Why is Truckee so cold?
Truckee, CA temperatures are almost always the coldest in the Lake Tahoe area. What geographical factors contribute to this?
- UALogLv 71 decade agoFavorite Answer
Similar to Bodie and Mammoth Lakes, altitude and topography are primary factors in Truckee’s elite status as a nationally recognized cold spot. Located at the Truckee-Tahoe Airport, the official thermometer is situated at 5,900 feet above sea level. Since the atmosphere cools at an average lapse rate of about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet gained in elevation, Truckee’s average low temperatures are about 20 degrees cooler than sea level locations.
Topography also plays a vital role in this equation. On clear nights, cool air from the high mountains surrounding the airport sinks downslope and into the Martis Valley, a high-elevation basin. This dense air mass settles into the airport basin, creating a chilled microclimate. The fact that the airport thermometer is located within this cold air drainage contributes significantly to Truckee’s nippy readings. This is why the coolest temperatures are recorded at the Truckee-Tahoe Airport, not at the U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station above town.
Truckee records the bulk of its “coldest in the nation” readings from late spring through early fall. High pressure tends to dominate West Coast weather during the summer and autumn months. This large, semi-stationary air mass forces vigorous cold fronts to track far to the north, providing the Sierra Nevada with a mild and dry summertime climate. The air under this dome of high pressure contains very little moisture. With low levels of humidity in the air, there is nothing to trap and hold the sun’s heat. As soon as the sun sets, temperatures plummet. The same principle applies to deserts, known for scorching heat during the day followed by frigid nights.
This high-pressure regime also fosters calm, windless evenings in Sierra basins, which inhibits atmospheric mixing. Without breezes to stir up the night air, the dense cooler air settles to the ground with warmer air aloft. This nocturnal inversion, known as such because air aloft is normally colder than at the surface, keeps Truckee’s average minimal morning temperatures near the airport hovering in the upper 30s during the summer.
In addition, Truckee’s typically cloud-free evening sky allows accumulated daytime heat to escape rapidly back into the atmosphere, a dynamic known as radiational cooling. Another component that contributes to extreme temperature fluctuations is distance from any large body of water. Oceans and large lakes, like Tahoe, heat up and cool off slowly while land surfaces gain and lose heat much more rapidly. Truckee’s afternoon temperatures are usually significantly higher than those recorded near Lake Tahoe, but at night plunge quickly, and are often 10 degrees colder by sunrise, even more during winter.
Because Truckee is often the nation’s coldest spot on early summer mornings, the town’s reputation is considered a tongue-in-cheek joke among locals who enjoy the Sierra’s relatively balmy winters. Despite this chilling combination of topographic and atmospheric ingredients, the local Chamber of Commerce has little to worry about. Truckee’s frosty mornings are offset by rapid daytime heating, so its monthly average temperatures, especially in winter, are much warmer than the real cold spots in the hinterlands of Minnesota, Montana, and Wyoming.
Even on summer days when it isn’t the nation’s icebox, Truckee usually is within a few degrees of America’s other famous cold cities — West Yellowstone, Montana, Stanley, Idaho, and Frazier, Colorado. Just for the record, out of the last 20 years, Truckee has made the top five rankings 11 times. And three of those years, 1991, 1993 and 1994, Truckee claimed the dubious honor of coldest spot in the nation, excluding Alaska.
- JLv 41 decade ago
Because its in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Truckee has been known for one of the coldest places in the nation. Lately in Truckee we have been experiencing 13 below. Depending where you are at in Truckee, you can be all the way at 6000 feet elevation. This can make a big difference. Especially because Truckee is surrounded by mountain ranges, its in a canyon and experiences some really high winds. I think the coldest times in Truckee are right after it snows because there is no cloud cover. When there is cloud cover in Truckee, the weather tends to be a little warmer in the winter time. It has been so cold here that even my tires have froze to the ground. It is definitely known as the coldest place in California. Could be a reason for why we have the best snow! But we also hit about 95 this summer, so Truckee isn't always cold! Why do you think the Donner Party got stuck here??Source(s): Have lived in Truckee my whole life
- 1 decade ago
One reason is that it is one of a very few stations so high up. They only use official temperature readings, and Truckee happens to be the highest official station in the area. Normally the higher you go, the colder the temperatures get.
Now, this does not pertain to Truckee, but, if an airport is located in a valley, since cold air sinks, it will be colder at night than at places outside the valley. On a clear, calm, cold night, Valleys can be as much as 10 degrees colder than other places.
The reason for Truckee being so cold is because of its location - being the highest official station in the area. Areas higher in elevation will be colder than Truckee is.Source(s): I am a Meteorologst with the National Weather Service, www.srh.noaa.gov
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- 7 years ago
Alturas is actually probably the coldest place in California, it's usually about 2-5 degrees colder than truckee at night. Just like truckee though the high can be in the upper 50s and drop down to single digits by early morning.Source(s): I check the state extremes every day on wunderground.
- Anonymous4 years ago
Truckee ElevationSource(s): https://shrink.im/a9DaD
- andyg77Lv 71 decade ago
My guess would be its elevation which is about 5800 feet. I lived in Payson, Az which is about 5000 feet and the winters were very cold. I moved to the Yuma area and it is a lot warmer. Usually around 20 to 25 degrees warmer than Payson.
- Anonymous6 years ago
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- 6 years ago
so luna nm wont be the coldest
- ?Lv 41 decade ago
global warmingSource(s): al gore