When it comes to cold, Duluth still represents

Winter hasn’t been much to write home about in Minnesota in the last few years, so it’s comforting to know that our reputation is intact nonetheless.

It’s unbearably cold in Massachusetts, where, for the record, it’s snowed much more in recent winters than Minnesota.

But when it comes to cold, the nation still, apparently, knows where to turn for advice: Minnesota.

That much is revealed in the Boston Globe article offering comfort and advice to readers by reminding them they could be in colder places.

Like Duluth.

Duluth native Rob Hedburg, 26, said Thursday that for him, “It’s just been a matter of trying to limit your time outside.’’ Duluth was at 70 straight hours of subzero temperatures until Wednesday night.

“Today, it finally did get above zero with the warmer weather — and I’ll use that term loosely.” said Hedburg, an administrative assistant at Visit Duluth. He makes sure to dress in layers and leave as little skin unprotected as possible.

Hedburg did manage to see one silver lining to the cold weather.

“One upside is that there isn’t snowfall, so the roads are generally clear and easy to drive on, but sometimes you’re willing to put up with the snow if it doesn’t mean freezing,” Hedburg said.

On Wednesday, Boston will set a record with the longest stretch of sub-20-degree weather since 1872.


In Duluth, they call that “spring.”

  • Fargo, Williston, or Grand Forks (or International Falls) are usually colder than Duluth.

    Of the 50 largest cities in the US, MSP is the coldest during the winter. And it’s not really that close.

    • Gary F

      NoDak wins.

      • Then again, they only have smallish cities.

        • Ben Chorn

          I remember living in Montana when the state plunge well below zero. Much of the residents were wondering why places like Boston, etc. were getting national coverage for “cold” when Montana was much colder. In the end it is population. No one cares about 1 million people dealing with -30F when there are millions on the East Coast with 0F.

          • That’s the reality we try to ignore: the East Coast is the engine that pulls the country along.

            Montana is the caboose.

          • Agreed 100%.

            I find it interesting that the MSP Metro area is the largest population center in the northern US between Chicago and Denver…

  • AL287

    I can remember one Christmas Eve trying to get my car, Greta, a 1973 black Gremlin started so I could cantor for midnight Mass when I was single and still living in my hometown of Baton Rouge. This was back in the early eighties.

    It was 5 degrees which is damn cold for that region. At that temp, pipes freeze and burst if you do not have a heat tracer on the shallow buried water pipes and on exposed sections of outdoor water pipes.

    Even letting indoor pipes run with a trickle does not guarantee they won’t freeze.

    Many houses down there have water pipes in the attic, many of them not insulated.

    I got Greta started but not without a lot of grumbling and grinding.

    I can say plumbers made up any income shortfalls that week after Christmas.

    There is no weather more miserable than 40 degrees and rain in the Deep South. It cuts right through you no matter how many layers you have on. I can tolerate below zero weather much better than damp, penetrating cold.

    • fourteenmilecreek

      I think it’s mainly the wind that makes cold unbearable. Zero degrees with no wind, seems warmer than 18 degrees on a windy day. I live in Northeastern Oklahoma where humidity is certainly a factor, I’ve worked construction on powerhouses, and paper mills, in Duluth, and in Upper State New York. I remember a snow storm in 1988 when the wind blew so hard that people who were buying groceries would not be able to push their carts across the compacted ice, and snow, on the frozen grocery store parking lot. They were actually sliding backward as the wind blew them in the opposite direction as their cars were parked. (I learned that Winter, to always park South of the entrance when the wind was blowing). One night, after the storm had passed and the winds became calm, everyone in town went walking and enjoying the 8 degree weather. It had been nearly two weeks since the wind had started blowing, and even though it was colder that night, than it had been during the daylight, it didn’t seem that way because it wasn’t windy outside.

      • Rob

        Meh. What makes the cold unbearable, is that it’s unbearably cold.

  • Gary F

    Up on the hill Duluth or down in the harbor Duluth?

    • Guest

      Asking what the difference is. Are you saying the windchill up on the hill is worse, the actual temps by the harbor are warmer due to the lake effect or that the cold sinks and the harbor temps are colder?
      Just wondering how the geography makes the difference. I recall Embarrass is colder due to being in a “low spot” and the sinking of the really cold air there.

      • John

        It’s nearly always much colder up on the hill than down at Canal Park during the winter. The opposite is true in summer. It’s been years since I paid attention, but I think I remember that when it’s this cold all around, the difference can be 20 or more degrees between the top of the hill and down by the lake (unless the wind is blowing in certain directions). It’s lake effect, for sure.

        • I presume the humidity is higher down at Canal Park. Moist cold stinks.

          • John

            humidity at -20 and zero is pretty close to the same :).

          • But humidity is relative to temperature. For example, the humidity in Duluth right now is 70%. Pretty much the same as it is on a nice summer day.

          • John

            yup, and I’ve looked a few times to try to find charts giving the relationship between relative and absolute humidity at a given temp, with no success.

            My theory is that the amount of water 0F air can hold is nearly the same as -20F (i.e. 100% RH is at approximately the same absolute humidity once you get cold enough).

            There’s a big difference when you go from 50F to 70F in the relationship, but I think that difference shrinks as you get colder.

            Either way, my nose froze shut fast on Sunday morning when I took the wonder mutt for his walk (roughly -20 where I was – up in Virginia).

          • Well that’s easy. Just check the dewpoint. That’s the point at which the air is saturated.

          • John

            I’m pretty sure I was looking in the context of my job, and I think I needed to know how much water (in, say mg water/L of atmosphere) was in the air of my lab.

            So, finding the dewpoint, or the temperature where the current humidity level will reach 100% RH, is pretty easy, but finding the amount of water in the air at that temp (in terms an analytical chemist can make use of) was apparently more difficult.

            I’m pretty sure I ended up going at the problem from another direction in the end, because I couldn’t find the data I needed to solve it the way I initially thought about it.

          • Gary F

            This could be its own NewsCut subject.


          • Rob

            So, it’s not the cold, it’s the humidity? ; )

          • “It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity”

      • Jack Ungerleider

        We lived in Duluth for a couple of years. (On the hillside near the Lake.) We learned then what natives know well, Duluth has two seasons: “Cooler by the lake” and “Warmer by the lake”. We are currently in the latter. The lake helps keep the air a little warmer in the winter. The only time you get warmer temps by the lake in summer is when you get strong winds out of the west that get compressed as they run “down the hill” and into the cold lake air. That compression can add a few degrees to the Canal Park temps. I remember one summer stretch it was in the low 80s at the airport (up the hill) and high 80s at the Canal Park station.

  • Rob

    Contrary to popular belief among people who live in cold-as-Hades places, such weather doesn’t build character or justify bragging rights, it merely makes going outside a huge misery, brutalizes car batteries and prompts aging furnaces to die.

    So, as a lifelong Minnesotan, I feel no sense of inadequacy as I post this from Bisbee, AZ during a brief stop on my motorcycle trip. : )

    • I take the dog out for a walk every morning at 545 a.m. Gotta admit, the exhilaration of cheating death is an invigorating start to the day.

      • Rob

        I’m a fellow death-cheater when I’m in-state during the winter, as my own mutts expect a daily walk…

  • Guest

    Bob, I know you have access to a lot of info. Can you find the relative effect on the greenhouse effect from the CO2 rise and also the rise of H2O? I understand world-wide humidity has also risen with global warming.

    The blanket of clouds DOES help warm nights specifically due to the local greenhouse effect. Well as for global warming, does CO2 rise cause 80% & H20 cause 20% or the opposite?