Arkansas Cold Extremes

Cold Extremes

Data Limitations

Arkansas generally has good quality long-term data records for cold temperature values, however, the consistency of cumulative years on record vary by station. The majority of stations consist of a large record dating back up to the 19th century, however, some station locations include gaps in records that could be subject to technical issues or changes in monitoring location.

Definition and Description

Cold Extremes

A cold wave is generally characterized by a sharp and significant drop of air temperature near the surface (maximum, minimum, and daily average) over a large area and persisting below certain thresholds for a localized minimum number of days (WMO 2016).

Note: There is no universally-recognized metric for what constitutes a cold extreme. The World Meteorological Organization recommends characterizing a cold wave by its magnitude, duration, severity, and extent. Magnitude is defined as a temperature drop below certain threshold(s), either as an absolute value or percentiles. These values must be determined by the local climatology.


Cold extremes occur when polar and arctic air is displaced from polar regions toward the equator. The lack of sunlight in polar regions during winter allows the buildup of cold, dense air. Wiggles in the jet stream allow equator-ward (southward in the Northern Hemisphere) transport of cold air into the continental United States. High-amplitude jet-stream patterns (a series of large troughs and ridges in the upper atmosphere around the globe) allow air masses to move from their source regions.

Historical Data

Temperature Trends Dashboard

(1970-2023)Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program

This tool shows temperature trends at individual stations across Arkansas, including trends in extremely cold nights, seasonal extreme and average high/low temperatures, and heating degree days, since 1970.

1. At the top of the tool, click the Extreme Cold, Heating and Cooling Degree Days, Seasonal Averages, or Seasonal Extremes tab. 2. The default station is in Abilene, TX. To choose a station nearest to you, use the map on the right. Zoom in and click any of the blue dots to change stations. You can also select a station under the Station dropdown menu on the left of the page 3. Use the graph to determine the trend (if any) for your selection. Solid lines represent significant trends. 4. Mouse over individual data points to view more information. 5. For seasonal selections, make sure Winter is selected in the Season drop-down menu on the left of the screen.

Record Low Temperatures

(Period of record varies by station; up to ~140 years) Southern Regional Climate Center

The SRCC’s Climate Extremes Tool displays the lowest temperature ever recorded at individual stations.

1. Under Product, select All-Time Records. 2. Under Variable, select Low Min Temperature. 3. Click Submit. 4. Temperature record is displayed on the map (pan, zoom-in or -out if needed). Mouse over station to determine its period of record and day on which the record occurred.

Average Freeze Dates

(1991-2020)National Weather Service-Little Rock, AR

This static map shows the average date of the first freeze (Fall) across Arkansas. A link to a map of the average date of the last freeze (Spring) is located below the map. The maps can be used to understand the times of the year in which you might experience temperatures below freezing for your area.

1. Scroll to middle of page to view the maps. 2. Click on map of interest from the following: First Freeze (Fall) or Last Freeze (Spring). 3. You can also obtain frost and freeze information for individual stations by scrolling down the page a bit and clicking on the drop-down menu, then Get Info!

Wind Chill Days and Hours

(1973-2023) Midwest Regional Climate Center

This set of maps depict the average number of days, day with 3 or more hours, and average number of hours per year with wind chill values at or below a variety of thresholds (e.g., 15°F, 0°F, -10°F).

1. Near the top of the page, click on the map link of interest out of the three options: Average Number of Days, Days with 3 or More Hours, or Average Number of Hours. Right above the map, mouse over the wind chill temperature value of interest to view the corresponding data on the map. 3. To interpret the colors, see the legend on the top-right side of the map. 4. To view more detailed information, such as station data, click the GIS Maps button on the top right of the page.

Average Annual Heating Degree Days

(1895-present)NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

This graph shows the average annual heating degree days (HDD) and trend over time, a measurement used to quantify the demand for energy needed to heat buildings.

1. Within the Parameter drop-down menu, choose Heating Degree Days. 2. Within Time Scale, choose Annual. 3. Within Start Year, choose desired start year. 4. Within State, choose Arkansas. 5. Within Climate Division, choose desired region of interest. 6. Under Options box, check Display Base Period and select 1991 and 2020 to show the most recent 30-year trend. 7. Check Display Trend, select per Decade, 1895, and present year to show the longterm trend and decadal change. 8. Click Plot button. Note: A few seconds are required to generate the graph.

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