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Cold Start to February

Cold Start to February:

February has begun with a prolonged cold spell of many subzero nights with daytime highs only reaching the single digits in many places. Average temperatures around the state are running 10 to 12 degrees F cooler than normal. Over the first nine days of the month Minnesota has reported the nation’s coldest temperature 5 times, including -43 degrees F at Embarrass on the 4th. So far 16 climate stations in northern portions of the state have seen the temperature drop to -30 degrees F at least once this month.

Several observers have reported 3 to 5 inches of new snow this month. In many northern areas snow depths range from 8 to 15 inches, while west-central counties still lack snow cover as many observers there report less than 2 inches. Soil frost depths around the state currently range from 15 to 30 inches, and will likely go deeper. The colder than normal temperatures are likely to continue on Wednesday of next week (Feb 14th) when temperatures are expected to climb into the 30s F, breaking the streak.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

Very heavy snowfall with significant snow drifts closed some streets in Paris on Wednesday of this week. The Eiffel Tower was even closed for a time. This unusual weather followed a massive flood on the River Seine through Paris that occurred the last week of January closing many Parisian streets due to high water. Winter precipitation there has been up to 10 inches above normal, a very wet season. You can read more about the flooding in Paris from the blog.

Since 2015 Cape Town, South Africa has consistently reported below normal rainfall. The cumulative effect of this has resulted in a severe water shortage for this city, and there will be even stricter water use regulations imposed beginning this April or May, perhaps only allowing each resident to use 7 gallons or less per day. You can read more about this drought and its impact there from an article by NOAA’s Michon Scott.

Colder than normal temperatures are expected to prevail across many of the Olympic venues in South Korea for the first weekend of competitions at the Winter Olympics. Daytime temperatures may be in the teens and twenties F, with nights dropping as low as -2 to -7 degrees F. Wind Chill values will be in the range of -10 to -20 degrees F, especially for those spectators taking in the Alpin Skiing events this weekend. You can find more updates from the BBC Weather Center.

University of Arizona scientists recently analyzed the global temperature spike that occurred over 2014 to 2016. They found that over these three years the global temperature jumped 25 percent, and that the natural variability in the Earth climate system is not sufficient to explain this remarkable jump.

MPR listener question:

Looks like we will start February of 2018 with 11 or more consecutive days of colder than normal temperatures here in the Twin Cities, the longest streak of colder than normal temperatures since the spell of weather from Christmas Eve to January 6 (14 consecutive days). We were wondering how often does the month of February start with colder than normal weather over the first 11 days or more?


Over the past 145 years (back to 1873) February has started with 11 or more consecutive days of colder than normal temperatures 22 times (15 percent), most recently in 2014. So this is pretty rare actually. Looks like we will break the current streak of colder than normal temperatures by the time we get to next Wednesday, the 14th day of the month. BTW in 1875 all 28 days of February were colder than normal, and it was the coldest February in Twin Cities history. Second coldest February was 1936, and third coldest was 1904 (both had over 20 days with colder than normal temperatures).

Twin Cities Almanac for February 9th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 27 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 11 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for February 9th:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 52 degrees F in 1966; lowest daily maximum temperature of -16 degree F in 1899; lowest daily minimum temperature of -33 degrees F in 1899; highest daily minimum temperature of 34 degrees F in 1966; record precipitation of 0.92 inches in 1965. Record snowfall on this date is 8.0 inches in 1939.

Average dew point for February 9th is 6 degree F, with a maximum of 46 degrees F in 1966 and a minimum of -30 degrees F in 1975.

All-time state records for February 9th:

The all-time state high temperature for today's date is 63 degrees F at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1991; the all-time state low for today's date is -59 degrees F at Leech Lake (Cass County) in 1899. The all-time state record precipitation for this date is 1.75 inch at Collegeville (Stearns County) in 1909. Record snowfall is 15.0 inches at Albert Lea (Freeborn County) in 1909.

Past Weather Features:

The Great Arctic Outbreaks of 1835 and 1899-

Today is the anniversary of two arctic cold outbreaks which produced some rather striking effects on the mighty Mississippi River. On this date in 1835 and again in 1899 the river was frozen deeply at Ft Snelling, allowing for foot and sleigh traffic. Low temperatures in Minnesota ranged from the -30s F to the -50s F. On the morning of February 9, 1899 over 20 Minnesota climate stations reported a temperature of -40 degrees F or colder. Detroit Lakes (Becker County) reported a low of -53 degrees F and a high of -32 degrees F.

It was also frozen enough for skating and sledding as far south as St Louis, and ice floes were observed entering the Gulf of Mexico out of New Orleans. In fact on February 9, 1899 parts of Louisiana recorded their all-time coldest temperatures with 7 degrees F at New Orleans and -4 degrees F at Shreveport. The 1899 cold wave struck the Gulf and eastern seaboard states with great ferocity. Parts of Florida received 3.5 inches of snow. Other record low temperatures that occurred during that Arctic Outbreak of 1899 included:
-6 degrees F at Atlanta, GA; 10 degrees F at Jacksonville, FL; -2 degrees F at Tallahassee, FL; and -15 degrees F in Washington, D.C.

Over February 9-10, 1909 a major winter storm brought rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow to nearly all of the state. Snow was heaviest in south-central counties where observers reported 10 to 18 inches of snow.

One of the heaviest snowfalls of the Dust Bowl Era (1930s) in Minnesota occurred over February 8-10, 1939. From the Twin Cities north over a foot of snow piled up, and in the northeast both Pigeon River and Grand Marais reported over 20 inches of snow.

The warmest February 9th in state history was in 1991. Over 40 climate stations saw afternoon temperatures soar into the 50s F. In southwestern Minnesota temperatures reached the 60s F at Lamberton, Springfield, and Canby.


A generally sunny or partly cloudy weekend, but with cooler than normal temperatures prevailing across the state.  Continued cool and dry for Monday and Tuesday, then warmer by Wednesday of next week, as temperatures moderate in the latter part of the week.

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