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Cache area hits bone-chilling minus 5 degrees

Now, that's cold!

Utah may still be in the last stages of summer, meteorologically speaking, but when chilly temperatures dipped into the state this past week, autumn — and winter — seemed shiveringly close at hand.

Salt Lake residents, for example, may have thought they were waking to chilly temperatures on Thursday — the low was 38 degrees, recorded at 6:02 a.m. But two researchers who hiked into a natural sink near Logan were an amazing 43 degrees colder.

A bone-numbing minus 5 degrees greeted Zane Stephens and Tim Wright that morning when they drove and hiked into Peter Sink, 30 miles east-northeast of Logan. The site in Logan Canyon also has the dubious distinction of hosting Utah's lowest temperature ever recorded, minus 69 on Feb. 1, 1985.

Stephens, a private consulting meteorologist with his own service, WeatherZane, is employed by Bridgerland Applied Technology College. Wright is with the Utah Climate Center, and Stephens is associated with the center.

"Well, it was chilly," Stephens quipped in a telephone interview.

The minus 5 reading was unusual, he added. "We figure, though, about every other year we'll hit below zero in September up there in Peter Sink." Usually that happens later in the month, he said.

At an altitude of 8,000 feet, the air temperature was 20 degrees. Then they drove into the basin that is Peter Sink, which often captures air inversions. Below the sink's rim-like formation, "it's just like driving into a big bathtub," he said.

Cold air flows into the basin like water flowing into a bathtub. It settles to the bottom, and the farther one goes into the basin, the lower the temperature falls.

"As we drove down into it, temperature dropped from 20 degrees to 15 to 10, very quickly," he said. That happened within about 30 vertical feet from the top of the inversion.

"You hit the inversion like hitting a brick wall," he said — the difference in the temperature of the clear air is that palpable.

About halfway down they got out of their vehicle and hiked. Four inches of snow covered the ground.


E-MAIL: bau@desnews.com