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Record-Breaking Cold For Duluth In December? How Do December 2013’s Cold Temperatures Compare To Other Years In Recorded Weather History?

Scott Olson, Getty Images

December around the Twin Ports is the first month of the winter season we’re practically guaranteed to see measurable snow and temperatures below the freezing mark for days on end. We’ve seen plenty of both, but the long string of unseasonably cold temperatures so early in December has people wondering if we’ve made the record books.

How Much Colder Have We Been Than Average?

The overall average temperature in Duluth for the month of December is 14.8 degrees, with an average high temperature of 22.3 and average low of 7.3. Through the first 12 days of the month, the average daytime high has been 7.8 degrees, with an average high temperature of 14.3 and average low of 0.6. It is worth mentioning that these averages include the warmer days near 32 degrees at the beginning of the month. To really put things in perspective, check out the next section.

December Average December 2013 (So far) Difference
High Temp 22.3 14.3 -8
Low Temp 7.3 0.6 -6.7
Average Temp 14.8 7.8 -7

(Sources: Averages, 2013 Observations)

Where Does This Year Compare to All December Cold Snaps?

The chart above is a little misleading, because the first few days of the month were near or above the 32 degrees, which brings the average up for the month so far. Looking at just the cold days of this month, this cold snap ranks 8th all time on the list of coldest 6-day December cold stretches through December 11.

Rank Average Low Ending Date
1 -7.5 12/11/1927
2  (Tie) -6.8 12/11/1972, 12/10/1972
4 -6.7 12/11/1958
5 -6.5 12/8/1972
6 -6.2 12/9/1972
7 -6.1 12/7/1972
8 (Tie) -5.8 12/11/2013, 12/10/1958
10 -5.3 12/11/1995
11 -5.2 12/11/1917
12 (Tie) -5.1 12/2/1976, 12/10/1927
14 -4.5 12/10/1917
15 -4.4 12/3/1976

(6-Day Cold Snaps through December 11: Source)

When Was The Last Time It Was This Cold This Early?

The local NWS office says the last time it was this cold this early was back in 1976, 37 years ago.

The coldest December day to ever be recorded was December 28, 1917, which saw a temperature of -35 degrees. On the flipside, the warmest December day on record is December 6, 1937, which saw a high temperature of 56 degrees.

The coldest December on record was in 1924, which saw an overall average temperature for the month of 1.8 degrees.


Have We Broken Any Temperature Records This Month?

In a word, no. The coldest temperature on record in Duluth is -41 degrees on January 2, 1885. This is a far cry from the -18 we saw on December 8 of this year, which is the coldest temperature of this month.


Have We Broken Any Records for Length of Cold Stretch?

Not even close – at least not yet. The longest stretch of days below zero (low temperatures) is 22, which happened in January of 1963 and also in late January-February of 1936. The count of days with a low temperature below zero in this stretch is 8 days (December 5-12). If we see a recorded low temperature below zero every day now through December 26, we would tie the record of 22 days.



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