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Commentary produced February 21, 2014

  • Record snows on President's Day
  • More record snows and precipitation on Feb 20-21
  • Update on cold at Embarrass, MN
  • New Seasonal Outlooks
  • Weekly weather potpourri
  • MPR listener questions
  • Almanac for February 21st
  • Past weather
  • Outlook

Coping with a long winter

As we face the final stages of this long hard winter in Minnesota, I was inspired to see these words from the writer Victor Hugo:

"laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face."

This is a winter that we can be thankful for laughter. I know that I saw many more smiles when the temperature finally touched 40 degrees F two days in a row this week in the Twin Cities. At least that gave us a bit of a respite.

Record snows on President's Day

President's Day, Monday, February 17th brought widespread snowfall to the state, and in some cases daily amounts were record-setting for the date. Those observers who reported new daily record amounts of snowfall on that date included:

8.0 inches at Cook
6.6 inches at Grand Rapids
6.0 inches at Duluth, Embarrass, and Ely
5.2 inches at Willmar
5.0 inches at Faribault and Brimson
4.9 inches at MSP airport
4.5 inches at Redwood Falls and Granite Falls
4.3 inches at St Cloud
3.6 inches at Rochester
3.5 inches at St James

In addition to the snowfall records a few observers reported daily precipitation records (melted snow) ranging from 0.30 to 0.50 inches. On a statewide basis, most observers reported measurable precipitation on February 17th, and this was arguably the most significant winter storm of February so far.

More record snow and precipitation on Feb 20-21

A second, more formidable winter storm crossed the state over February 20-21 bringing rain, heavy snowfall to some areas, and blizzard conditions to southern counties which closed a number of roads and highways. It was the largest and most widespread heavy snowfall for these dates since 1953 for many areas. There were power outages and school closures as a result of this storm as well. Though the storm started later in the day on Thursday, February 20th some new daily record amounts of precipitation and snowfall were reported by several observers. Some examples are:

0.99 inches of precipitation and 8.8 inches of snowfall at Rochester
1.06 inches of precipitation and 10.9 inches of snowfall at Duluth
0.67 inches of precipitation and 9.0 inches of snowfall at Princeton

With the overnight continuation of the storm, some record setting values of precipitation and snowfall were also reported on the morning of February 21st. Some examples are:

0.88 inches of precipitation and 8.0 inches of snowfall at Faribault
1.05 inches of precipitation and 7.7 inches of snowfall at Zumbrota
0.65 inches of precipitation and 9.0 inches of snowfall at Albert Lea
1.12 inches of precipitation and 13.8 inches of snowfall at Wright
0.71 inches of precipitation and 14.0 inches of snowfall at Babbitt
0.91 inches of precipitation and 11.7 inches of snowfall at Floodwood

With two significant storms this week, some of the climate observers in Minnesota are showing very large monthly totals for snowfall in February. In the northeast counties Cook has reported 32.9 inches and Isabella has reported 34 inches of snow so far this month.

Update on record cold season at Embarrass

Earlier this week Embarrass reported lows of -31 degrees F on back to back days, February 16-17. These were also the coldest readings in the nation. Daily minimum temperatures of -30 degrees F or colder have been measured there on 30 days since December 1, 2013, marking the coldest winter since at Embarrass since records began in 1994. They have also reported 7 days with low temperature readings of -40 degrees F or colder. After reporting a low of -31 degrees F on Monday this week (Feb 17), the temperature rose to 39 degrees F on the 18th, a rise of 70 degrees F, and their warmest temperature since November 20, 2013! That same day Grand Rapids, MN rose to 46 degrees F, also their warmest reading since November 20, 2013.


New Seasonal Climate Outlook

On Thursday, February 20, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issued a new seasonal climate outlook. The new outlook favors cooler than normal temperatures to dominate the Great Lakes Region over the period of March through May. This obviously includes Minnesota. If this outlook validates then Minnesota will record 7 consecutive months with cooler than normal temperatures (since November, 2013), the first time we have seen this level of cooler than normal temperature persistence since 1995-1996, when 9 consecutive months were cooler than normal (Sep 1995 to May 1996).

The outlook for spring precipitation is a bit confounding. The CPC calls for equal chances of above or below normal precipitation over the three months from March to May, yet they also see some drought alleviation for the drier areas of the state which did not benefit as much from autumn rainfall recharge. You can look at their outlook products at

Weekly weather potpourri

The National Weather Service in Grand Forks, ND released an earlier spring flood outlook this week. Bottom line is there is a moderate spring flood potential along the main stem of the Red River between ND and MN. These conditions may be modified by the precipitation pattern that emerges for March and April. You can read more details on their web site at....

The Minnesota DNR updated the Winter Severity Index (WSI) for white tailed deer. This is a stress index based on the number of days with a low temperature of 0 degrees F or lower and a snow depth of 15 inches or greater. Northeastern Minnesota counties show the highest WSI so far this winter, with values over 140. You can look at the update on our web site at...

Tropical Cyclone Guito was spinning in the Mozambique Channel of the Southern Indian Ocean west of Madagascar this week. It was gaining strength with wind speeds over 100 mph and sea wave heights of 20-25 feet. It was expected to move south away from land over the weekend and then dissipate.

By providing hour by hour forecasts the United Kingdom Meteorological Office recently assisted in the evacuation of 75 workers from oil and gas platforms in the North Sea. It has been an especially stormy winter for oil and gas platform operations in the North Sea. Winds at times have exceeded 65 mph and wave heights have exceeded 35 feet at times.

A recent study from the University of Wisconsin published in Geophysical Research Letters documents a lowering of average sea level atmospheric pressure in the Arctic region, and an associated increased frequency of extreme Arctic cyclones (low pressure systems), which accelerates the erosion of Arctic coastlines. You can read more about this article at...

MPR listener question

"I know that February is not known as a snowy month in Minnesota. But what has been the snowiest February historically?"

Answer: The snowiest February in the Twin Cities record is 1962 with 26.5 inches. On a statewide basis two communities have reported 40 or more inches of snowfall in February: Worthington received 40 inches in 1962, while Lutsen received 47.4 inches in 2001.

Twin Cities Almanac for February 21st

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 29 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 11 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP local records for February 21st

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 59 degrees F in 1930; lowest daily maximum temperature of -1 degrees F in 1963; lowest daily minimum temperature is -21 degrees F in 1873; highest daily minimum temperature of 44 F in 1930; record precipitation of 0.82 inches in 1882; and a record 5.5 inches of snow fell on this date in 1962. Maximum snow depth on this date was 27 inches in 1967.

Average dew point for February 21st is 13 degrees F, with a maximum of 52 degrees F in 1930 and a minimum of -33 degrees F in 1963.

All-time state records for February 21st

The state record high temperature for this date is 64 degrees F at Whitewater (Winona County) in 1943. The state record low temperature for this date is -51 degrees F at Meadowlands (St Louis County) in 1939 and at Baudette (Lake of the Woods County) in 1966. State record precipitation for this date is 1.50 inches at Albert Lea (Freeborn County) in 1969; and state record snowfall for this date is 15.0 inches at Northfield (Rice County) in 1882.

Past weather features

One of the worst February blizzards in state history occurred over February 21-23, 1922 bringing rain, sleet, freezing rain, and snow across the state. A severe ice storm caused power outages and tree damage in southeastern Minnesota counties. Winds up to 40 mph blew snow into 3-4 foot drifts in western Minnesota. Little Falls, Milaca, Detroit Lakes, and Meadowlands all reported over 20 inches of snowfall.

Following a large winter snow storm over February 19-20, the coldest ever February 21st in state history occurred in 1939, when the high temperature at Detroit Lakes rose no higher than -10 degrees F. In northern Minnesota 14 communities saw the thermometer drop to -40 degrees F or colder. The cold temperatures moderated by February 25th, but February of 1939 was the 7th coldest in state history.

A big winter storm over February 20-21, 1953 dumped from 6 inches to 17 inches of snowfall across southern Minnesota. It was one of several major snow storms to affect the state in February of 1953.

The warmest February 21st in state history occurred in 1981. Statewide most observers reported sunny skies and afternoon temperatures from the mid 40s F to mid 50s F. Over a dozen communities reached the 60s F, and in some places farmers were planting small grains just to see how such early planting dates would fare.


Mostly cloudy and cold over the weekend. Generally dry and cold next week with temperatures averaging several degrees F colder than normal, and a number of below 0 F nights, finishing off an exceptionally cold month of February.

Further information

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