Discover the Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded in Minnesota

Written by Lev Baker
Updated: February 1, 2023
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From the massive blizzards leaving people snowed in, to the countless frozen lakes in the winter, Minnesota is no stranger to extreme winter temperatures. But just how cold does it get? Well, brace yourself – because the coldest temperature ever recorded in The Land of 10,000 Lakes was a mind-boggling -60° F!

While that might seem unthinkable, this extreme low was actually measured over 20 years ago. It was recorded in the small town of Tower, Minnesota. On February 2, 1996, this northern community experienced an arctic chill that shattered all previous records. That record has yet to be matched.

Let’s take a closer look at what went into this record-breaking cold snap and explore the unique weather patterns that make Minnesota such an icy wonder.

History of Tower, Minnesota

Tower, Minnesota, During Fourth of July Celebration
Tower is a small town in northern Minnesota. It is the location of the coldest temperature ever recorded in the state.

©Bjoertvedt/Wikimedia Commons – License

Europeans first explored Minnesota in 1650, when some fur traders were sent from New France (now Canada) to explore the area. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Minnesota experienced significant growth as fur trading and other resource-based activities flourished.

The U.S. acquired the land following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Afterward, Minnesota officially became part of the United States in 1858. With the establishment of its first state constitution, Minnesota became the 32nd state to join the union.

Tower is located in the north-central part of the state of Minnesota, near Lake Vermilion and the Minnesota-Ontario border. It was incorporated as a city in 1889 by lumberjacks and miners drawn to the area by its natural resources. In the early 20th century, Tower became an important hub for iron ore mining, logging, and tourism.

Tower is home to many historical sites. These include the Tower-Soudan Underground Mine State Park, the Laurentian Divide, and the nearby Vermilion Dam. It is also home to some of Minnesota’s most extreme winter temperatures.

Tower, Minnesota Climate

The climate of Minnesota can be traced back to the glacial age. Then, massive sheets of ice covered large portions of the state. Those left behind a landscape full of deep lakes, winding rivers, and rolling hills. Such features created perfect conditions for snow and ice to accumulate.

Minnesota’s climate is characterized by cold winters, hot summers, and plenty of precipitation. This combination of weather patterns creates perfect conditions for extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Minnesota occurred on February 2nd, 1996. That day, thermometers at Tower, Minnesota, dropped to a staggering -60 degrees Fahrenheit (-51.1 degrees Celsius).

This cold temperature was recorded during a particularly harsh winter. It resulted from a combination of low temperatures, an arctic air mass, high winds, and lots of snow. This extreme, cold weather event made headlines worldwide as people wondered how such a cold temperature could be possible in the lower 48 States.

As of 2022, this remains the coldest temperature ever recorded in Minnesota and is a stark reminder of how extreme the temperatures can get in this region. While rare, extreme cold weather events like this one are always possible in Minnesota.

Fun Facts about Tower, Minnesota

  • Tower got its name after the mining financier Charlemagne Tower, who was a lawyer from Philadelphia.
  • The town of Tower was formally established in 1889, making it the oldest town in Lake Vermilion country.
  • Tower is known for its extreme winter temperatures and holds the record for Minnesota’s coldest temperature ever recorded.
  • The Tower-Soudan Underground Mine State Park is located in Tower and was the first underground iron ore mine in Minnesota.
  • The Laurentian Divide runs through the town, and is a major continental divide in North America. Any waters north of this divide terminate in the Hudson bay while water south of the divide continues south and ultimately ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The Vermilion Dam, located nearby, is a popular destination for tourists and anglers alike.

Average Temperatures in Tower, Minnesota

Tower experiences a wide range of temperatures throughout the year, from mild summers to cold winters. The average temperature in July, the warmest month, is 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). The average temperature in January, the coldest month, is -7 degrees Fahrenheit (-21.7 degrees Celsius).

Throughout the year, the temperature typically fluctuates from a low of -36 degrees Fahrenheit (-37.8 degrees Celsius) to a high of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius).

During the winter months, temperatures can drop to extreme lows, such as the record low of -60 degrees Fahrenheit (-51.1 degrees Celsius) recorded in February 1996.

The city of Tower experiences a diverse range of temperatures throughout the year and is vulnerable to extreme cold weather events during the winter months.

Overall, temperatures in Tower are generally bearable and rarely unmanageable during any given season. However, extreme cold weather events are always possible, and it’s important to be prepared for possible extreme weather events.


Tower is a small town with a population of about 430 people, most of whom are employed in the local logging and mining industries. The majority of the population is white, with a small minority of other races.

The city’s population has been relatively stable for the past several years, and it is expected to remain stable in the coming years.

Tower is a great place to live, with a strong sense of community and plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.

Wildlife in the Tower, Minnesota Area

Tower is located in an area of unique natural beauty, surrounded by boreal forests and beautiful lakes. While the temperatures in this area can get extremely cold, it is home to a wide variety of wildlife. 

From black bears and white-tailed deer to bald eagles and trumpeter swans, the area is a haven for all sorts of animals. You can also spot other wildlife in the area, such as snowshoe hares, red foxes, and timber wolves. Even as temperatures dip below -40°F in the winter, the presence of these creatures continues to bring life to the frozen landscape. Unfortunately, the extremely cold temperatures of winter can make living in this region difficult for animals, as they need to find food, shelter, and a way to stay warm.

The nearby Vermilion Dam is also home to an abundance of fish, such as walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass. Anglers flock to the area in search of these fish, as well as other types of game fish.

In addition to its wildlife and fishing, Tower is home to a variety of bird species, ranging from bald eagles to peregrine falcons. The area surrounding the city is also home to numerous species of plants, from cedar and spruce trees to wildflowers.

There are several national parks and forests in the area, as well as a number of lakes and rivers. This makes the town of Tower and its surrounding areas ideal for bird-watching, fishing, hunting, camping, and other outdoor activities.

Overall, the area surrounding Tower is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with plenty of opportunities to explore and enjoy its stunning wildlife and natural beauty.

Minnesota is no stranger to the cold, with massive blizzards and extreme winter conditions a regularity. Read here to discover the coldest temperature ever recorded in Minnesota.

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Lake Vermilion, Minnesota
Lake Vermilion in Minnesota, which is next to Tower, Minnesota, where the coldest temperature ever recorded in the state was.
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About the Author

I have been a freelance writer for the past 2 years. I have a huge love of animals and I love building my knowledge of animals through research. I love sea creatures in particular, my favorite being the octopus because of their intelligence, and I mean, come on, what's not to love! I have a rescue boxer named Dante who is the friendliest pup a man could ask for.

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