By Lynn Arave
OK, you think 4 degrees above zero is cold? Try minus 69 degrees below zero.
A small, tub-shaped mountain valley, located about five miles northwest of the Bear Lake Summit, along U.S. 89, is the coldest spot in Utah.
It dipped to a -69 degree reading on Feb. 1, 1985. That's the all-time record for the coldest known temperature in the Beehive State.
This alpine sinkhole, elevation 8,100 feet above sea level, is similar to the often-seen middle and upper "Sinks,' located just south of U.S. 89, as it climbs to the Bear Lake overlook summit.
Wayne Arave explores, Peter Sinks, a mountain sinkhole, where cold air can be trapped.
(Those "Sinks") are snowmobile havens in winter, but only the most ambitious snowmobilers venture into Peter Sinks. Some deer hunters and ranchers may also occasionally visit there.)
Some local weathermen were the ones who discovered this uninhabited hole in the early 1980s.
"Cold" can simply be defined as the absence of heat. And, cold will always settle in the lowest place.
There used to be underground caverns in this area, near Logan Canyon, and when they collapsed, the sinks were created.
Middle and Upper Sinks are extra cold places too, but not quite as cold as Peter Sinks.
All it takes for record-cold temperatures in these sink hole areas are: a temperature inversion, a good snowpack, a lack of wind and a long winter night.
Peter Sinks is large, about a mile long and three-fourths of a mile wide.
Few, outside weather experts, ever visit Peter Sinks.
Actually more like a "dam" for cold air, the temperature at the middle (bottom) of Peter Sinks may be as much as 15-20 degrees colder than the air nearby. That's because cold air is so dense, it pools and can be trapped easily in these sinks.
This extra cold air is also why no trees and little vegetation can survive inside these sink holes.
(That's how these "Sinks" were discovered -- when weather experts felt the cold air leaking out from these depressions.
Thermometers have been known to freeze solid inside Peter Sinks, trying to capture readings of its frigid air.
Since these sink holes are still sinking, they may even become somewhat colder in the future.
Above/below: Lynn Arave in the depths and heights of Peter Sinks.
Even in summer, Peter Sinks can be a pretty cool place. for example, one summer day some years ago, it was 99 degrees in Logan, but only 84 in Peter Sinks.
Peter Sinks is located two small mountain peaks over to the south of Middle Sinks.
Peter Sinks is almost a square-mile wide, isolated valley.
-Adapted from a story by Lynn Arave in the Deseret News, Aug. 8, 1990.
-Photos by Wayne Arave and Lynn Arave.
-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at: email@example.com