Why are the temperatures 20 to 30 degrees colder than surrounding areas in Bodie State Park, California?

Ask Tom Why
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Dear Tom,

I have been noticing that Bodie State Park in California frequently records the nation’s lowest daily temperature. Why are the temperatures there 20 to 30 degrees colder than surrounding areas?

George R. Evert Jr.
Prairie View

Dear George,

The answer is elevation. Bodie State Park is located at an elevation of 8,379 feet and so it is a chilly location.

On average, temperatures decline 5.4 degrees per thousand feet of height gain in clear, dry air (but only about three degrees in saturated, foggy air). Because of its elevation, higher than most observation stations in the United States, it tends to be cold. This is especially true at this time of year (the autumn), before really cold arctic air masses invade the country and give other high-elevation stations that are located farther north a greater likelihood of recording very low temperatures.


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