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Monthly Temperature

Nevada's Hottest Month:

July 1931. Records that still stand include 118 at Las Vegas, 108 at Winnemucca and Minden, and 105 at Austin. Unofficially the mercury rose to 131 at the construction site of the Boulder Dam during this extreme heat wave.*

January 1937 froze the Silver State in its tracks.

Unfortunately, there is no record of the instrumentation and exposure available to make it official. The July 1931 Climatological Data for Nevada reported: "Drought conditions continue severe. In a few places a second crop of alfalfa was harvested, but on many projects the water on hand did not serve to mature a second crop. Much grain was cut for fodder. Gardens and the potato crop were largely destroyed. Streams and springs failed and ranges deteriorated. Near the close of the month many ranchers were buying feed for their stock or preparing to ship them to pastures out of the State."

*U.S. official record high temperature is 134 at Death Valley, California, recorded on July 10, 1913.

Nevada's Coldest Month: Tie between January 1937 & December 1990

Old timers may remember 1937, the chilliest month in Nevada's history. (The coldest winter season was 1948-49.) In fact, two separate cold waves in Jan. 1937 kept the Silver State in the deep freeze and set many all-time record low temperatures for Nevada and California that still stand. The U.S. Climatological Data report says it all: "January 1937 was the coldest month for the State as a whole since records were kept. New low temperatures were established at many stations in the northern and western portions of the State.

The extreme cold snap of December 1990 broke many longstanding temperature records.

Precipitation was above normal at most stations, well distributed over the State, and occurred mostly in the form of snow. Heavy snows covered most of the range growth and necessitated heavy feeding of livestock. Drifts that blocked outlying roads most of the month have also hampered the moving and feeding of livestock. Crusted snow has prohibited the use of part of the winter range area. Several lives were lost in widely scattered portions of the State due to extreme cold and snowbound highways."

The brutal cold wave of 1937 began when a frigid air mass rolled into the Great Basin during the first week of January, which sent the mercury plummeting until minus 50 set a new State record at San Jacinto in Elko County on the 8th. (The previous record of 45 below zero — set on December 19, 1924 — also occurred at San Jacinto, a mile-high basin located near the Idaho border.) Reno plunged to minus 16 in Jan. 1937, just three degrees shy of the city's record low of –19 set in January 1890.

A second Arctic intrusion bulldozed into the region 10 days later and reinforced the frigid air already entrenched in the Intermountain West. On January 20, 1937, weather observers at Boca, California noted a thermometer reading 45 below zero, the Golden State's all-time lowest recorded temperature. Overnight temperatures in eastern Nevada were in the deadly subzero range, minus 30s and 40s during January 1937, but in the usually milder western valleys conditions were only slightly better. Downtown Reno plunged to –16 on January 8, exactly 47 years to the day of the city's all-time record low, set on January 8, 1890.

Far to the south in Las Vegas, gamblers were chilled to the bone when the thermometer dropped to 10 on January 22. For the State as a whole that month, the mean temperature was only 13.5, nearly 16 degrees below the average for the previous 49 years. Las Vegas reported the highest monthly mean temperature

A bitter east wind on Lake Tahoe in Dec. 1990 coated the lake's west shore in ice.

— a chilly 33.6. That average was downright balmy compared to the monthly mean of only 5 experienced by residents at Battle Mountain. Nevadans struggled with broken water pipes, dead batteries and frozen radiators in their automobiles and also had to deal with plenty of snow. More than 26" fell in Reno, 32" in Carson City, and more than 6 feet at Marlette Lake, most in the State. Hundreds of travelers were stranded across Nevada by the deadly combination of cold temperatures and drifting snow. For more than 60 years, January 1937 has retained the crown as the coldest month in State history, but the weatherwise citizen will always give respect to the severe cold snap of December 1990.

December 1990 was one of the coldest months since records were first kept in the Silver State more than a century ago. In fact, it shares the podium with the coldest month of all, January 1937. The other winners in the "Top Ten" coldest months include January 1890, January 1913, January 1917, December 1924, December 1932, January 1949, December 1972, and February 1989. During the brutal cold snap of December 1990, at least 16 locations, with between 30 and 113 years of record, set new low temperatures for any month, with 2 to 3 times that many just missing all-time lows but establishing new minima for December. The State's long-standing December low of minus 45, set in 1924 in San Jacinto was broken, as minus 46 was recorded at Mountain City during the peak of the pre-Christmas cold snap. (The – 46 at Mountain City ranks second only to the minus 50 set in January 1937 as Nevada's all-time lowest temperature.)

It is estimated that 175 – 200 inches of snow fell near Mt. Rose in February 1986.

The 1990 Arctic intrusion plunged deep into Nevada; Boulder City dropped to 9, exceeding the 1937 record by 2. Carson City registered a minus 19 and Reno recorded a minimum of 13 below zero. The coldest air during this event settled in over the central and eastern portions of the Silver State where many observers reported all-time record lows for ANY month with temperatures below minus 40 in several locations, but residents and visitors in western Nevada also shivered during this severe cold wave. In the Sierra only the bravest skiers and boarders ventured out to the slopes where frostbite warnings were posted; on Slide Mountain the wind chill registered 52 below zero. Other Sierra stations reported brutally cold readings; South Lake Tahoe fell to 17 below zero; Markleeville 25 below; and Truckee hit minus 28.

All-Time Minimum Temperatures for Any Month set in December 1990

Location

December 1990

Previous Low

Date

Years of Record

Mountain City

-46

-40

Jan. 1962

50+

Beowawe

-43

-42

Dec. 1924

102

Deeth

-42

-36

Jan. 1963

50

Vya

-42

-33

Dec. 1972

50

Gibbs Ranch

-38

-33

Feb. 1982

50

Winnemucca

-37

-36

Jan. 1937

113

Wells

-36

-32

Feb. 1949

73

Ruth

-34

-33

Dec. 1972

50+

Ruby Lake

-29

-26

Jan. 1957

51

Jarbidge

-28

-22

Jan. 1937

50

Metropolis

-25

-12

Feb. 1985

50

Mina

-23

-22

Jan. 1890

101

Virginia City

-12

-11

Dec. 1972

50

Pahrump

-2

+6

Feb. 1989

50

Desert NWR

+3

8

Jan. 1963

51

Logandale

7

8

Jan. 1937

50

Boulder City

9

11

Jan. 1937

60

Other December 1990 temperatures of minus 40 or below: Wildhorse Reservoir 42 below zero and Pine Valley 40 below zero

Much of the Nevada weather data posted here was previously published in the Nevada Climate Summary, a monthly review issued by John W. James, State Climatologist. Nevada Climate Summaries are available at Nevada libraries. More information may be obtained by email.

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