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Freezing rain, snow, and cold for mid-February

Freezing rain, snow, and cold for mid-February:

The winter roller coaster ride continued this week with a significant warm-up over February 7-10, before a crash to below normal temperatures late in the week. Some observers reported temperatures over those days that ranged from 10 to 15F above normal.  St James reached 38F and Wells climbed to 39F.  The warmer air also brought more moisture and many southern Minnesota areas reported freezing rain or drizzle this week.  Scores of spin-outs and accidents were reported on roads and highways in rural counties and there were over 130 crashes on Twin Cities roads alone on February 10th. Northern areas of the state received some significant snowfalls.  Many observers there reported 2-3 inches, and some even more.  In fact some northern observers reported new daily record snowfall amounts for February 11th including 5.6 inches at Ely, and 5.0 inches at Eveleth and Gunflint Lake.  It is interesting to note that February 11th two years ago (2013) brought heavy snow and a blizzard to many areas of the state, depositing over a foot of snow in many places.  Another chance for snow arrives on Sunday, February 15th followed by a spell of cold weather when temperatures will average 10-15 °F below normal.

Climate of Valentine's Day: 

Certainly noted for being an indoor day for romantics, the weather on Valentine's Day is often suitable for outside activity (skiing, skating, sledding, or ice fishing). In the Twin Cities, Valentine’s Day has a reputation for being snowy: there is snow cover nearly 80 percent of the time, and it actually snows on February 14 about one year in four (6.4 inches in 1950).  Statewide, snow typically covers the ground as well, often to great depths in the north. On Valentine’s Day 1969, many northern locations reported more than 3 feet of snow on the ground. In 1936 Grand Marais received 22 inches yielding good sleighing conditions.

February 14 can be quite cold as well. Though the Twin Cities average high and low temperatures are 25°F and 8°F on Valentine’s Day the mercury has read below zero °F about 25 percent of the time, bottoming out at – 21°F in 1936. For many the cold is a good excuse to cozy up to the fireplace and share some spirits or a cup of tea, activities surely justified in 1906 when temperatures as low as – 40°F kept even the hardiest citizens indoors. Conversely, outside activity must have been the rule for Valentine’s Day 1954, as much of the state enjoyed temperatures in the 50°F and 60s°F with abundant sunshine and no snow cover. One could have hand- delivered fresh- cut flowers that day without any risk of spoilage.

This Valentine's Day will be sunny, but cold and blustery.  Many areas of the state will see winds gusting to 30 mph and daytime highs only in the single digits.  In the north, daytime highs will remain below 0F, but will not approach the record cold of Valentine's Day 1936 which saw some northern communities remain in the -20s°F all day.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

There was an interesting article in the Star Tribune newspaper this week about the scientists at the University of Minnesota who study ancient climates from tree rings, called dendrochronology.  Kurt Kipfmueller, Dan Griffin, and Scott St George are the featured researchers. 

A feature from NOAA-NCDC  this month noted that 5 years ago this week was the last time all 50 states in the USA had snow cover.  Many record snowfalls had been reported earlier during the second week of February, 2010.  You can find maps and a discussion  about how widespread snow cover was in the USA ten years ago.

The United Kingdom Meteorological Office described recent improvements to its Virtual Met Mast service which is a forecasting service targeted for wind energy producers.  Their models provide historical frequency distributions for wind, and forecast guidance for those who operate large wind turbines.  The improved service is expected to help with the siting of turbines as well as their operational efficiencies.  Such as service may serve as a model for other government weather services to consider.

A NASA report released earlier this week documents the global loss of sea ice.  Even though Antarctic sea ice has been growing, reaching a new record maximum this past September, global sea ice is decreasing as a result of the decline in Arctic sea ice.  The overall annual net loss of sea ice is estimated to be 13,500 square miles since 1979, a pace that is equivalent to losing an area the size of the state of Maryland each year.

Egypt, Israel, and Jordan were pounded by strong sand storms this week.  The Suez Canal had to be closed for a time, as were some regional airports.  The airborne sand caused the worst air pollution in 5 years for some Middle Eastern cities.  Yet another wind storm is expected to affect the area over Sunday and Monday.

MPR Listener Question:

I see from the U.S. Drought Monitor web site this week that 98 percent of the Minnesota landscape is drier than normal, and about 6 percent is in moderate drought.  In addition well over half of the state has less than 2 inches of snow cover.  With this situation should we be concerned about a spring drought.


Given both our historical climate behavior as well as the climate outlook I am more worried about winter injury to crops and plants because of the combined effects of the dryness and colder than normal temperatures.  In my view it is still too early to worry about spring drought, as the state moisture situation could turn around dramatically during the month of March as it has numerous times in the past.

Twin Cities Almanac for February 13th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 27 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 10 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for February 13th:

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 51 degrees F in 1890; lowest daily maximum temperature of 0 degrees F in 1905 and 1909; lowest daily minimum temperature is -23 degrees F in 1905; highest daily minimum temperature of 34 F in 1911; record precipitation of 0.60 inches 1915; and record snowfall is 5.2 inches in 1909.

Average dew point for February 13th is 12 degrees F, with a maximum of 36 degrees F in 1983 and a minimum of -23 degrees F in 1971.

All-time state records for February 13th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 63 degrees F at Mankato (Blue Earth County) in 1990. The state record low temperature for this date is -46 degrees F at Detroit Lakes (Becker County) in 1916.  State record precipitation for this date is 1.87 inches at Pipestone (Pipestone County) in 1915; and the state record snowfall for this date is 20.0 inches at Pigeon River Bridge (Cook County) in 1936.  


Sunny, blustery, and cold on Saturday with wind gusts ranging to 25-30 mph at times.  Sub-zero temperature readings will be common around the state for overnight lows.  Increasing cloudiness with a chance for snow on Sunday. Continued chance for snow flurries on Monday.  Sharply colder Tuesday through Friday of next week with temperatures averaging 10-15°F below normal.  Generally a dry week.

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