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Coldest October Temperature In U.S. Ever Recorded In Logan Canyon, Peter Sinks

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It’s not an impressive place. Peter Sinks is a small depression in the Bear River mountain range of northern Utah, just a few miles away from Beaver Mountain Ski Resort. The tiny valley is ringed by aspen trees and conifers, and it doesn’t look or feel that different than the surrounding mountains. Until you get to the bottom. 

Down there, the coldest October temperature ever recorded in the United States was measured last Wednesday, and that includes Alaska.

 

“There could be a 40 to 50-degree temperature difference over a few hundred feet as you walk up and down the side of this little depression up there," said Jon Meyer, a climate scientist with the Utah Climate Center. "Nothing would trigger in any sort of thought that this is a really fantastic meteorological place." 

The spot was recognized as an outlier in 1985 when a Utah State University graduate student measured the temperature on a hunch. He found the second coldest recording in the continental United States, negative 69 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Last Wednesday, the spot plunged to negative 45.5 degrees. 

But what makes Peter Sinks so special? 

“During the wintertime, when we get snow cover on the ground, and cold air coming down from the arctic, high pressure and clear skies that follow those snowstorms, all those conditions lead to maximal cooling in this depression," Meyer said. "The cool air just settles in this little depression.”

Meyer said as the climate changes, the jetstream that brings that arctic air might get even less stable, and crazier, colder temperatures might keep being recorded at the unremarkable-looking depression in the mountains.