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February snow and moisture

February snow and moisture

Mother Nature continued to bring precipitation to the state this month, with an exclamation mark on Sunday and Monday (Feb 10-11). A slow moving weather system from the southwest moved across the state bringing a mixture of rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow to many areas. At times the winds were strong enough to produce blizzard conditions in some western and southern counties. Dew points soared into the low to mid 30s F with this system helping to fuel some record-setting snowfall and precipitation amounts for many observers. The maximum snowfall amount from this storm was 21 inches at Rothsay (Wilkin County) with a melted liquid precipitation of 2.21 inches. Many observers around the state reported 10 or more inches of snowfall with a liquid content of over 1 inch, a very large amount for February. The snowfall reported from Rothsay of 19 inches on Monday, February 11th broke the previous all-time state record amount for the date of 14 inches at Mahnomen in 1939, while the liquid precipitation amount of 2.02 inches at Rothsay also shattered the previous state record for February 11th of 1.36 inches set at Fort Ripley back in 1861 (a 153 year old record). You can read a summary of the storm on our web site.

Some observers who reported record-setting amounts of snow and/or precipitation for the dates included:
For February 10:
Georgetown 8" snowfall, 0.80" precipitation
Artichoke Lake 10" snowfall, 1.11" precipitation
International Falls 4.4" snowfall, 0.54" precipitation
Moorhead 9.3: snowfall, 0.89" precipitation
Grand Rapids 8.4" snowfall, 0.79" precipitation
St Cloud 6.7" snowfall, 0.70" precipitation
Browns Valley, 6.5" snowfall, 0.62" precipitation
Milan 8.2" snowfall, 0.68" precipitation
Park Rapids 0.67" precipitation
MSP 0.62" precipitation
For February 11:
Rothsay 19" snowfall, 2.02" precipitation
Itasca State Park 15" snowfall, 1.30" precipitation
Bemidji 14" snowfall, 1.16" precipitation
Ottertail 13.5" snowfall, 0.82"precipitation
Pelican Rapids 12" snowfall, 0.81" precipitation
Kettle Falls 12" snowfall, 0.77" precipitation
Wadena 11.5" snowfall, 1.42" precipitation
Brainerd 12" snowfall, 0.97" precipitation
Faribault 4.4" snowfall, 0.83" precipitation
Morris 8" snowfall, 0.63" precipitation

At least 40 other Minnesota locations reported new snowfall or precipitation records for February 11th as well. Yet, another Alberta Clipper storm brought more snow to the state over Wednesday night (Feb 13) and early Thursday morning (Feb 14). Many observers reported another 2-4 inches of snowfall, while Long Prairie reported a record amount for Valentine's Day of 4.7 inches These storms added to the snowfall from earlier this month producing monthly snowfall totals that exceed 20 inches at Bemidji, Battle Lake, Itasca State Park, Breckenridge, Ottertail, Pelican Rapids, Rothsay, and Wheaton. Rothsay (Wilkin County) has totaled 26 inches of snow so far this month, the most ever in February for that location.

As a result of the frequent snows the U.S. Drought Monitor changed some western and northern Minnesota counties from severe drought to moderate drought this week, the first substantial change in drought status in several weeks. The snow pack on the landscape is estimated to have as much as 2-4 inches of liquid water equivalent stored in it. The accumulated moisture surplus this month should help with surface hydrology (runoff flowing into lakes and streams), but will likely provide little help for soil moisture recharge as long as the ground is frozen.

Weekly Weather potpourri

NOAA administrator, Dr. Jane Lubchenco named Dr. Louis Uccellini the new Director of the National Weather Service this week. Dr. Uccellini brings a wealth of experience having worked for NOAA since 1989. He holds all of his degrees from UW- Madison. You can read more about him here.

Tropical Cyclone Gino was spinning away in the Southern Indian Ocean this week southwest of Diego Garcia. It packed wind gusts up to 110 mph and was creating sea wave heights of 25-30 feet. Gino was headed southwest toward cooler waters and was expected to dissipate by the weekend.

Perth in Western Australia reported its 2nd Heat Wave of the summer this week. For five consecutive days the daytime highs reached 100 degrees F or higher, peaking at 106 degrees F on Tuesday this week. This is the longest Heat Wave in the area in the past 27 years and has helped provoke high fire danger, with some wildfires burning. The weekend was expected to bring cooler temperatures there.

A deep low pressure system brought snow, rain, and thunderstorms to parts of Italy earlier this week. By Tuesday heavy rains had flooded much of Venice, submerging even the popular St Mark's square. It was said to be the highest water mark in the city since Christmas of 2010. In the Italian Alps heavy snow was falling this week.

An analysis of European Satellite Data this week revealed that the loss of Arctic sea ice during the Northern Hemisphere summer is very significant. It is estimated that the summer minimum in Arctic sea ice in recent years is only one-fifth the volume it was in 1980. This analysis suggests that earlier estimates of Arctic sea ice may have been too conservative. You can read more here.

Highlights for the drought-monitoring period ending on February 12 from Brad Rippey at the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board include:

- Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased to 55.73% of the contiguous U.S., down 1.11% from last week and down 5.36% since the beginning of the year. The decrease came on the strength of heavy rain across the South and some snow in the upper Midwest.
- The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category ­ D4, or exceptional drought ­ dipped nearly one-quarter of a percentage point (0.24%) to 6.61%. D4 coverage has ranged from 5 to 7% for 27 consecutive weeks (August 14, 2012 ­ February 12, 2013).
- The percent of hay in drought (57%) fell two percentage points, while winter wheat in drought was unchanged at 59%. Cattle in drought (67%) fell one percentage point.

NOAA's ClimateWatch Magazine has an interesting article this week about climate change and monitoring ENSO in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The Climate Prediction Center describes their definitions of El Nino and La Nina events in the context of a changing climate, including the oceans. This makes for interesting reading and can be found online here.

MPR listener question

I have already had 9 days with measurable snowfall at my house in Shoreview this month, and I am getting tired of shoveling and scrapping ice. What is the most number of days that it has snowed in February here in the Twin Cities area?

Answer: In the Leap Year of 1884 it snowed on 19 of the 29 days in February according to the Army Signal Corps Office in St Paul. The snowfall total for the month was near 23 inches.

Twin Cities Almanac for February 15th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 24 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 7 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for February 15th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 63 degrees F in 1921; lowest daily maximum temperature of -11 degrees F in 1936; lowest daily minimum temperature of -25 F in 1875; highest daily minimum temperature of 37 F in 1984; and record precipitation of 0.87 inches in 1967; Record snowfall is 12.5 inches at Fergus Falls (Otter Tail County) in 1945.

Average dew point for February 15th is 11 degrees F, with a maximum of 44 degrees F in 1921 and a minimum of -25 degrees F in 1946.

All-time state records for February 15th

The state record high temperature for this date is 67 degrees F at Winona (Winona County) in 1921. The state record low temperature for this date is -53 degrees F at Ada (Norman County) in 1936. State record precipitation for this date is 1.84 inches at Winsted (McLeod County) in 1967; and the state record snowfall for this date is 15.0 inches at Grand Marais (Cook County) in 1937.

Past Weather Features:

The warmest February 15th in state history occurred in 1921. Over a dozen Minnesota communities saw afternoon temperatures rise above 60 degrees F. The warm air also brought higher humidity, clouds, and some thunderstorms. The warm spell ended on the 17th when a cold front swept through and dropped temperatures into the the single digits and teens F.

Arctic cold gripped the state on February 15, 1936. Nine communities reported lows of -40 degrees F or colder. All observers in the state except Winona remained below 0 F all day. The high temperature at Crookston was -22 degrees F, while the high at Fergus Falls was -21 degrees F. February of 1936 was the coldest in state history.

February 12-15, 1945 brought a large winter storm to Minnesota. Temperatures were not extreme, but snowfall was persistent and abundant. Many areas reported over a foot of snow, including Grand Marais and Fergus Falls with over 15 inches, and Pigeon River with over 18 inches.

Word of the Week: AVOID

AVOID is a research program conducted by multiple government agencies and universities to examine the potential consequences of climate change and advise the government of the United Kingdom on methods to avoid or mitigate some of the most detrimental effects. They recently produced a report that suggested climate change could be limited to a rise in temperature of 2 degrees C or less if efforts to limit emissions of greenhouse gases are undertaken soon and practiced along with conservation efforts. You can read more about their report  here.


The weekend will start out a bit colder than normal, then slowly warm up on Sunday. Chance of snow again by Monday and Tuesday, followed by another more significant chance of snow next Thursday.
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