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Chicago Weather Center

Ask Tom why: Why is it always so cold in Stanley, Idaho?

September 9, 2011

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Dear Tom,

I notice that almost every day Stanley, Idaho, is the coldest spot in the nation. Why is it so cold there?

—Loretta Laskowski and Bill Piet, Glenview

Dear Loretta and Bill,

Stanley, Idaho, nestled in a high mountain valley about 100 miles northeast of Boise, is surrounded by the 12,000-foot snow-capped peaks of the White Cloud and Sawtooth mountains. The reason that Stanley is so cold is that dense, cold air from those peaks descends into the valley near Stanley yielding the very chilly readings. The temperature at Stanley is recorded by an automated weather station about two miles east of town at an elevation of 6,500 feet. Many of Stanley's national lows occur in the summer, but it is also frigid there in winter, with the site's record low of 54 degrees below zero logged Dec. 23, 1983.