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A wet week

A wet week

The last week of February brought plenty of precipitation to the state. Many observers reported six consecutive days with precipitation, along with some record-setting amounts on the 28th and 29th. A blizzard was declared for some west-central counties, along with the north shore area of Lake Superior. The blizzard left many Duluth residents paralyzed and unable to more about on Wednesday and Thursday.

Some records set on February 28th included:
0.83 inches of precipitation at Rochester
0.89 inches of precipitation at Eau Claire, WI
1.11 inches of precipitation at Canby
1.20 inches of precipitation at Milan
1.78 inches of precipitation at Red Wing
0.97 inches of precipitation at Chanhassen
1.48 inches of precipitation at Elgin

Some records set on February 29th (Leap Day) included:

0.78 inches of precipitation and 9.7 inches of snowfall at Duluth
0.51 inches of precipitation and 4.7 inches of snowfall at St Cloud
0.51 inches of precipitation at Rochester
1.63 inches of precipitation at Austin (record for any day in February)
1.52 inches of precipitation at Dodge Center
1.35 inches of precipitation at La Crescent
1.37 inches of precipitation at Albert Lea
0.65 inches of precipitation at MSP
0.68 inches of precipitation at Eau Claire, WI
0.90 inches of precipitation at Amboy
1.05 inches of precipitation at Two Harbors
1.73 inches of precipitation at Gaylord
1.72 inches of precipitation at Winnebago
1.56 inches of precipitation at Hutchinson
1.46 inches of precipitation at Marshall
1.52 inches of precipitation at Windom
1.96 inches of precipitation at Waseca
2.01 inches of precipitation at St Peter
2.23 inches of precipitation at Faribault (a new statewide record for Feb 29th)

In addition many observers across central and northeastern Minnesota reported new record snowfall amounts for February 29th. Some reported over 10 inches, including Mora with 11.1 inches, Ortonville and Lake Carlos with 12 inches, Two Harbors with 10.2 inches, and Hinckley with 12.3 inches (a new statewide record for Feb 29th). Even greater amounts of snowfall occurred in northwestern Wisconsin.

The moisture was generally very welcome (the wettest week in the state since August 2011), but ice, sleet, and snow made for hundreds of traffic accidents over the 28th-29th.
You can read more at the following links:


Climate Summary for February

February's climate kept up the trend of the past six months delivering above normal temperatures to the state. Most observers reported average monthly temperatures that were 4 to 9 degrees F above normal, with the highest departures in the north (International Falls was 9.2 degrees F above normal). February 2012 ranks 10th warmest statewide historically. Extremes for the month ranged from 55 degrees F at Milan, Montevideo, Marshall, and Lamberton on February 2nd to -20 degrees F at Fosston on February 11th. Despite the warmer than normal month, Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states 7 times during the month.

Thanks to an extremely wet last week of the month, with record-setting amounts of precipitation on the 28th and 29th, February broke the string of six consecutive drier than normal months, as many observers finished with 200 percent of normal. In fact February 2012 ranks as the 10th wettest historically based on statewide average. A number of communities reported over 2 inches of precipitation for the month (statewide normal for February is only 0.67 inches), and Worthington reported a new monthly record of 2.23 inches, as did Faribault with 2.55 inches. Monthly snowfall for February ranged from 1 inch at La Crescent to over 30 inches along the north shore of Lake Superior. Both International Falls (17.7 inches) and Duluth (19.7 inches) reported their snowiest month of the 2011-2012 season. Two Harbors just missed tying their monthly record snowfall for February (30.3 inches in 2001) with a total of 30.2 inches, while Brimson in St Louis County set a new monthly snowfall record for February with 25.2 inches. Duluth reported at least a trace of snowfall the last ten days of the month (including a record 9.7 inches on Leap Day), while International Falls reported snowfall on 9 of the last 10 days of the month.

Weekly Weather Potpourri

The same winter storm system which brought rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow to Minnesota over Feb 28-29 produced severe weather in other Midwestern states. The NOAA Storm Prediction Center received 43 reports of tornadoes over those two days, with reports from NE, KS, MO, and IL on the 28th, and reports from IN, TN and KY and 29th. Twelve storm-related deaths and scores of injuries were reported from these tornadoes.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center was tracking and reporting on two tropical cyclones in the Indian Ocean this week. Tropical Cyclone Irina was spinning over the west coast of Madagascar and is expected to track across the Mozambique Channel striking that country over the weekend with wind gust of 95 mph and sea waves of 16-20 feet. Further east another, weaker tropical cyclone was playing out NE of La Reunion and Port Louis, but no threat to any land.

Parts of Victoria, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory were seeing flooding rains this week. Many areas reported over an inch of rain on March 1st, and storms were expected to bring another 1-3 inches of rainfall through the weekend, causing flooding on many watersheds.
A recent study of the Arctic by NASA scientists shows that the extent of perennial arctic sea ice is declining at a rate of about 13.5 percent per decade. The thicker ice of the Arctic is declining at a faster rate than the year to year seasonal ice cover. You can read more about this study here.

Thanks to Jan Null who pointed out a recent New York Times article about Texas State Climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon of Texas A&M University. He walks a fine line when it comes to climate change in a conservative state, but he is highly respected for the work he does. You can read more about him here.

The Iditarod sled dog race begins this Saturday, March 3rd from Anchorage, Alaska, and will conclude 975 miles later at Nome. There is abundant snow across much of the route this year as some parts of Alaska have seen record-setting snowfalls this winter. Mushers hope for ideal conditions during the race, with plenty of snow pack, and temperatures ranging from plus 10 F to -20 F along the way.

MPR listener questions

The storm of February 28-29 was quite significant for snowfall in then north. Both International Falls (17.7 inches) and Duluth (19.7 inches) reported their snowiest month of the season in February. The snowy end to February makes me wonder how often is February the snowiest month of the winter?

Answer: This varies depending on where you are in the state. For the Twin Cities, February is the snowiest month about 14 percent of the time historically (back to 1884); for Duluth, February is the snowiest month about 15 percent of the time (back to 1871); and for International Falls February is the snowiest month about 18 percent of the time (back to 1895).

The snow storm in northern Minnesota on February 26th brought brown and yellow snow. Was this soil picked up by the wind in the western prairie?

Answer: Indeed, I suspect it was. The day before (Feb 25th) low level winds, strong at times, were blowing from the west and I suspect picked up some soil particles. Many parts of the western Dakotas and Nebraska have seen relatively little snow cover this winter.

How much of the recent precipitation do you think will infiltrate into our dry soils? It is much needed.

Answer: Historically winter precipitation does not abundantly find its way into soils, mostly because the soil is frozen and/or relatively wet going into the winter season with little room to absorb more moisture. On average about 15-25 percent of the wintertime precipitation finds its way into the soil. However this winter, the soils are so dry, especially near the surface which has been going through some freeze/thaw cycles because of so many warmer than normal days, I think a greater percentage of the precipitation will find its way into the dry soil pore spaces. This will be helped by crop residues and tillage roughness that has left small pockets of micro-relief in agricultural fields. This will hold the moisture better until it has time to infiltrate the soil.

Perhaps as much as 50 percent or more of the recent precipitation will pass into the soil and help with recharge. That is not to say drought alleviation has occurred. The soil moisture deficits are too extreme for that. But it is a start, and with a wetter than normal month of March projected by the NOAA CPC, this is perhaps the start of a significant late winter and early spring recharge cycle with respect to soil moisture. We can only hope it is.

Almanac for March 2nd

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 32 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 16 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 2nd

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 54 degrees F in 1923; lowest daily maximum temperature of 5 degrees F in 1989; lowest daily minimum temperature of -17 degrees F in 1913; highest daily minimum temperature of 37 degrees F in 1882; record precipitation of 0.58 inches in 1951; record snowfall is a 7.1 inches in 1951.

Average dew point for March 2nd is 14 degree F, with a maximum of 41 degrees F in 1983 and a minimum of -26 degrees F in 1950 .

All-time state records for March 2nd

Scanning the state climatic data base: the all-time high for this date is 71 degrees F at Luverne (Rock County) in 1974 and at Browns Valley (Traverse County) in 1992. The all-time record low for this date is a very cold -50 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1897. The all-time record precipitation amount for this date is 2.45 inches at Young America (Carver County) in 1965. State record snowfall for this date is 15.0 inches at Mountain Iron (St Louis County) in 1904 and at Santiago (Sherburne County) in 1965.

Past Weather Features:

The first four days of March 1951 brought heavy snows to Minnesota. Communities up north reported 10 to 15 inches of new snow, while some in central and southern Minnesota recorded 15 to 20 inches. Cokato reported 21 inches, while Winthrop had 22 inches. For many communities March of 1951 proved to be the snowiest in history. Communities reporting 40 or more inches of snowfall for the month included, MSP, Stillwater, Morris, Campbell, Farmington, Grand Meadow, Harmony, Wheaton, and Waseca.

1965 again brought a snowy March. Over the 1st and 2nd a strong winter storm produced record-setting snowfall amounts for many locations, including 14 inches at Grand Rapids, 17 inches at Little Falls, 18 inches at Bird Island and Springfield, 20.5 inches at St Cloud, and 23.3 inches at Collegeville. The month produced an all-time record of 66.4 inches of snow at Collegeville, and helped to produce spring flooding on the Upper Mississippi River.

March 2, 1974 brought an early taste of spring with many observers reporting temperatures in the 50s F. It was 50 degrees F as far north as Moose Lake, and many western Minnesota communities reached 60 degrees F or higher, topped by 71 degrees F at Luverne. In fact the whole first week of March that year brought temperatures that were 15 to 25 degrees F warmer than normal.

March 2, 1989 was one of the coldest in history, as at least 17 Minnesota communities reported a morning temperature of -30 degrees F or colder. The daytime high at Fosston only reached -7 degrees F, while Rosemount was a warm spot in the state with a reading of 5 degrees F. Tower which was -42 degrees F saw a 50 F temperature rise to plus 8 F by the next day.

March 1-2, 1992 brought another early taste of spring to western and southern Minnesota as temperature soared into the 50s and 60s F. Canby and Milan hit 70 degrees F, while Browns Valley reached 71 degrees F, setting records. Temperatures tailed off into the 30s and 40s F by the third of the month.


Mostly cloudy with near normal temperatures over the weekend, and a slight chance for snow in places around state. Warm up starts on Monday, as daytime temperatures rise into the 40s and 50s F by the middle of the week. Chance for rain and/or snow later in the week.
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