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Preliminary February Climate Summary

Preliminary February Climate Summary

Most observers in Minnesota reported a mean monthly temperature for February that was 2 to 4 degrees cooler than normal. Since June of 2011 (a 21 month period), February 2013 is only the 2nd month with a statewide average temperature that is cooler than normal (the other was October 2012). Extremes for the month were 45 degrees F at Grand Rapids on the 27th and -39 degrees F at International Falls on the 2nd.

Precipitation was generally abundant during the month of February, except for small portions of southwestern Minnesota. It was the wettest February statewide since 2007. Many observers reported over 2 inches of precipitation, most of which came as snowfall. For some the moisture was record-setting for the month, including 2.45 inches at Breckenridge, 2.49 inches at Benson, and 2.57 inches at Rothsay. For most areas of the state February brought the most snowfall for the winter season as well. Itasca State Park, Breckenridge, Bemidji, Pelican Rapids, Wheaton, and Hermantown reported over 20 inches for the month, while Ottertail, Rothsay, and Battle Lake reported over 25 inches. Some of these values were record-setting snow totals for the month.

For the most part the moisture was welcome. As we concluded the month the US Drought Monitor reduced the total area of the state designated to be in severe to extreme drought from 84 percent to less than 70 percent of the state landscape.

Spring flood outlook update

This week the National Weather Service updated the spring flood outlook for Minnesota rivers. The new outlook call for a near normal risk of spring snow melt flooding on portions of the Upper Minnesota River, as well as the Upper Mississippi River. More abundant snowfalls during February, along with deeper ground frost combined to elevate the risk of spring flooding from a below normal level to a near normal level according to NWS hydrologists. You can read more about the spring flooding outlook and keep up to date here.

Spring flood outlook probabilities for the Red River are also available from the Grand Forks NWS Office. These show a relatively higher risk of flooding on the lower end of the Red River Valley between Wahpeton and Fargo, ND. You can get more details here.

Extreme Minnesota

Next Monday (March 4th) Paul Douglas and I will be discussing our favorite topic (WEATHER) on Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) from 7:00 to 8:00 pm as we show clips from the four documentaries on historical Minnesota weather events produced by Mary Lahammer in recent years. We'll cover historic blizzards, tornadoes, floods, and fires. Please tune for a dose of our interesting weather history.

An Invitation

Dr. Phil Pardey, Professor of Science and Technology Policy in the University of Minnesota Department of Applied Economics and I will present a session on "Climate Change and Global Food Security" at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize Forum on March 9th hosted by Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota. The Forum promotes peacemaking through presentations and dialogues about projects which have been successful in various parts of the world, and strategies used to bring good science and business ethics into practice. You can view the entire Forum program, including a list of speakers, and register to participate at this web site.

The Lion and the Lamb Climatology of March for MSP

March months which have come in "like a lion and out like a lamb" or in "like a lamb and out like a lion" are remembered for both their storminess and temperature deviation. Standard deviations in daily maximum and daily minimum temperature are generally in the 10 to 11 degree F range during March for the Twin Cities. Occasionally daily temperature deviations exceed one standard deviation during the first and last weeks of the month. Using temperature records for the first and last week of March from the Twin Cities (1900-2012) and looking for opposite temperature patterns based on approximately one standard deviation statistically (plus or minus 11 degrees F from normal), the following characteristic years fell out......

"In like a lamb/out like a lion" (March starts mild, finishes cold): 1921, 1923, 1924, 1934, 1937, 1964, and 1966.
"In like a lion/out like a lamb" (March starts cold, finishes mild): 1920, 1925, 1943, 1945, 1955, 1978, 1989, 1995, and 2005.

Temperature records confirm these years, 16 in all, fell into one category or the other. But 16 out of 113 years is only 14 percent of the time when this old saying has been true, at least based on MSP daily temperature standard deviations for March. Looks like this March will begin with near normal temperatures.

Weekly Weather potpourri

A winter storm brought some heavy rains and snow to parts of eastern Spain late this week. Rainfall amounts of 2-4 inches were being reported, along with several inches of snowfall in higher elevations. Strong coastal winds were also observed, with some flood warnings issued through Saturday.

The weekly drought assessment from Brad Rippey of the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board offered the following highlights:
-Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased to 54.17% of the contiguous U.S., down 1.65% from last week. This is down 6.92% from the beginning of the year and down 11.28% from the record-high coverage of 65.45% on September 25, 2012. A pair of late-winter storms produced substantial precipitation, including heavy snow, across the central and southern Plains and the Midwest, and sparked heavy rain in the Southeast.
-The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category – D4, or exceptional drought – also decreased substantially (1.21%) to 5.45%. Nevertheless, D4 coverage has ranged from 5 to 7% for 29 consecutive weeks (August 14, 2012 – February 26, 2013).
-Hay in drought (56%), winter wheat in drought (58%), and cattle in drought (66%) all fell one percentage point from a week ago. For the first time since early-July 2012, drought encompassed less than two-thirds of the domestic cattle inventory.

The Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) web site featured the Climate Adaptation Plans for the State of Minnesota this week. For those interested in reading about the work of CAKE as well as finding examples or cases of climate adaptation I recommend a visit to this web site.

Northern Japan reported an exceptionally snowy February, adding significantly to what was already a record-setting winter. At least 13 communities have reported record-setting snowfall amounts for the winter so far, including the resort community of Sukayu where 16 feet of snow has been measured, creating roadways that are the equivalent of snow canyons. You can read more here.

MPR listener question

We need a lot of precipitation to alleviate our drought. I know that both March of 1951 and 1965 were extremely snowy in Minnesota. But what was the overall wettest March in history from the standpoint of precipitation?

Answer: Indeed both 1951 and 1965 were memorable for heavy snowfalls (many areas received over 40 inches) and in both years precipitation amounts averaged nearly 2.50 inches statewide. But the wettest March in state history was 1977 when the statewide average precipitation was nearly 3 inches, and many places reported over 5 inches (7.25 inches at Madison). That year most of the March precipitation came in the form of rainfalls, even some thunderstorms. A similar situation occurred in 2009 when most of the March precipitation came in the form of rainfalls, and some in thunderstorms. Many observers reported 2.50 to 3.00 inches that month, though not quite as wet as 1977.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 1st

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 32 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 15 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 1st

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 59 degrees F in 1990; lowest daily maximum temperature of 0 degrees F in 1962; lowest daily minimum temperature of -32 F in 1962; highest daily minimum temperature of 38 F in 1878 and 2004; and record precipitation of 1.62 inches in 1965; Record snowfall is 9.0 inches in 2007.

Average dew point for March 1st is 14 degrees F, with a maximum of 43 degrees F in 2004 and a minimum of -34 degrees F in 1962.

All-time state records for March 1st

The state record high temperature for this date is 76 degrees F at Ashby (Grant County) in 1907. The state record low temperature for this date is -47 degrees F at Bigfork (Itasca County) in 1962. State record precipitation for this date is 1.97 inches at Faribault (Rice County) in 1965; and the state record snowfall for this date is 18.8 inches at Collegeville (Stearns County) in 1965.

Past Weather Features:

A fast moving winter storm brought heavy snowfall to many parts of the state on March 1, 1951. Snowfall amounts from 6 to 12 inches were reported across central counties and some schools were closed. It was the start of a very snowy March which delivered 40 or more inches of snowfall to many Minnesota communities, including 40 inches in the Twin Cities.

Far and away the coldest March 1st in state history occurred in 1962. A slow moving Arctic cold front invaded the state overnight on February 27th and dropped temperatures dramatically. Deep snow cover was widespread and overnight lows plummeted to record cold for most observers. Minimum temperatures of -30 degrees F were common, and over a dozen communities reported -40 degrees F or colder. Temperatures rebounded into the 20s and 30s F by March 3rd.

The first four days of March 1965 brought heavy rains in the south, along with ice and sleet, while central and northern counties had heavy snowfalls. Bird Island, Collegeville, Winsted, St Cloud, and Aitkin all reported over 20 inches. In southeastern Minnesota rains caused flooding along the Root and Zumbro Rivers. In central counties hundreds of schools were closed and many cars were abandoned in snow drifts on Highway 10. It was the start of the snowiest March in state history, when Collegeville reported over 66 inches of March snowfall.

Perhaps the warmest March 1st in state history was in 1992 when over two dozen Minnesota communities saw the thermometer climb into the 60s F under bright sunny skies. The warmth did not last as the month brought cold and snow to many areas, including a snow storm on the last day of the month.


A cool start to the weekend under mostly sunny skies, then more clouds and warmer on Sunday with a chance for snow later in the day. Widespread snow by Monday with somewhat cooler temperatures. Some snow lingering into Tuesday, then warmer and drier on Wednesday and Thursday.


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