Minnesota colder than Mars? Experts clarify chilly facts


With temperatures falling 30 degrees below zero or colder in the past few days, could northern Minnesota and places in Canada actually be as cold Mars?

That could be the case, at least according to some reports that have run rampant on the Internet the past few days.

But Smithsonian magazine and other media outlets are debunking the claims.

Smithsonian's report first gives the impression that it could be colder here on Earth: "In northern Minnesota right now, the temperature has dipped to a staggering -42 F. The chill is running so deep in the North Star State that it’s not only colder than in the lands above the Arctic Circle, it’s actually colder than some of the daily temperatures on Mars – you know, the planet 78 million miles further from the Sun on average."

The magazine goes on, however, to clarify some facts about the readings, obtained by NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity from the planet's Gale Crater. A Curiosity instrument in the last month indicated that daily highs where the rover was have hovered between -24 and -13 degrees Fahrenheit. NASA data suggests daily lows, however, have dipped to more than 100 degrees below zero in some places on the planet.

"To be fair," Smithsonian magazine said, "Mars is still way colder: the Curiosity rover is driving around in a crater at, roughly, the equivalent latitude of Venezuela."

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said the "colder than Mars" observation originated on the Manitoba Museum Facebook page – and before too long the "news" was on Twitter, Facebook and blogs like Yahoo's Geekquinox.

Boing Boing also cautioned that comparing temperatures on different planets is like comparing apples to oranges.

The blog cited three reasons, starting with the separation of science fact from science fiction: "Contrary to what you might have learned from Star Trek and Star Wars, planets do not have a single climate."

"It's not reasonable to say 'Winnipeg is as cold as the surface of Mars,' unless you're going to specify where on Mars you are talking about," Boing Boing said.

In any event, Minnesota is certainly among the very coldest places on this planet. From MPR's Cathy Wurzer:

Next Up

Gov. Tim Walz

Gov. Tim Walz to address Minnesotans about COVID-19 on Friday

The number of COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities have been increasing after outbreaks at the facilities slowed 'significantly' over the summer.


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.


Experts predict colder, wetter winter across the Northern Plains

Long range predictions from NOAA show colder and wetter than average conditions for Minnesota and other states in the northern tier of the country. That's because for the second year in a row the weather pattern known as La Nina is in play. Other weather factors could still disrupt it though. The agency warns flooding might also be a problem again. Continued droughts are in store for the southwest U.S.