The lowest natural temperature ever directly recorded at ground level on Earth is −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F; 184.0 K) at the Soviet Vostok Station in Antarctica on July 21, 1983 by ground measurements (Wikipedia).
A hundred and twenty-eight degrees below zero! I’m sure I don’t remember what I was doing on that summer day in 1983. Probably making homemade popsicles for my two young daughters, or splashing in the kiddie pool.
The cold wave during the first two weeks of February 1899 is by far and away the gold standard for cold outbreaks in U.S. history.
For the first time on record, every state in the Union (there were only 45 states at the time) dipped below zero. Subzero cold invaded parts of south-central Texas, the Gulf Coast beaches and northwest Florida.
The Mississippi River froze solid north of Cairo, Illinois, and ice not only clogged the river in New Orleans, but also flowed into the Gulf of Mexico a few days after the heart of the cold outbreak.
Ernest Shackleton’s ship, The Endurance, was stuck in the ice in the Weddell Sea near the South Pole for months in 1915. While waiting for the ice around the three-mast boat to break up, sailors made their home in the hull. They warmed up in minus 20 degree temperatures by playing football and hockey, but eventually had to give up the ship when it collapsed and sank. They then maneuvered lifeboats among the floes to uninhabited Elephant Island, pitching tents at night.
The three healthiest men, including the captain, rowed to South Georgia Island where there was a whaling camp. Upon landing, they had to hike across uncharted glaciers with screws in their soles for traction; all crew members miraculously survived on a sparse diet of (sadly) their sled dogs, penguins and seals (Liam Neeson narrated a documentary about the adventure in 2000). Cambridge University has planned an expedition planned to find the sunken vessel this year. Maybe lodged would be a better adjective.
The coldest temperature in the lower 48 United States ever recorded was 40 years later at Rogers Pass, Montana, at an elevation of over 5,500 feet above sea level. It was 70 degrees below zero there in January 1954.
And this past week, in January 2019, we experienced the effects of a polar vortex which pushed wind chills in the Midwest to 50 below. Major networks had plenty of stories about it, so I won’t list details. People of the future may look it up in their clouds.
I’m looking forward to Monday’s temperature of 50 degrees. Above zero.
I apologize to readers who caught this blog in the first hours it was published. After checking several more articles and watching the documentary about the Endurance, I amended some things.