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Snow this week

Snow this week

Monday, February 13th brought snow to southern Minnesota counties, as well as a few communities in the north. Across the south 1-4 inches of snowfall blanketed what had been a snow-free landscape. Grand Meadow reported 3 inches, while Caledonia in Houston County reported 4 inches, their heaviest snowfall of the 2011-2012 season. Brainerd and Moorhead reported over 3 inches, while Hibbing reported 5 inches. More snow came on Wednesday to some southern counties as Sherburn, Wells, Fairmont, and Grand Meadow all reported 3 more inches.


Cold up north

From Friday, February 10th through Monday, February 13th northern Minnesota reported the coldest temperatures in the 48 contiguous states, the first time this winter such a streak of cold weather has dominated the northern Minnesota landscape. On February 10th it was -18 degrees F at Flag Island, on February 11th it was -20 degrees F at Fosston, on February 12th it was -14 degrees F at Embarrass, and on February 13th it was -16 degrees F at Embarrass. The cold spell came to an end by Valentine's Day as daytime temperatures soared into the 30s and 40s F again, well above normal for this time of year. In fact Marshall (Lyon County) reached 48 degrees F at 3:00 pm on Valentine's Day.

Last Call for Course on Minnesota's Severe Storms

My College of Continuing Education Class on Minnesota's severe weather history will begin on February 21st at 7:00 pm on the St Paul Campus. Only three sessions long (classes on February 28, and March 6 as well), I will dissect some of the state's most famous storms and discuss their consequences. We will also have a tour of the National Weather Service in Chanhassen during the last course meeting.

Weekly Weather Potpourri

Madagascar was hit by Cyclone Giovanni this week. The storm brought wind gust of 140 mph, heavy rains and strong coastal storm surge. It was expected to rejuvenate over the Mozambique Channel and perhaps bring heavy rain again to southern parts of Madagascar before dissipating.

Winter's grip has eased up in Europe this week. Last week's extreme cold was evident in single digit lows reported from the United Kingdom, and minimum temperatures as cold as -40 degrees F from eastern European countries. Cold and ice even caused parts of the Rome Colosseum to fall off, disrupting the tourism there. This week temperatures have climbed into the teens and twenties, even 40s and 50s F in parts of Germany and France, with less snow and more glimpses of the sun.

A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that ecosystem response to heat waves and droughts is highly variable depending on the month and season in which they occur, and that this is an important feature of climate change that needs more study. For example prairie grasses respond far differently to drought in June than they do in September. You can read more about this study here.

MPR listener questions

I recently realized that there has been literally no static electricity this winter, at least for me. Did something in me change, or is it a result of this warm winter?

Answer: You are right about the warmth. Since November 1, 2011, 77 percent of all days have brought above normal temperatures to the Twin Cities. But in addition dewpoints (atmospheric water vapor) has been very high this winter. The presence of more moisture in the atmosphere makes it more conductive preventing the build-up of charged particles. In the indoor environment humidifiers help keep static electricity potential down, but Mother Nature does it best if the atmosphere outside is moist to begin with. During this winter we have had many dewpoints in the 20s and 30s F, about 25-30 degrees F higher than normal. These have produced days with relative humidity of 65-80 percent, conditions that are not conducive to the formation of static electricity.

Is the snow drought this winter strictly a lack of storms, or is it weak storm systems that deposit little snow?

Answer: To a degree it is both. For the Twin Cities (15.3 inches of snow to date) and Duluth (17.9 inches of snow to date), snow storms have been generally light in quantity, but also less frequent than in normal winters. In the Twin Cities the average number of daily snowfalls for the November through February period is 29, and only 20 days have delivered a measurable snowfall this winter. Up at Duluth, the average number of daily snowfalls for November through February is 45 and only 26 days have delivered a measurable snowfall this winter. In contrast, International Falls averages 44 days with measurable snowfall between November and February, and they have reported 46 days with measurable snowfall so far this winter, but all the storms have brought light amounts. The heaviest daily snowfall at International Falls has been only 4.5 inches back on November 26, 2011.

Almanac for February 17th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 28 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 10 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees 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 of -20 degrees F in 1903 and 1936; highest daily minimum temperature of 36 degrees F in 1998; record precipitation of 0.29 inches in 1972; record snowfall is a 3.8 inches in 1972.

Average dew point for February 17th is 14 degree F, with a maximum of 44 degrees F in 1981 and a minimum of -26 degrees F in 1942.

All-time state records for February 17th

Scanning the state climatic data base: the all-time high for this date is 66 degrees F at Luverne (Rock County) and at Pipestone (Pipestone County) in 1981. The all-time record low for this date is a very cold -52 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1903. The all-time record precipitation amount for this date is 1.85 inches at Hokah (Houston County) in 1984. State record snowfall for this date is 13.0 inches at Beaver Bay (Lake County) in 1870.

Past Weather Features:

February 17, 1875 was the last of 16 consecutive days in the Twin Cities with below 0 F morning temperatures. Twenty-three days brought below 0 F temperature readings that month, the coldest February in Twin Cities history. A similar pattern prevailed at Duluth. At Fort Ripley they reported 44 consecutive days with below 0 F readings in the morning hours.

February 17, 1903 brought one of the coldest days in the history of Detroit Lakes, MN. After a morning low of -47 degrees F, the afternoon high only climbed to -26 degrees F.

February of 1936 was the coldest in state history. No wonder that many observers reported record low temperatures on the morning of February 17th. Over 20 communities were -30 degrees F or colder. Many observers reported 350 consecutive hours or more of below 0 F readings that month.
February 16-18, 1967 brought 6 to 14 inches of snowfall across southern and central Minnesota counties. Roads were closed in some places and schools were let out early for the weekend. It was one of the snowiest weeks of the winter in 1966-1967.

On February 17, 1981 spring was in the air. As far north as Detroit Lakes it was 57 degrees F, with many other western and southern Minnesota communities reporting afternoon temperatures in the 60s F under bright, sunny skies. From the 17th to the 21st of the month temperatures averaged 25-30 degrees F warmer than normal, thawing agricultural soils and promoting an early planting season.


Mostly sunny to start the weekend, with above normal temperatures. Warmer yet on Sunday, but with increasing cloudiness later in the day. A chance for snow and rain, or mixed precipitation on Monday and continuing into Tuesday. Continued above normal temperatures with a chance for rain or snow showers on Wednesday and Thursday as well.
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