-38: Why is it so cold in Embarrass, Minnesota?

Move over International Falls. Tiny Embarrass is vying for the title of "The Nation's Icebox."

Embarrass, Minnesota. Image via Embarrass, Minnesota website.

The tiny town of Embarrass, Minn. is often colder than International Falls. It was a respectable -32 in International Falls Tuesday morning. But temperatures in Embarrass dipped to -38.

That's actual air temperature folks, not wind chill.

Here's the preliminary report of -37 this morning before the final low temperature of -38 was reported into the Duluth National Weather Service office by longtime NWS Embarrass COOP observer Roland Fowler.

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Cold weather factory

So what makes Embarrass such an efficient cold weather factory? In a word, geography. The low lying Embarrass River lies between high ridges.

Embarrass River. Image via Embarrass, Minnesota website.

The low lying geography allows denser, heavier cold air to drain down the river valley and pool in the town. That's called gravimetric flow for you weather geeks.

Griavimetric flow. Image via Michigan State University.

Here's a good description from the township website.

Embarrass is known for its frigid temperatures and can claim the rights to the moniker as "the cold spot" in the state. It is not unusual to see temperatures around -30°F to -45°F many mornings before the sun comes up during the winter months.

The unofficial low temperature set on February 2, 1996, was -64°F. More recently, Embarrass reached as low as -54°F on January 7, 2005 and -42°F on January 24, 2013. Although it may be hard to believe that this can be "normal", it is. It is, also, normal to get killing frosts during the summer months.

Consequently, Embarrass residents find it challenging to grow vegetables or beautiful flowers. Theories have been postulated explaining the extreme temperatures.

These theories include Embarrass' location, landforms, and geology. Embarrass is located in the Embarrass River Valley.

The Vermilion Range borders the northern end, and the Laurentian Divide borders the southern end and moraines are found at right angles to this valley. Gravity and these natural barriers causes the cold air to sink.

The unique geography of Embarrass means mornings Embarrass are often colder than International Falls.

Embarass climate

So if you really want to feel the coldest air Minnesota has to offer, Embarrass is a good destination.