Bodie repeats as nation’s cold spot in 2000
Truckee has to throw in the towel for year 2000.In the annual battle to determine America’s chilliest town, Truckee once again did not place among the nation’s top five cold spots.Is it global warming? Not really, the criteria have changed and new players have entered the game.According to data compiled by Dr. David Hickcox, a professor of geography and director of environmental studies at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, first place went to Bodie, Calif., which was the coldest spot in the contiguous 48 states on 113 days, far more than any other location. (In 1999 Bodie also ranked number one, with 71 days.)Prof. Hickcox, who has published his annual results in Weatherwise magazine for 20 years, now uses a criterion that diminishes any single location’s dominance and reduces the number of times a city like Truckee will be a daily cold spot.In 1999 Hickcox began including temperature readings from small hamlets with populations of about 100 people and also considers remote automated recording stations as well as locations such as Bodie, a ghost town turned state park.(In contrast to Hickcox’s all-encompassing methodology, the National Weather Service only considers towns with a minimum of 2,500 inhabitants in their daily survey of the nation’s hottest and coldest temperatures. The NWS does not do an annual summary, and both methodologies exclude Alaska and Hawaii.)Similar to Truckee’s normal temperature pattern, almost of all of Bodie’s national lows in 2000 occurred from June through early October, when high-elevation weather stations in California often record the nation’s chilliest morning temperatures.In fact, in 2000, California stations recorded the nation’s low temperature 129 times (Montana was second with 62), but only a handful were recorded at Truckee. Since Truckee usually registers among the nation’s coldest places only during the mild months between late spring and early fall, the town’s icebox reputation is considered a tongue-in-cheek joke among locals who enjoy the Sierra’s relatively balmy winters.Bodie’s location at 8,368 feet above sea level guarantees chilly temperatures. The atmosphere cools at an average lapse rate of 3.5 degrees for every 1,000 feet gained in elevation.Similar to Truckee, Bodie’s summertime weather tends toward dry air and cloudless conditions, which encourages accumulated daytime heat to escape rapidly back into the atmosphere after sunset, a dynamic known as radiational cooling.In addition to altitude, topography is a primary factor for achieving cool summer temperatures. Truckee and Bodie’s weather stations are both surrounded by mountain slopes that drain cold air and both official thermometers are located in chilled microclimates of cool dense air. (Truckee’s coolest temperatures are recorded at the Truckee-Tahoe Airport, not at the U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station above town.)Despite this chilling combination of physical and atmospheric ingredients, the local Chamber of Commerce has nothing to worry about. Truckee’s frosty mornings are offset by rapid daytime heating, so its monthly average temperatures, especially in winter, are much warmer than the real cold spots located in the hinterlands of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.According to Hickcox, California ranked number one in total national lows, but the state also led the rest by recording the nation’s maximum temperature 195 days. (Texas ranked second with 145 days.)Testament to California’s incredibly diverse geography, the Golden State again recorded the most high and low temperatures in the lower forty-eight. Death Valley, only 165 miles from Bodie, recorded the nation’s highest temperature 135 times.Just for the record, out of the last 17 years, Truckee has made the top five rankings 11 times. And three of those years, 1991, 1993 and 1994, Truckee claimed the dubious honor of coldest spot in the nation, excluding Alaska.Special thanks to Prof. David Hickcox for his generous assistance with the temperature and ranking data. Unfortunately, due to a very busy schedule, Prof. Hickcox will not be compiling these data summaries any longer.Mark McLaughlin is a local weather expert. His books, Sierra Stories: True Tales of Tahoe, volumes 1 & 2, are available at local bookstores, or at his Web site, http://www.thestormking.com.TOP COLD SPOTS IN 2000:(1) Bodie, California – 113(2) West Yellowstone, Montana – 26(3) Stanley, Idaho – 20(4) Tower, Minnesota – 20(5) Fraser, Colorado – 13Saranac, New York – 13 (tie)TOP COLD SPOTS IN 1999:(1) Bodie, California – 71(2) Wisdom, Montana – 45(3) Shirley Basin, Wyoming – 24(4) West Yellowstone, Montana – 22Tower, Minnesota – 22 (tie)(5) Stanley, Idaho – 19Number of days a location recorded the coldest temperature in the lower 48 states
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