Beach (15), Jacksonville (7), Knoxville (-24), Myrtle Beach (4), Nashville (-17), Norfolk (-3), Pensacola (5), Raleigh (-9), Savannah (3), Spartanburg (-5).
Practically all of the records set by the cities listed above in 1985 broke the previous records that were set in 1899. There is no doubt that 1985, especially around January 21, was exceedingly cold but as you can see most of the record cold temperatures in the cities took place primarily in the southeast. The record cold in 1899 was far more widespread across the country.
3. 1934 - one state and 8 major cities set record coldest temperatures still standing
State - Michigan (-51)
Cities - Baltimore (-7), Boston (-18), Buffalo (-20), New York City (-15), Newark NJ (-14), Philadelphia (-11), Providence (-17), Rochester (-22).
The year 1934 was a mighty cold one primarily in the northeast. Most of the major cities in the northeast set their record coldest temperatures in 1934. In northern New England the coldest year on record would be 1943 when places like Nashua, New Hampshire and Augusta and Portland Maine set their record coldest temperatures.
Other Notable Coldest Years in the United States
No states set their record coldest weather temperature in 1888, but cities like Boise, Eureka, Spokane and Minneapolis did. Plus the massive Blizzard of 1888 struck the northeast paralyzing the entire area with enormous snow totals ranging as high as 58" in Saratoga, New York.
The Blizzard of 1888 lasted three days from March 11 to 13. Over 400 people died as a result of the blizzard including 200 in New York City alone. Many died in New York City when the snow caused power lines to fall. There were way too many power lines in cities back in those days.
You can see the results of the Blizzard of 1888 in the photos shown.
The year 1913 was an extremely cold one in the American Southwest. Death Valley recorded its record lowest temperature record of 15 degrees in 1913 and then would set the world record for hottest temperature just six months later.
Cities like Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego in California and Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona recorded their record coldest temperatures in 1913. This was primarily a southwest phenomenon.
A massive cold front plunged down into the United States at the end of January in 2019. The state of Illinois set a new all-time coldest ever temperature record of -38 degrees which was recorded in Mount Carroll.
Cities and places like Moline and Rockford in Illinois, Cedar Rapids in Iowa and Cotton in Minnesota all set new coldest ever temperature records. Over 340 daily record coldest ever temperature records were broken mainly in the Midwest but also as far east as Pittsburgh.
Many major and minor cities in the Midwest set new all-time daily coldest temperature records during this frigid Polar Vortex event in late January of 2019. The state of Hawaii also set a new all-time coldest ever temperature record in February of 2019.