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Snow will be welcome in west-central Minnesota

Snow will be welcome in west-central Minnesota:

Portions of west-central Minnesota have been exceptionally dry since November 1 of last year. Over an area spanning from Lyon County north to Traverse County and east to Meeker County climate observers have reported only about 25 to 35 percent of normal precipitation since November 1st. As a result some of these west-central counties are designated to be in moderate drought by the US Drought Monitor, but more importantly the persistent absence of snow cover this winter has allowed frost depths to go down 20-30 inches and exposed pasture lands to some extremely low temperatures (conducive to winter injury of perennial grasses and alfalfa). Should this pattern persist into the spring farmers would be justifiably considered about lacking enough moisture for the planting season.

Fortunately the emerging weather pattern delineated by recent forecast models shows favorable conditions for significant snow cover to finally come to this portion of Minnesota beginning this weekend and through much of next week. This will be welcome there. Also the new outlook models favor a cooler and wetter than normal spring for the state as a whole.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

For those in the business of weather forecasting it is a bit disconcerting to see a proposed $1 billion dollar cut for NOAA in the Trump federal budget. Public expectations for the National Weather Service to provide warnings and forecasts for severe or threatening weather have never been higher, and the challenges are great to achieve better forecasting accuracy and enhance public safety. But with the proposed budget cuts NOAA could lose between 300 and 400 jobs, as well as capital funding for the deployment of new technologies. Let's hope that Congress restores some of this proposed budget cut to NOAA.

Tropical Cyclone Gita in the South Pacific Ocean is being watched carefully by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center as it heads for New Zealand over the next three days. It currently packs wind gusts over 120 mph and sea wave heights over 25 feet, but is expected to weaken as it nears New Zealand.

There is an interesting discussion this week by the UK Met Office regarding the slang terms used to describe weather, and the misinterpretation of weather symbols by the public. There are very significant regional differences in the jargon used to describe heavy rain for example. The Met Office is hoping to use this survey data to better serve the public with local forecasts that are heeded.

A recent study by NOAA and University of Colorado scientists reveals that the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by paints and perfumes can cause a significant degradation in air quality. At least this is the case in the Los Angels Basin where the study was done. You can read more about this paper published in Science by going to the online edition.

A strong cold front brought high winds and dust storms to parts of Australia on Wednesday this week. Melbourne was hit by winds ranging from 55 to 65 mph, knocking down trees, and bending road signs, as well as blowing shingles off roofs. Some people were injured by debris blown around in the wind.

MPR listener question:

I heard this might be a rare winter season when the average temperature for the three months of December, January, and February will be cooler than normal. Is this true? And how will this winter rank historically?


As we stand this winter December was marginally cooler than normal, while January was marginally warmer than normal. With these somewhat offsetting months in play, the weight of February’s temperature pattern (9 to 11 degrees F cooler than normal so far) will cause the three month average to fall below normal for only the 9th time in the last 30 years. Such winters have been pretty uncommon.

In fact if you look at the number of times the Twin Cities has reported a mean daily temperature in the single digits (below 10 degrees F) this winter that has occurred 28 times so far this winter. This seems like a large number but it is not. Here are the top ten winters in the Twin Cities winter climate record (Dec-Feb) for number of days when the average daily temperature was in single digits or colder:

1886-1887 51 days
1874-1875 47 days
1917-1918 45 days
1916-1917 and 1978-1979 44 days
1882-1883 43 days
1935-1936 42 days
2013-2014 41 days
1872-1873 and 1981-1982 40 days
1919-1920 38 days
1876-1877 and 1983-1984 37 days

With the current weather outlook for beyond this weekend I would be surprised to see any more days with just a single digit average temperature. It seems like we will be flirting with normal or above normal temperatures the rest of this month.

Twin Cities Almanac for February 16th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 29 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 13 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation).MSP Local Records for February 16th:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 60 degrees F in 1981; lowest daily maximum temperature of -11 degree F in 1903; lowest daily minimum temperature of -26 degrees F in 1936; highest daily minimum temperature of 36 degrees F in 1998; record precipitation of 0.40 inches in 1878. Record snowfall on this date is 3.2 inches in 1938.

Average dew point for February 16th is 11 degree F, with a maximum of 38 degrees F in 2011 and a minimum of -29 degrees F in 1973.16th:

All-time state records for February 16th:

The all-time state high temperature for today's date is 67 degrees F at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1981; the all-time state low for today's date is -59 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1903. The all-time state record precipitation for this date is 2.20 inch at Brainerd (Crow Wing County) in 1921. Record snowfall is 12.0 inches at Aitkin (Aitkin County) in 1990.

Past Weather Features:

On a statewide basis the coldest February 16th occurred in 1936. With heavy snow cover in place an Arctic air mass descended from the north and brought record-setting cold to many counties. Fifteen climate stations reported a morning low of -40 degrees F or colder. As far south as Faribault it was -34 degrees F. At Fosston (Polk County) the temperature never rose higher than -25 degrees F.

By far the warmest February 16th in state history occurred in 1981. Over 40 Minnesota climate stations reported an afternoon high temperature in the 60s F under bright sunny skies and with light southerly winds. Many citizens took lunch outside to enjoy the weather.

A stalled frontal system along the Iowa border brought heavy snowfall to southern parts of the state over February 16-19, 1984. Snowfall amounts ranged from 5 to 13 inches, and in southwestern Minnesota counties many schools were closed because of drifted roads and highways.

A large, slow moving winter storm brought heavy snow to the state over February 15-16, 1990. Many areas of central and northern Minnesota reported 6 to 12 inches of snow. Dozens of schools were closed for the day on Friday the 16th.


Near normal temperatures over the weekend, with increasing cloudiness, especially on Sunday and a chance for snow later in the day and evening. There will be mixed precipitation Sunday night and Monday, with some rain and freezing rain in southern sections of the state, and mostly snow in the central and north. Amounts could be heavy in places (4-8 inches) and snow may linger well into Tuesday. Drier with near normal temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday next week.

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