Temperature records were tumbling across the region early Wednesday — and as anticipated, the thermometer at the infamous Peter Sink northeast of Logan logged another all-time low for the entire nation.
Since temperature records have been kept for the continental United States, there has never been a colder thermometer reading on any October day than the minus-45.5 degrees Fahrenheit seen Wednesday morning at Peter Sink.
Earlier this week, the location had already set the October record for the lower 48 states with a Monday morning low of minus-35 degrees. Now the record for the entire United States — a 45-below-zero degree reading on Oct. 31, 1975, in Clearwater, Alaska — has fallen.
“The low temperature at Peter Sink this morning was minus-45.5, which will officially be rounded off as minus-46,” said meteorologist Zane Stephens, who has spent years studying temperature inversions at the geological depressions known as “the Sinks,” about 30 miles northeast of Logan.
Stephens noted a remarkable aspect of Wednesday’s record was a 45-degree variance between the rim and the bottom of Peter Sink, both of which have weather stations.
“That’s incredible,” he said. “That’s all within a couple of steps in some cases. I’ve walked into that inversion, and it’s amazing to feel the temperature drop 30 to 40 degrees in such a short distance.”
Elsewhere Wednesday morning, record-shattering temperatures were recorded on both sides of the Bear River Range. Jon Meyer of the Utah Climate Center at Utah State University said Randolph reached minus-22 degrees, Franklin Basin minus-10 and Paradise minus-2.
At the time he was interviewed by The Herald Journal on Wednesday, Meyer had yet to get the official temperature on campus, but the unofficial 5-degree reading he cited would far exceed the previous record low for this day set in 1971.
“We broke the record by far; it’s just a matter of how much,” he said.
Why is it so cold so early in the run-up to winter?
“The jet stream right now is drawing down a lot of Arctic air,” Meyer said. “There is strong low pressure over the Central U.S. and strong high pressure over West Coast, and the wind between the two is bringing us this extreme weather.”
Stephens called the air flow a “super Arctic air mass” — a phenomena that occurs every four or five years, only in this case much earlier than usual.
“This is probably the earliest super Arctic air mass I’ve seen in the 30 years that I’ve been studying air masses around the world and studying records back into the 1800s,” he said.
Long-range forecasts call for the weather to get back to normal temperatures, or even higher than normal temperatures, as November progresses.
There is also some relief in store just in time for trick-or-treaters on Halloween night. Meyer said the mercury should be hovering in the low 30s between 5 and 8 p.m. on Thursday.