Minnesota town gives state's all-time cold temperature record a run for its money

It prompted NWS employees to hurry to the location.
Publish date:

Tower still stands as the state record-holder for coldest air temperature ever observed with its -60F reading on Feb. 2, 1996, but another northern Minnesota town gave it a run for its money Wednesday morning. 

The unincorporated town of Cotton, located about 35 miles north of Duluth, dropped down to a -56F

According to Wall Street Journal disaster reporter Erin Ailworth, it prompted the Duluth office of the National Weather Service (NWS) to hurry meteorologists to the location just in case the record was broken, adding that fog in the area likely kept the temp from going even lower. 

It's definitely one of the coldest ever temperatures observed in Minnesota. In fact, it might be the third-coldest of all time, trailing only the -60F mark in Tower and a -57F temp in Embarrass on Jan. 20, 1996. 

Some residents of Embarrass like to think they own the record. As KSTP notes, Embarrass' official thermometer malfunctioned Feb. 2, 1996, but a couple of guys sleeping in a snow cave claim they measured a temp of -72F. 

The NWS doesn't recognize it as official, so Tower keeps the record. 

Sign up for our BREAKING WEATHER newsletters

Basically, 1996 was crazy cold in Minnesota. In Embarrass it reached -57F on Jan. 20, -55F on Jan. 31, -54F on Feb. 1, -53F on Feb. 2 and -56F on Feb. 4. 

Here's a map to give you a better idea of where Cotton, Minnesota, can be found.

Next Up


Pandemic pushes need for cybersecurity and I.T. professionals to forefront

University of Wisconsin-Superior is helping meet demand with online master’s programs

Screen Shot 2020-12-03 at 5.01.58 PM

Body found floating in Minnesota River in Shakopee

Efforts to identify the deceased are underway.

Hennepin County Government Center

Judge finds suspect guilty in 1991 murder of young Minneapolis woman

A 58-year-old man from South St. Paul, who was 29 at the time, has been found guilty of stabbing a 20-year-old woman

northfield community education center

Northfield school fires employee who allegedly gave melatonin to infant

It's against district policies to give a child anything without a parents' permission.

state hockey tournament, mshsl

MSHSL approves 3 calendars to start winter sports as soon as Dec. 21

The start date will depend on whether the state shutdown is lifted.


Drug overdose deaths up 31% in the first half of 2020

Overdose deaths started to increase sharply in March, which coincides with the state-ordered lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic.

los ocampos

Video: Vehicle crashes into St. Paul restaurant

The fire department is on scene addressing a gas leak.

covid-19, coronavirus

Latest county infection rates are sky-high throughout Minnesota

Kandiyohi County is one of the hardest hit counties in the state.

Jenna Fish

Family's warning after teen's tragic death from CO poisoning at Thanksgiving

A 17-year-old girl from Delano died after Thanksgiving due to carbon monoxide poisoning.


More than $12K donated to MN gym owner who refused to close

The small business is located in town in Wabasha County.

radio station, microphone

MPR, The Current launch new weekly segment called 'The Warming House'

The program will feature feel-good entertainment amid the pandemic.


It's stupid cold (for August) in Minnesota on Thursday

Temperatures on the border were just above freezing.

Will extreme cold prompt Gov. Walz to close schools statewide?

Schools also have their own cold day criteria if he doesn't.

Florida man wonders how MN temps drop after 'beautiful sun emerges'

He asked a great question and the NWS responded with the answer.

Arctic cold arrives: Temps, wind chills to nosedive through Thursday

The coldest of the cold will be from Tuesday evening through Wednesday.

Here's how cold it got in Minnesota by 9 o'clock this morning

These temps are a sign of what's to come for the Twin Cities.