Preliminary climate summary for February 2016:Following the strong trend of the past several months and enhanced by a string of unusually warm days to end the month, February of 2016 will likely finish as a warmer than normal month for most places in the state. Mean monthly temperatures will range from 3 to 6 degrees F above normal around the state. Extreme values include high temperatures in the 50s F on February 19th and February 27th (this Sat) at such locations as Redwood Falls, Marshall, Browns Valley, Wheaton, MSP, and other communities; and minimum temperatures of -36°F at Embarrass and -35°F at Cotton on February 14th (Valentine's Day). Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the nation on only six dates during the month, fewer than the 9 dates in January with the nation's lowest reading.
Most observers around the state are reporting a wetter than normal February, with over 35 communities receiving an inch or more of precipitation. The precipitation for the month came as a mixture of rain and snow. Two early month blizzards brought above normal snowfall to southwestern Minnesota communities like Lake Wilson (16.7"), Lakefield (15.9"), Fairmont (14.7"), and St James (14.5"); while some northern Minnesota climate stations also reported relatively large monthly snowfall amounts such as 24" at Isabella and 20.7" at Ely. St James reported a new daily snowfall record from a blizzard on February 3rd with a measurement of 12 inches.
The other unusual climate feature of February was the high frequency of cloudy days. Well over a third of the days were cloudy and many locations reported only 4 or 5 sunny days. The rest were mixtures of mostly or partly cloudy days.
Weekly Weather Potpourri:Tropical Cyclone Winston, one of the strongest storms ever measured in the Southern Hemisphere with sustained winds up to 185 mph, brought devastation to Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean over February 19-20. Damage estimates and final death toll are yet to be determined from this storm. Australia and New Zealand governments were leading a recovery effort there, but most of the 900,000 residents of the islands were without power for an extended period of time.
The Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College released a new Teaching Resource Curriculum this week on Arctic Climate. It is written in three parts and the first release is called "Exploring the Arctic" and available online for earth science teachers to review from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Boulder, CO.
Over 55 tornadoes were reported on Tuesday and Wednesday this week (Feb 23-24) across the southeastern states and mid-Atlantic states. Some of the most disruptive and destructive occurred in Virginia and North Carolina, where clean up and recovery are ongoing. At least 8 deaths were attributed to the storms and hundreds of homes were damaged.
The Lightbox Gallery in Surrey, England is currently featuring the paintings of John Constable a famous early 19th Century English artist know for his landscapes and his depictions of clouds. His manner of expressing cloud forms is illustrative of a deeper understanding of the physics of clouds and this is explained in the exhibit. You can see an example of his painting online at the Lightbox web site.
Speaking of England, the United Kingdom Met Office through a press release this week documented what an unusual warm and wet winter it has been across that country. It ranks very high in the climate records dating all the way back to 1659!
MPR listener question:Please settle a debate I am having with my neighbor in Cottage Grove. He insists that we have seen a 70°F temperature in the month of February here in the Twin Cities, but I am relatively certain that it has never been that warm. Who is correct?
Answer:The warmest official maximum temperature ever measured in the Twin Cities record is 64°F which occurred on February 26, 1896. There have only been 4 dates in February that have brought a temperature reading as high as 60°F to the Twin Cities: Feb 15, 1921 (63°F); Feb 16, 1981 (60°F); Feb 26, 1896 (64°F); and Feb 29, 2000 (61°F). On a statewide basis two February dates have brought 70°F or higher: Feb 23, 2000 when it was 70F at Lake Wilson (Murray County); and Feb 26, 1896 when it reached 73°F at Pleasant Mound (Blue Earth County) and 70°F at Le Sueur (Le Sueur County). All of these temperatures occurred without any snow cover.
Twin Cities Almanac for February 26th:The average MSP high temperature for this date is 33 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 17 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation).
MSP Local Records for February 26th:
MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 64 degrees F in 1896; lowest daily maximum temperature of -2 degrees F in 1919: lowest daily minimum temperature is -21 degrees F in 1897; highest daily minimum temperature of 41°F in 1998; record precipitation of 0.83 inches 1873; and record snowfall of 7.0 inches also in 1936.
Average dew point for February 26th is 15 degrees F, with a maximum of 46 degrees F in 2000 and a minimum of -22 degrees F in 1950.
All-time state records for February 26th:The state record high temperature for this date is 73 degrees F at Pleasant Mound (Blue Earth County) in 1896. The state record low temperature for this date is -49 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1897. State record precipitation for this date is 2.50 inches at Wannaska (Roseau County) in 1964; and record snowfall is 15.0 inches at Sandy Lake Dam (Aitkin County) in 2001.
Past Weather Features:February 26, 1896 was by far the warmest in state history. Under bright, sunny skies most areas of the state reached 50 degrees F or higher, with over 20 climate stations reporting 60 degrees F or higher. It was short-lived and followed by a colder than normal month of March.
The very next year, 1897 brought the coldest February 26th in state history. Abundant snow cover (20" to 30") coupled with an Arctic high pressure system plummeted Minnesota temperatures well below zero F. At least 16 climate stations reported morning lows of -30°F or colder. The daytime high temperature at Crookston and Roseau only reached -8F.
A slow moving winter storm brought heavy rainfall to many parts of the state over February 24-26, 1930. Several observers reported over 1.50 inches of rain, while Minneapolis, Cass Lake, and Redby reported over 2.00 inches.
On February 26, 1939 Cook County was reporting record snow depths. At Pigeon River Bridge snow was measured at 64 inches, while at Sawbill Camp snow was measured at 53 inches. Obviously snowshoes were a requirement to get around in such snow depths.
One of the snowiest weeks in modern times was over February 22-26, 2001 when many climate stations across the state reported snowfall totals of 10-15 inches. In northeastern Minnesota Grand Marais, Lusten, Two Harbors, and Wolf Ridge reported over 20 inches of new snowfall that week with snow depths over 40 inches, great for skiing.