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Extension > Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk > Snowy start to February

Friday, February 8, 2013

Snowy start to February

Snowy start to February

Many observers (including MSP and St Cloud) reported six consecutive days with measurable snowfall to start out the month. In the Twin Cities it was only the 3rd time historically (back to 1871) that 6 consecutive days in February have brought measurable snowfall, and the only time this occurred during the first 6 days. At St Cloud it was only the 2nd time in history that it has snowed measurably on six or more consecutive days in February, and the only time this has happened over the first six days as well. In some areas significant amounts (6 or more inches) have fallen, more than the total snowfall from last month (January 2013) for many. The increasing snow depth may help stabilize frost depths in the soil. Current frost depths around the state range from 18 to 30 inches.

Thursday night (Feb 7) brought freezing drizzle and freezing rain to southeastern Minnesota (from Rochester over to Winona), coating sidewalks and roads with a thin sheet of ice. There were scores of accidents reported for a time, with a number of spin outs on I90.

Correction to last week's listener question

Last week I was asked about the snowiest February in state history and I said I thought it was 1936 at Winona when February brought them 36 inches of snowfall. I was mistaken. Both 1922 and 1939 brought heavy February snows to central and northern Minnesota communities. In 1922 three observers reported over 40 inches for the month: Milaca (41"), Detroit Lakes (43"), and Two Harbors (47"). In 1939 three locations also reported over 40 inches in February: Two Harbors (45.5"), Grand Marais (49.2"), and Pigeon River Bridge (51"). The 51 inches at Pigeon River Bridge in 1939 is the state record for February.

Weekly Weather potpourri

A massive and intense winter storm was affecting many northeastern states on Friday of this week. Heavy snowfalls, high winds, and blizzard conditions were expected in several areas. A wide swath of snowfall amounts from 18-24 inches was expected, with some of the higher elevations forecasted to get up to 3 feet of new snow. Obviously many communities will be socked in over the weekend. The National Weather Service Office in Boston was posting frequent updates.

Earlier this week the Detroit News ran a story about Lake Huron and Lake Michigan being at all-time low lake levels. The low water marks broke a record set back in 1964. Obviously drought has played a role in this, and perhaps also higher lake evaporation rates. Each of the Great Lakes currently sits at a water level well below the long term mean.

Brad Rippey of the USDA, World Agricultural Outlook Board offered the following highlights in his drought briefing this week:
- Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased to 56.84% of the contiguous U.S., down 0.84% from last week and down 5.81% in the last ten weeks. (Mostly on the strength of widespread precipitation across the eastern half of the U.S. and parts of the Southwest.
- However, the portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category – D4, or exceptional drought – rose nearly one-half percentage point to 6.85%. D4 coverage has ranged from 5 to 7% for 26 consecutive weeks (August 14, 2012 – February 5, 2013).
- The percent of hay in drought (59%) and winter wheat in drought (59%) were unchanged from a week ago. Cattle in drought (68%) fell one percentage point. For the 31st consecutive week (July 10, 2012 – February 5, 2013), drought encompassed more than two-thirds of the domestic cattle inventory.

Some roads out of Kabul, Afghanistan were closed for four days this week as heavy snow fell over parts of the country. Up to 10 feet of snow was reported in some of the mountain areas and 37 deaths were associated with this storm. The storm moved on to dump more snow over northern India on areas above 2000 feet in elevation.
NOAA scientists have not detected an El Nino or La Nina episode in the equatorial Pacific Ocean for some period of time now, calling the present condition "neutral state." This week NASA scientists suggested naming the "neutral" ENSO state La Nada. The present La Nada state may last for an unusually long period of time. You can read more about this here.

MPR listener question

Last week you answered a question about snowy Februarys. I wondered what is the heaviest daily snowfall that has occurred in February?

Answer: The Twin Cities daily record snowfall in February is 11.8 inches on February 20, 2011. On a statewide basis Detroit Lakes received 25 inches on February 23, 1922, the most ever.

Twin Cities Almanac for February 8th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 22 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 5 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for February 8th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 50 degrees F in 1991 and 2002; lowest daily maximum temperature of -19 degrees F in 1899; lowest daily minimum temperature of -29 F in 1899; highest daily minimum temperature of 36 F in 1966; and record precipitation of 1.08 inches in 1966; Record snowfall is 5.0 inches in 1905.

Average dew point for February 8th is 3 degrees F, with a maximum of 39 degrees F in 1966 and a minimum of -32 degrees F in 1971.

All-time state records for February 8th

The state record high temperature for this date is 66 degrees F at Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) in 1991. The state record low temperature for this date is -55 degrees F at Warroad (Roseau County) in 1933. State record precipitation for this date is 1.35 inches at St James (Watonwan County) in 1947; and the state record snowfall for this date is 15.0 inches at Grand Marais (Cook County) in 1937.

Past Weather Features:

An Arctic air mass invaded the state over February 7-11, 1899 bringing record-setting temperatures. Many areas of the state reported low temperatures of -40 degrees F or colder. On February 8th Leech Lake reported a high temperature of -33 degrees F, and the temperature fell to -59 degrees F by the next morning. A warmer air mass arrived by mid month pushing daytime temperatures into the 40s F. Still 1899 brought the 5th coldest February in state history.

February 7-8, 1933 brought another Arctic outbreak to Minnesota. Temperatures plummeted to record lows for many observers. Six observers reported a low temperature of -50 degrees F or colder. It was -32 degrees F in New Ulm and a number of places remained colder than -20 F all day.

Over February 7-8, 1937 a strong winter storm brought a foot or more of snow to many parts of central and northern Minnesota. Some schools were closed, along with some roads which were blocked by five foot drifts of snow. The snow was welcome following the 1936 drought.

A strong storm brought mixed precipitation to central and southern Minnesota counties over February 8-9, 1966. The storm produced a good deal of ice in central counties where there were a number of traffic accidents reported. In southeastern Minnesota heavy rains fell on frozen ground and produced some local flooding.

February 6-8, 1987 brought unusual warmth to western and southern Minnesota as daytime temperatures soared into the 50s and 60s at several locations. The warm string of days took the frost out of the soil across southern and western Minnesota. Temperatures continued warm and February 1987 was one of the warmest in state history.

Outlook

Cloudy but somewhat mild day on Saturday with temperatures in the 30s and 40s F. Major winter storm potential starting on late Saturday night and into Sunday, with mixed precipitation, heavy at times crossing the state SW to NE. Winds will also increase on Sunday evening into Monday morning, with blizzard conditions expected in some areas. Many communities will receive significant amounts of precipitation, and freezing rain is a possibility in southern locations. Lingering chance of snow on Monday, then drier and cooler on Tuesday. Another chance for snow later in the week on Thursday and Friday.

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