The coldest time of the year is after the winter solstice for much of the U.S., but you might wonder how cold temperatures can get when they dip to their annual minimums in December, January and February.
Using 30-year averages from NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, we can look at the coldest average low temperatures for select cities in each region of the country.
It's important to keep in mind that these temperatures are strictly long-term averages.
The actual coldest temperatures of the year can be colder or warmer than the values shown on the map above and in the tables below.
The following animation illustrates how average high temperatures change over the course of the winter from December through February.
This next animation shows the evolution of average low temperatures between December and February.
But we all know the weather doesn't always follow averages. All-time record-low temperatures are far colder than average low temperatures.
The lowest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. was negative 80 degrees in Prospect Creek, Alaska. In the Lower 48, Montana holds the record for the all-time coldest temperature at negative 70 degrees.
Bismarck, North Dakota, dipped to its record low of negative 45 degrees twice, once on Jan. 13, 1916, and again on Feb. 16, 1936. But that's not as cold as the state of North Dakota's all-time cold record of negative 60 degrees.
Kansas City, Missouri, set its all-time record low of negative 23 degrees on back-to-back days, Dec. 22nd and 23rd in 1989. That's 17 degrees shy of Missouri's record of negative 40 degrees.
The coldest temperature ever recorded in New York City was negative 15 degrees on Feb. 9, 1934. That pales in comparison to New York state's record low of negative 52 degrees set nearly 300 miles upstate in the Adirondacks.