It’s official…50° below!!


7:15am, January 16, 2009, Big Black River, Maine, temperature: -50° a new state record. It took almost a month, but the National Weather Service, working with the State Climate Extreme Committee and the National Climatic Data Center, tested the electronic thermometer (thermistor), compared it to another similar instrument and then let the climate experts vote. The results of that vote verified the temperature at Big Black River, ME, located just two miles from the Canadian border in Aroostook County, broke the old record of -48° set in Van Buren, ME back in 1925. The Big Black River temperature ties the record for the coldest ever in New England, matched by the 50 below zero reading at Boomfield, VT back in 1933.  Here’s the official public information statement issued by the National Weather Serivce in Caribou, ME, with a link to the full report:

Public Information Statement
National Weather Service (NWS), Caribou, Maine
11:30 AM EST, Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New All-Time Low Temperature Recorded in Maine

On the morning of January 16, as New England was under the grip of an arctic blast, an all-time low temperature of -50° Fahrenheit was recorded for Maine. It was recorded at 7:30 a.m. EST at a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stream gauge on the Big Black River near Depot Mountain in northwestern Aroostook County. The previous record, -48° Fahrenheit, was set in Van Buren, Maine almost 84 years earlier, on January 19, 1925.

“It is exciting to be a part of this historic event.” said George Jacobson, Maine State Climatologist and Member of the State Climate Extremes Committee (SCEC), the group that vetted this measurement for consideration as a new all time minimum temperature record for the State of Maine. “But the real benefit to the State is in good weather and climate data being recorded daily by the NWS, USGS and other partners in the scientific community.”

The lowest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. was -80 degrees Fahrenheit on January 23, 1971 at Prospect Creek, Alaska, according the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The lowest temperature recorded in the lower 48 states was -70 egress Fahrenheit on January 20, 1954 at Rogers Pass, Mont.

The existence of this temperature sensor owes to the partnership between the NWS Weather Forecast Offices in Caribou and Gray, and the USGS Maine Water Science Center in Augusta. This partnership resulted in installation of NWS supplied air temperature sensors on many existing NWS river forecast points and USGS stream gauges over the past several years. The aim of this partnership was to better serve society’s needs for high quality weather, water, and climate information.

Increasingly, partnerships such as this between the NWS and USGS are being founded to leverage resources used in weather, water, and climate research to better meet the public’s needs. This leverage has resulted in the nearly fourfold increase in the number of temperature reporting stations across the state of Maine between 1925 and 2009.

The process of challenging a state record is comprehensive. The initial report is considered unofficial until a review of the equipment and data is conducted by the State Climate Extremes Committee (SCEC) as to the validity of the report. These findings are submitted to the Director of the National Climatic Data Center for recommendation. The State Climate Extremes Committee includes: the National Weather Service, the State Climatologist, the Northeast Regional Climate Center, and the National Climatic Data Center.

Here is a brief summary of the process:

  • State Climate Extreme Committee activated.
  • SCEC conference call examined all available data.
  • Two temperature sensors and a data logger sent to the USGS Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility for testing.
  • Temperature sensors and data logger tested to a low of -50 degrees Celsius (-58.0 degrees Fahrenheit). Sensors performed within their specified accuracy of plus/minus .2 degrees Celsius over the entire temperature range.
  • SCEC reconvened. A vote was called for recommending the -45.3 degrees Celsius (-50 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature recorded at the Big Black River be submitted to the National Climatic Data Center as a new statewide all-time record low temperature for Maine. The vote for recommendation was unanimous.
  • NCDC Director approved SCEC recommendation.

Tom Tasselmyer


One Response

  1. where has neal estano been?

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