Record High February Temperatures:
Last Friday was a remarkably warm day with many climate observers in southern and western counties reporting daytime high temperatures in the 50s F. Some communities reached new record maximum temperatures for the date including 55°F at Milan, 56°F at Canby, Pipestone, and 58°F at Redwood Falls. The reading at Redwood Falls broke the previous statewide record high temperature of 57°F set at Luverne in 1977.
It appears as though more record high daily temperature records around the state may be threatened this Friday through Monday (Feb 17-20). So far this month observers around the state are reporting mean February temperatures that average 5 to 9 degrees above normal. By the end of the month I would not be surprised to see some climate stations running over 10 degrees F above normal, for perhaps the warmest February since 2002. Several all-time state maximum temperature records may be threatened and I would not be surprised to see a 70°F reading occur somewhere in the state. If so, that would be just the third time in history such a temperature occurred during the month of February. The only other years were 1896 and2000.
Frost removal and maple sap harvesting:
The dramatic warm up this month provoked many southern Minnesota residents to start tapping their maple trees for sap. And I am told that the sap run is pretty good this year and about 2-3 weeks earlier than normal.
In addition the warm up is removing frost from the soil, especially where snow cover has dissipated. Soil frost depths only range from 8 to 20 inches around many southern parts of the state. The higher sun angle, longer days, and warm temperatures will thaw the soil considerably over the next several days.
Weekly Weather Potpourri:
NOAA offers an interesting summary of the near record heat in parts of Australia during last month (January). Sydney recorded its warmest January in history, while another city in New South Wales, Moree reported a record-setting 36 straight days of daytime maximums of 95°F or higher.
For school science teachers InTeGrate (part of an NSF funded STEM Program in Earth Sciences) offers an online lesson for using real climate data to graphically illustrate climate change in local communities or regions. It is a flexible model that can be adapted for various grade levels.
The Lawrence-Berkeley National Laboratory reported earlier this week that it has been developing higher resolution ocean wave models that better capture the high waves associated with Tropical Storms and Hurricanes. These new models may allow forecasters to better estimate wind-generated wave action from hurricanes.
MPR listener question:
Even though snowfall has been lacking much of this season across the southern part of the state, I hear that it has been abundant in some norther locations. Where has the most snow fallen this season in Minnesota?
Indeed most of the snowiest places have been in the north. Some of those reporting above normal snowfall so far include:
Grand Rapids 60.4"
International Falls and Tower 62.2"
Conversely many places in southwestern Minnesota have reported less than 20 inches, while the Twin Cities (MSP) reports just 26.8 inches so far this season.
Twin Cities Almanac for February 17th:The average MSP high temperature for this date is 30 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 14 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).
MSP Local Records for February 17th:
MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 55 degrees F in 1981; lowest daily maximum temperature of -12 degrees F in 1936; lowest daily minimum temperature is -20 degrees F in 1903 and again in 1936; highest daily minimum temperature of 36 degrees F in 1998; record precipitation of 0.32 inches in 2014; and a record snowfall of 4.9 inches also in 2014.
Average dew point for February 17th is 14°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 44°F in 1981; and the minimum dew point on this date is -26°F in 1942.
All-time state records for February 17th:The state record high temperature for this date is 66 degrees F at Luverne (Rock County) in 1981. The state record low temperature for this date is -52 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1903. State record precipitation for this date is 1.85 inches at Hokah (Houston County) in 1984; and record snowfall is 13.0 inches at Beaver Bay (Lake County) in 1870.
Past Weather Features:
Bitterly cold on February 17, 1903. There were many places reporting lows of -30 to -40°F with wind chill values of -50°F or colder. The afternoon high temperature at Crookson never rose higher than -14 degrees F.
Back to back winter storms brought heavy snows to central and southern Minnesota over February 15-17, 1967. At times 40 mph winds produced blizzard conditions, huge drifts and many road closures. Most schools closed down to two days. Many observers measured 10 to 18 inches of snowfall.
The all-time warmest February 17th was in 1981. With the absence of snow cover and abundant sunshine many climate observers reported afternoon highs in the 50s and 60s F. It marked the first of 5 consecutive days in the 60s F at Lamberton, where they planted small grains later in the week at the University of Minnesota Research Station.