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Extension > Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk > Alberta Clipper Month

Friday, February 6, 2015

Alberta Clipper Month

Visited by Alberta Clippers:

Following a warm January, February so far has been consistently colder than normal by several degrees in most areas of Minnesota and we have been visited by Alberta Clipper snow storms, notably on the 1st and on the 3rd of the month. The snowfall has generally been light, especially in northern areas, but some observers have reported over 3 inches this month.  Rochester reported a new daily record snowfall amount of 3.9 inches on the 3rd.  Some of the greater snowfall amounts across southern counties include:  Examples include:  6 inches at Albert Lea, Blue Earth, and Caledonia; over 7 inches at Winnebago, Lanesboro, and Bricelyn;  8.4 inches at Grand Meadow; and 10 inches at Faribault.  There will be another chance for snow early next week.

Alberta Clippers are characterized by a rapidly moving frontal system, moving across the Minnesota landscape from northwest to southeast.  It typically brings snow this time of year, but not a great deal of snow.  Additionally Alberta Clippers usually usher in colder air from higher latitude.  Such was the case this week as many northern climate stations reported some overnight lows in the -20s°F, with Ely falling to -30°F and Embarrass and Cotton reporting -31°F.  With 7 inches of Alberta Clipper delivered snow on the ground, even Preston (Fillmore County) in southeastern Minnesota fell to -21°F this week.  These were the coldest temperatures since the first half of January. 

Revised Outlook for February from NOAA-CPC:


The NOAA-Climate Prediction Center revised their February Outlook last Saturday on the last date in January.  They did not change the precipitation outlook which remains as equal chances for above or below normal values during February across Minnesota.  However, they did revise the temperature outlook to favor above normal temperatures during February across the western half of the state.  We are likely to see this pattern materialize next week as temperatures climb into the 30s F, then dip again, and rebound later in the month.

Kudos to MPR for Their Climate Change Reporting:


I must say that in my travels around the state this week I have heard many compliments about MPR’s coverage of climate change in Minnesota.  Listeners and users of the MPR web site have commented on how educational this reporting has been and it has raised their awareness and comprehension about how important climate change is to managing our natural resources (forests and water) as well as our societal infrastructure (transportation, energy, agriculture, and public health). So I would like to send kudos to the producers and reporters who put all of this material together for the stories that were presented.  Many hope the material and stories will remain available on the web site into the future.  You can find more about this at MPR NEWS.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:


The National Weather Service reported this week that for the first time in history San Francisco reported no measurable precipitation in the month of January.  Since the 19th Century Gold Rush days (165 years ago) this has never happened there.  February is expected to bring the opposite starting this Friday, with rain in the forecast throughout the weekend and into Monday.  In fact heavy showers are expected in many areas.

NOAA released a report this week suggesting that dead zones ­coastal regions where bottom waters are so low in dissolved oxygen during the summer that marine life can’t survive­ are expected to increase in both size and number as climate change intensifies. This will mandate more mitigation actions to preserve the health of coastal waterways, especially those relied upon for fishing and recreational usage.  You can read more details from the NOAA Study.

Record-setting snowfalls were reported from northern Japan over the past week, with some mountainous areas getting over 5 feet.  Snowplows had to work extra hard to keep roads open, but it was great for snow festivals, providing plenty of snow for artists to make sculptures.

For those of you you like to read about the history of instruments I would encourage you to browse the web site of the "Radiosonde Museum of North America." The collection there includes a huge variety of instruments that have been sent to the top of the atmosphere tethered to a balloon.  There are also some great historical photographs.

A new MOOC online course is available to look at climate change in the Great Lakes Region.  This course is offered through the University of Wisconsin-Madison and may be of interest to some who want to learn more about how climate change is affecting the region we live in.

Brad Rippey of the USDA offered the following Drought Briefing this week:

January featured very warm weather in the West, dramatic temperature fluctuations on the Great Plains, and cold conditions in the Northeast.  California experienced not only warm weather, but also had near-record January dryness, following a wet December.  California’s U.S.-leading coverage of exceptional drought (D4) rose to 40% by February 3, up from 32% on January 6.  One of the biggest concerns facing California is the lack of high-elevation snowpack in primary watersheds.  By early February, the Sierra Nevada snowpack contained an average of just 4 inches of liquid, only about one-fifth of normal for this time of year.  On February 3, more than one-third (37%) of the nation’s winter wheat production area­ mainly across the southern Plains, mid-South, and interior Northwest ­was located within a drought-affected region.  The Midwest remains mostly drought-free, although a large area of abnormal dryness (D0) has developed across the upper Midwest­ stretching from the Dakotas into Minnesota.  On February 3, drought covered 8% of the U.S. corn production area and 9% of the soybean area. 


MPR Listener Question:


It seems that we hardly ever get any significant snowfalls in February. We are cross country skiers and we were hoping for some more snow this week, but we got very little here in Roseville. What is the greatest daily snowfall in the Twin Cities during February?


Answer:


You are quite right.  Compared to other months, daily snowfall extremes during February are rather small.  The greatest daily amount I can find for a 24-hour period in the Twin Cities record (1872-2014) is 11.8 inches which fell on February 20, 2011.


Twin Cities Almanac for February 6th:


The average MSP high temperature for this date is 23 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 6 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for February 6th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 51 degrees F in 1925; lowest daily maximum temperature of -13 degrees F in 1936; lowest daily minimum temperature is -24 degrees F in 1875 and 1936; highest daily minimum temperature of 34 F in 1925; record precipitation of 0.62 inches 1881; and record snowfall is 5.4 inches in 1946.
Average dew point for February 6th is 5 degrees F, with a maximum of 38 degrees F in 1965 and a minimum of -32 degrees F in 1962.



All-Time State Records for February 6th:


The state record high temperature for this date is 59 degrees F at Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) in 1963. The state record low temperature for this date is -50 degrees F at Detroit Lakes (Becker County) in 1907.  State record precipitation for this date is 1.78 inches at High Landing (Pennington County) in 1941; and the state record snowfall for this date is 16.0 inches at Beardsley (Big Stone County) in 1946.


Past Weather:


The coldest February 6th occurred in 1907 when the temperature plummeted to -40°F or colder in northern Minnesota, reaching as far south as Mora.  St Peter and Faribault saw morning lows in the -30°F range.  Thought Detroit Lakes started out at -50°F in the morning they warmed up by 60°F to an afternoon high temperature of 10°F.


The warmest February 6th on a statewide basis was in 1925.  In the absence of snow cover at least 30 communities reported afternoon temperatures of 50°F or higher.  It reached the 50s F as far north as Moorhead, Duluth, and Grand Rapids.


A winter storm brought heavy snowfall to some parts of the state on February 6, 1946.  The snow was especially heavy in western sections of the state where Campbell and Moorhead reported 14 inches and Beardsley reported 16 inches.  Schools were closed there for a day or two.


Outlook:


Mostly cloudy with moderating temperatures over the weekend.  Chance for freezing drizzle and light snow Saturday and Sunday.  Mostly cloudy and dry on Monday, then a chance for snow on Tuesday.  Much cooler with below normal temperatures by next Thursday.

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