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Cold revisits Minnesota

Cold revisits Minnesota

After starting February exceptionally warm last week, temperatures plummeted this week to more typical wintertime values. On Tuesday, February 7th Ash Lake in northern St Louis County reported the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states with -20 degrees F. Then on Wednesday, February 8th, Embarrass reported -17 degrees F, and after a brief respite from the cold on Thursday, Friday morning , February 10th Flag Island reported the coldest temperature among the 48 contiguous states with a reading of -17 degrees F. On February 7th over 20 Minnesota weather observers reported below 0 F readings, while on February 8th, the number of observers reporting below 0 F readings was over 30. Then, on Friday, February 10th over 50 Minnesota communities reported below 0 F readings, as far south as Windom (Cottonwood County) which reached -2 degrees F. An Extreme Cold Warning was in effect for northwestern counties on Friday, where windchill values were as cold as -40 degrees F. Another round of below 0 F readings are expected for Saturday morning, before a warming trend starts on Sunday.

Planting in February?

Historical records show that February of 1878 was so mild that many Minnesota farmers were in their fields planting small grains (wheat, barely, oats). Soils had thawed and were not too wet to till. Many observers reported temperatures in the 40s and 50s F for half the days of the month. It is the only time in Minnesota history, that much of the state was planted in the month of February.

Weekly Weather Potpourri

Tropical Cyclone Jasmine was churning in the South Pacific Ocean well east of Australia. It was an intense system with winds over 130 mph, generating sea wave heights over 30 ft. It is expected to dissipate out to sea southwest of Tonga over the weekend. Another Tropical Cyclone, Giovanna, was approaching Madagascar in the Southern Indian Ocean with wind speeds over 100 mph and sea waves over 15 feet. It was expected to bring heavy rains and strong winds to Madagascar over the weekend.

NOAA reported this week that January 2012 was the 4th warmest on record for the 48 contiguous states. It was also exceptional for the lack of snow cover across the USA, especially when compared to last year. You can read more here.

A big winter freeze continues to plague most of Europe as some eastern countries have seen temperatures plummet to -40 degrees F this week. News services report over 200 deaths due to exposure during this siege of arctic air. Many rivers and canals froze, including the Danube River, disrupting shipping traffic there. Freezing rain was making driving treacherous in parts of the United Kingdom as well. You can read more at the following links:

It was on February 9, 1870 that the U.S. National Weather Service was established. At first it was called the Weather Bureau and it was part of the War Department because, it was said, "military discipline would probably secure the greatest promptness, regularity, and accuracy in the required observations." It became a civilian agency 20 years later, under the Department of Agriculture, and then was switched to the Commerce Department in 1940. These days, the National Weather Service is based out of Silver Spring, Maryland. It plays a very big role in making sure that American air travel is safe, providing up-to-minute weather updates to air traffic controller centers across the nation.

MPR listener question

I have heard that some areas of the state are experiencing the lowest seasonal snowfall totals in many years. Will any records be set for lack of snow?

Answer: Indeed, many are reporting very low snowfall totals this winter. Some of these locations include:

MSP 14.9 inches (2nd lowest total behind 1930-1931 when 14.2 inches fell)
Austin 13.2 inches (lowest since winter of 1976-1977)
Zumbrota 12.8 inches (lowest since winter of 1962-1963)
St Cloud 16.2 inches (lowest since 1967-1968)

Those who might set new records for lowest ever snowfall seasons include:
Warroad, currently only 8.6 inches
Leech Lake, currently only 11.2 inches
Floodwood, currently only 11.4 inches
Moorhead, currently only 11.8 inches
Duluth Airport, currently only 17.4 inches

Almanac for February 10th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 24 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 6 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for February 10th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 49 degrees F in 1877; lowest daily maximum temperature of -16 degrees F in 1899; lowest daily minimum temperature of -24 degrees F in 1885; highest daily minimum temperature of 33 degrees F in 1999; record precipitation of 0.60 inches in 1898; record snowfall is a 4.3 inches in 1953.

Average dew point for February 10th is 9 degree F, with a maximum of 37 degrees F in 1996 and a minimum of -25 degrees F in 1982.

All-time state records for February 10th

Scanning the state climatic data base: the all-time high for this date is 57 degrees F at Luverne (Rock County) in 1977. The all-time record low for this date is a very cold -49 degrees F at Tower (St Louis County) in 1899. The all-time record precipitation amount for this date is 1.69 inches at Montevideo (Chippewa County) in 1965. State record snowfall for this date is 20.0 inches at Pigeon River (Cook County) in 1939.

Past Weather Features:

February of 1877 brought one of the warmest ever stretches of winter weather to Minnesota. Ten of the first eleven days of the month brought daytime highs in the 40s F in St Paul, peaking with 49 degrees F on the 10th.

February 10, 1885 brought an arctic air mass to Minnesota with lows of -24 degrees F in St Paul, -27 degrees F in Moorhead, and -32 degrees F at Duluth. Temperatures remained below the freezing mark until the 25th.

Perhaps the coldest ever February 10th occurred in 1899 when many communities reported record-setting lows, including -49 F at Tower, -45 F at Pokegama Dam, -44 F at Leech Lake and Detroit Lakes, -42 F at Roseau and Willow River, -40 degrees F at Milaca, -39 F at Lake City, and -35 F at Caledonia. Temperatures turned around and reached the 40s F by the 15th of the month.

In the decidedly wet February of 1953 a winter storm deposited ice, glaze, and 6-8 inches of new snowfall across central Minnesota over the 9th and 10th. Beardsley reported 15 inches of snowfall. The ice and glaze caused numerous traffic accidents and delays, while also leading to some fallen power lines in western counties.

Another big snow storm occurred over February 9-10, 1965. Many central and northern Minnesota locations reported from 9 to 15 inches of new snow.

February 10-12 brought record warmth to many areas of Minnesota. Daytime temperatures reached the 40s and 50s F under bright, sunny skies.


Cold to start the weekend with many single digit and below 0 F readings Saturday morning. Then a warming trend starts again on Sunday, with a chance for snow on Monday and Tuesday. Generally mild temperatures prevail again next week.

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