Whiteface sees record cold temps


A chart showing the past week of temperatures at the summit of Whiteface Mountain
The Atmospheric Sciences Research Center’s website shows the temperature on Whiteface Mountain at minus 39 degrees Fahrenheit Friday evening.

Breaks previous record from February 2016

By Mike Lynch

The summit of Whiteface Mountain fell to minus 40.2 degrees Fahrenheit at about 3 a.m. Saturday February 4, setting the record for the coldest recorded temperature there.

The wind chill temperature fell to negative 91 at 1:45 a.m., also a record low for the mountain.

“That speaks to the cold front and how dense the air is. It’s just an abnormally cold air mass that goes pretty deep up into the atmosphere,” said Scott McKim, science manager at the Whiteface Mountain field station of the University at Albany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center.

The station recorded the previous record, minus 38.9 degrees Fahrenheit, overnight on Valentine’s Day in February 2016. The center has operated the Whiteface weather station at the summit since the 1940s. 

The summit of Whiteface Mountain. Explorer file photo by Mike Lynch
A view of Whiteface Mountain from state Route 86. Explorer file photo by Mike Lynch
A screenshot from the research station’s website at 6:20 p.m. Friday.

McKim said that record cold temperatures typically occur when a shallow layer of cold air settles close to the earth. When that happens, the summit will be warmer than the surface as an inversion occurs. But polar vortexes are more vertical, and the one that moved into the area Friday resulted in frigid temperatures up high. 

At 4,867 feet, Whiteface Mountain is the fifth-highest mountain in New York. It is located in Wilmington, about 12 miles away from Lake Placid.

Whiteface’s base at 2,000 feet saw a temperature of minus 25.75 at 3:23 a.m., which McKim said was also a record. Temperatures at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid fell to minus 30 overnight. The temperature dropped to 38 degrees below zero in Harrisburg in the northwestern Adirondacks.

The previous record of about minus 83 occurred overnight on Valentine’s Day in February 2016. At the time, an outside agency inaccurately reported the wind chill to be negative 114 degrees, and that number has been circulating since that time, but McKim said that number isn’t accurate.

Friday McKim had anticipated the temperature will continue to drop into the night. 

“Sometime over the night would be the lowest point (when) the core of the coldest air rotates east of us at that point,” he said. 

Due to the extremely cold weather, the state Department of Environmental Conservation advised people to avoid traveling into the backcountry.

(Correction: The Explorer has updated this article to reflect that the previous wind chill record from February 2016 was about minus 83 degrees Fahrenheit, not negative 114.)

About Mike Lynch

Mike Lynch is a multimedia reporter for the Adirondack Explorer. He can be reached at mike@adirondackexplorer.org. Sign up for Mike’s newsletter

Reader Interactions


  1. Abner says

    I’ve been around for nigh on seven decades in the Adirondacks. In my earlier years I remember temperatures not reaching above zero for daytime highs for a week or two at a stretch. 30 35 40 below. You could spit in the air and it would crackle and freeze before it hit the ground. Now we have a couple cold days and people are talking about it like it has never happened before. I would put long underwear on in November and not take it off until March, different pairs of course. Personally I think the really cold weather is good for the environment.

    • nathan says

      I’m with you Abner, i remember those weeks of below zero and often -25 to -30, with rare dips to -35 and i remember once as a kid grandpa pointing to the thermomiter and point out it was -41 and not a single vehicle would start, not even the snowmobile.. wood stove roaring and frost on the inside of the windows upstairs.
      I definitely hate how the weather stations act like its some new record, or inflate snow storms, been way worse as a kid and will likely never beat and records for cold or snowfall while man exists….A new record high is realistic now. just like you will never catch a record fish in Adirondacks unless it’s a snake head invasive!

  2. Lorraine Pantaleo says

    I sure do remember some very cold days and a lot of snow but always those big
    snowplows pushing snow on Route 9 to both sides. Up until age 19, I lived in
    Westport, Port Henry, etc. Now, I am downstate in Westchester County. Have not
    seen any snow piles in my yard this year. A good weekend to stay in and stay
    warm. I love the Adirondacks.

  3. Valleyhiker says

    All the news outlets are hailing Mount Washington’s -106 as the national record… Why, if whiteface hit -114 in 2016?

    • Richard says

      Yes, and the scroll at bottom of screen on cnn consistently reported Mt Washington as being in MAINE. Shows to go ya. 😉

  4. Al West says

    I too remember very cold temperatures in Warrensburgh about 1967 or 1968. Coldest was minus 42. Would “warm up” to zero during the daytime. You would bput your name on a list for the garage to come jump start your car.

  5. Orson says

    I remember, in the late 60’s in Keene Valley when everyone was calling neighbors about this scary slow howling noise that everyone could hear. Turns out the fire alarm at the fire station was tripped and the cold affected the siren. It was a solid 40 below zero.

  6. Stilt says

    Stayed out at Marcy dam[when it was a dam] in the early eighties overnight and it hit 22 below. It was that night when I decided upon my new sleeping bag to replace the older down one that I had.

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