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Commentary produced February 28, 2014

  • Preliminary climate summary for February
  • Measures of this cold winter
  • Weekly weather potpourri
  • MPR listener questions
  • Almanac for February 28th
  • Past weather
  • Outlook

Preliminary climate summary for February

Most observers in Minnesota reported average February temperature that ranged from 10 to 12 degrees F colder than normal, ranking among the 8 coldest months of February on a statewide basis since 1895, and the coldest since 1979. For the month, only four days delivered above normal temperatures. The extreme values for the month were 49 degrees F at Forest Lake on the 18th and -38 degrees F at Embarrass on the 2nd. Over February 6, 9, 11, 27, and 28 many new daily record low minimum and maximum temperature values were set across the state including a new record low of -36 degrees F at International Falls on the 27th and -37 degrees F at Orr on the 28th. Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the nation (excluding Alaska) on 13 days during the month. As a result of the persist cold frost depths in the ground ranged from 3 to 7 feet deep, depending on the level of snow cover.

Except for portions of northwestern Minnesota, most observers in Minnesota reported above normal precipitation during February, with the most significant winter storm event over February 20-21. A majority of observers reported between 1 and 2 inches of precipitation. Most of this precipitation fell as snow, ranging up to 20 or more inches in eastern counties. New record monthly snowfall was reported from Cook (36.1"), Isabella (34"), Babbitt (33.3"), Embarrass (29.5"), Tower (29.3"), and Orr (26.8"). Unusual snow depths were reported by the end of the month in Cook County, with 37 inches at Grand Marais, and 36 to 48 inches along the Gunflint Trail.

In addition, high winds (greater than 30 mph) created blowing and drifting snow and poor visibility on several days during February. A number of blizzard warnings were issued. Many sections of Minnesota roads and highways benefited from the use of living and constructed snow fences, which trapped snow and kept it off the roads.


Measures of this cold winter

For the meteorological winter (Dec-Feb), persistent cold and snow cover have been the themes across Minnesota. On a statewide basis it is the coldest winter since that of 1978-1979 and will likely end up among the top 5 coldest historically. Some measures of the cold winter season include:

65 days with below 0 F minimum temperature at Duluth, including a record string of 23 consecutive days from January 20 to February 11
70 days with below 0 F minimum temperatures at International Falls
50 days with 0 F or colder minimum temperatures in the Twin Cities, over twice the historical average and the most since the winter of 1977-1978
32 days with minimum temperatures of -30 degrees F or colder at Embarrass, a state record
Minnesota has reported the coldest daily minimum temperature in the nation (excluding Alaska) 45 days, or half of the meteorological winter (Dec-Feb), and the most of any state
Speaking of Alaska, here is a comparison of the meteorological winter mean temperature values, and readings of -30 degrees F or colder for International Falls and Embarrass in Minnesota versus Fairbanks, Alaska for the winter of 2013-2014:

International Falls mean temperature for Dec-Feb -2.7 degrees F, with 15 days of minimum temperature of -30 F or colder

Embarrass mean temperature for Dec-Feb -5.5 degrees F, with 32 days of minimum temperature of -30 F or colder.

Fairbanks, Alaska mean temperature for Dec-Feb -1.0 degrees F, with 12 days of -30 F or colder
This is perhaps the first time that portions of Minnesota have reported a colder meteorological winter than Fairbanks, Alaska.

More summaries of the meteorological winter in Minnesota can be found at....

Pete Boulay of the MN State Climatology Office notes that the Winter Misery Index for the Twin Cities has surpassed 180 points, the most since the winter of 1985-1986. The Winter Misery Index is based on the accumulation of cold temperatures and snow cover. You can read more about it at...


Weekly weather potpourri

Iowa State University this week released an analysis of the number of 24-hour days with temperatures below 0 degrees F across the region this winter. They present an interesting spatial depiction (map form) of the analysis and summarize that the frequency of below 0 F hours this winter has been from 1.5 to 3.0 times higher than average. For the Twin Cities the data show over 500 hours of below 0 degrees F so far this winter. Though not record-setting, it is an exceptionally high number. You can look at their analysis at...

The United Kingdom Meteorological Office issued an update on winter weather this week. It showed that the meteorological winter (Dec-Feb) is the wettest of record back to 1910. In fact for the England and Wales climate series that goes back to 1766 it is also the wettest winter ever, averaging over 17 inches of precipitation. Portions of Wales saw over 28 inches of precipitation this winter. You can read more at....
A new study from Dartmouth University published this month in the journal Geology documents that the loss of glacial ice in Peru is associated with temperature change and not lack of snowfall. Thus a warming climate is implicated as a driver in the shrinkage of tropical glaciers. You can read more about this paper at...

Comments from Brad Rippey of the USDA on the weekly drought assessment: "....a strong storm crossed the upper Midwest on February 20-21, delivered wind-driven snow. The latest storm, on top of several earlier systems, further boosted the upper Midwestern snowpack. Nearly every flake of snow that has fallen across the far upper Midwest this winter remains on the ground," Rippey says. "Although there are some uncertainties regarding how much of the moisture will run off and how much will soak in, the latest storm resulted in further reductions in the coverage of dryness and lingering drought (including MN).

The USA National Academy of Science and the Royal Society issued a new report recently entitled "Climate Change: Evidence and Causes." They also held a webinar to present their findings. The report suggests that climate change evidence is stronger than ever and coherent with the consequences being observed in many landscapes. You can find the report online at....

MPR listener question

From a listener near Marshall, MN, "in addition to being colder than normal, has this winter been windier than average as well?"

Answer: Certainly the past two months have. Examining the wind records from Redwood Falls for the meteorological winter (Dec-Feb) shows that the mean wind speed in December was 9.6 mph (ave is 11.1 mph), but there were 10 days with peak wind gusts of 30 mph or greater. For January the mean wind speed was higher than normal at 12.9 mph (ave is 11.9 mph), with 20 days of peak wind gusts of 30 mph or greater (60 mph on Jan 26th). In February the mean wind speed was higher than normal at 12.6 mph (ave is 11.4 mph), and there were 12 days with peak wind gusts of 30 mph or greater (49 mph on Feb 20th). At Marshall, MN specifically there have been peak wind gusts of 48 mph on Dec 28th, 58 mph on Jan 26, and 45 mph on Feb 20th.

Twin Cities Almanac for February 28th

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 12 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP local records for February 28th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 57 degrees F in 1932; lowest daily maximum temperature of -9 degrees F in 1962; lowest daily minimum temperature is -26 degrees F in 1962; highest daily minimum temperature of 38 F in 1882 and 1895; record precipitation of 0.70 inches in 2012; and a record 8.0 inches of snow fell on this date in 1907. Maximum snow depth on this date was 24 inches in 1962.
Average dew point for February 28th is 15 degrees F, with a maximum of 40 degrees F in 1983 and a minimum of -40 degrees F in 1962.

All-time state records for February 28th

The state record high temperature for this date is 66 degrees F at Pipestone (Pipestone County) in 1924. The state record low temperature for this date is -50 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1897. State record precipitation for this date is 2.21 inches at Isabella (Lake County) in 1998; and state record snowfall for this date is 16.5 inches at Gull Lake (Cass County) in 1948.

Past weather features

An warm spell of winter brought record-setting high temperatures to many southern and western Minnesota communities over February 26-28, 1924. At least 20 communities saw daytime highs reach the 50s F under sunny skies. Some farmers were seen doing field work at the end of the month.

A strong winter storm crossed the state over February 27-28, 1948. The storm brought rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow. Ice accumulations caused a great deal of tree damage and power outages. Heavy snowfall brought widespread road closures as well, and schools let out early on Friday the 27th. Many observers reported 8 to 10 inches of heavy, wet snow and some reported record amounts. Over a foot of snow fell at Walker, Duluth, Little Falls, Milan, Mora, Wadena, and Cambridge.

Following a late February snow storm, Arctic air invaded the state in 1962 for four days over February 27 to March 2nd. The coldest February 28th and March 1st in state history were recorded that year. Temperatures as cold as -36 degrees F at Luverne and -35 degrees F at Austin were reported. At least 15 Minnesota communities reported low temperatures of -40 degrees F or colder.

The most recent warm February 28th occurred in 2000 when dozens of observers reported daytime temperatures in the 50s F. It was 55 degrees F as far north as Detroit Lakes, while Madison, Milan, Luverne, Marshall, Windom, and Redwood Falls made it into the 60s F. It was a precursor to a very warm March of 2000, the 4th warmest in state history.


Continued very cold for this time of year into the weekend to start the month of March, with chances for snow in the south on Saturday. Some moderation in temperature with an increasing chance for snow by next Wednesday and Thursday as temperatures climb into the teens and twenties F (still cooler than normal).

Further Information

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