Discover the Coldest Place in Iowa

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: December 23, 2022
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Iowa is known for its massive agricultural industry and legendary state fair, but did you know it has some of the coldest temperatures recorded in the region? The Hawkeye State isn’t just the food capital of the world; it may be one of the coldest spots in the Midwest! Today, we are going to explore the extreme temperatures in Iowa, plus learn a bit about the overall weather in the state. Let’s discover the coldest place in Iowa!

Iowa State Capitol covered in snow
Iowa is one of the coldest spots in the Midwest.


The Coldest Place in Iowa

Dubuque, located on the Mississippi River in Iowa, is the state’s oldest city and also one of the coldest, with an average annual temperature of 47.2°F. Despite its cold temperatures, Dubuque has many attractions, including the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, as well as an established higher education system with schools like Loras College and Clarke University (both of which are run by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque). At the time of the 2020 census, the population of Dubuque was 59,667.

Dubuque is located at the junction of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin, an area locally known as the Tri-State Area. It is generally considered the main commercial, industrial, educational, and cultural center for the region. Interestingly, Dubuque is part of the “Driftless Area,” which is a portion of North America that was not affected by the Wisconsin Glaciation. Places in the Driftless Area were never covered by ice during the last ice age and have geography that uniquely reflects it.

Dubuque’s cold temperatures and rich history make it a unique and interesting place to visit. Its location on the Mississippi River and its proximity to Illinois and Wisconsin add to its appeal, making it a popular destination for both tourists and residents.

Dubuque is the coldest place in Iowa
Dubuque is the coldest place in Iowa with an average annual temperature of 47.2°F.

©Joseph Gage / Flickr – License

The Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded in Iowa

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Iowa happened on January 12th, 1912, in the town of Washta. On that day, the temperature dropped to a freezing -47°F, as a powerful arctic high-pressure system settled over the upper Midwest, leading to record cold temperatures across the whole region. The cold front ended up setting dozens of temperature records during the time.

More recently, on January 31, 2019, the temperature in the Quad Cities International Airport in Moline reached a low of -33°F, breaking the previous record of -27°F set on February 3, 1996. This made it one of the all-time coldest temperatures on recent record in Iowa.

Does Iowa Get Snow?

Snow is a common occurrence in Iowa, with the state experiencing snowfall as early as October and as late as May. However, when snow does fall during the early fall or spring, it typically does not stay on the ground for very long. The majority of the snowfall in Iowa occurs from December to March, with January and February being the snowiest months.

The amount of snowfall in Iowa can vary significantly depending on location, with average snowfall totals ranging from 18 to 42 inches each year. Southern counties tend to receive less snowfall, averaging half the annual snowfall of the northern counties. In Central Iowa, the capital city of Des Moines receives an average of 36.5 inches of snow annually. Overall, it is important for residents and visitors to be prepared for snow and the potential for icy road conditions during the winter months in Iowa.

Des Moines, Iowa during winter
The capital city Des Moines, Iowa receives an average of 36.5 inches of snow annually.


The weather in Iowa can vary significantly throughout the year, with the coldest months typically being December through February, and January being the coldest month of all. According to US Climate Data, the average high temperature in January is 31°F, with the average low being 14°F. However, there are times when temperatures can drop below zero and remain there for a couple of weeks at a time.

While the winter months can be cold in Iowa, the state also experiences hot, humid summers, with July being the hottest month. The average high temperature in July is 85°F, with the average low being 66°F. In addition to the temperature variations, Iowa also experiences a range of precipitation, with the wettest months being April, May, and June, and the driest months being November and December.

Overall, Iowa’s weather trends can vary significantly throughout the year, with cold, snowy winters and hot, humid summers being the norm. It is important for residents and visitors to be prepared for a range of weather conditions and to take necessary precautions to stay safe and comfortable.

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West-central Iowa in the winter
West-central Iowa in the winter.

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About the Author

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he isn't distracted by his backyard birdfeeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him about what he's recently learned. There's a whole world to learn about and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much as he can about it!

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  1. Stacker, Available here:
  2. USA Today, Available here:
  3. Des Moines Outdoors, Available here: