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February Climate Summary

February Climate Summary:

Overall for most areas of Minnesota February was cooler than normal and wetter than normal. Average monthly temperatures ranged from 5 to 7 degrees F cooler than normal. At MSP it ranked as the 28th coolest month of February in the 145 year record. The statewide range in temperature for the month was 55 degrees F at Caledonia (Houston County) and Winona on the 28th and -43 degrees F at Embarrass (St Louis County) on the 5th. Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the nation 7 times during the month, more than any other state.

Nearly 90 percent of all weather observers reported above normal precipitation for the month, with New Ulm topping the list at 3.33 inches (melted snow equivalent). Several climate stations reported over 2 inches. In terms of snowfall, over 50 Minnesota climate stations reported monthly totals of 20 inches or greater, with parts of Cook and Lake Counties getting over 30 inches. Most of the monthly snowfall came during the week of February 19-25. Within the Minnesota climate observation network there were 54 maximum daily snowfall records that were set or tied during the month.

With the conclusion of meteorological winter (December-February) the climate statistics for Minnesota show that the season was 1 to 3 degrees F cooler than normal. It was also a wetter than normal winter in north-central, northeastern, and south-central counties, but drier than normal in several western and central counties of the state. And finally for the snow season to date, Isabella (Lake County) leads the state with 89 inches so far, while Wheaton (Traverse County) reports a measly 15.3 inches.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

It was an important day for the NOAA National Weather Service on March 1st this week as the new GOES-S satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Once in orbit it will be renamed GOES-17 and later this year take over for GOES-15 monitoring the western US and the Pacific Ocean. Its sensors will bring new information to forecasters in a more timely manner and should therefore improve forecasting for some areas, especially related to fog formation and formation of tropical storms. It will also be capable of detecting wildfires.

Winter Storm Emma was bringing cold temperatures and mixed precipitation to many parts of the United Kingdom on Thursday and Friday this week. Portions of southwestern England and southern Wales were expected to see 4 to 8 inches of snow, with larger amounts falling in higher elevations. Travel advisories were issued for most of the country as well.

On March 1st Winter Storm Quinn was bringing rain and heavy snow to portions of Washington, Oregon, and the California Sierra Nevada Range. Snowfall was expected to be continuous for a 48-72 hour period with several feet accumulating at elevation. Chains were needed to travel on Interstate 80. Meanwhile a very strong nor’easter was bringing heavy rains, snow, and high winds to the states along the New England coastal region of the USA. Travel was impeded there on Friday, with many flight delays and cancellations.

The study, "Pathways of Influence in Emotional Appeals: Benefits and Tradeoffs of Using Fear or Humor to Promote Climate Change-Related Intentions and Risk Perceptions," published in the Journal of Communication suggests that humor may be a vehicle to stimulate young people to take more action in responding to climate change. This article was a result of collaboration between Second City Works in Chicago and Cornell University.

MPR listener question:

To me nothing says deep winter like the squeal and crunch of dry snow in sub- or near-zero temperatures. I wonder if Dr. Seeley could explain the reason for this phenomenon?


Regardless of its form in the sky, when snowfall flakes fall and accumulate on the ground they aggregate into various forms, with spaces in between. As long as the temperature remains below freezing and there is no melting these spaces between snow aggregates are bridged by tiny crystal structure which support the weight of the snow and keep it from totally collapsing. This process is called sintering. When you walk through the snow in subfreezing temperatures the pressure of your weight exerted on the snow may cause it to melt and the snow aggregates and bridges between them will collapse quietly while lubricated by the liquid water from melting. However when the temperature is below 14 degrees F, the downward pressure of your weight will not cause snow to melt and you will hear the squeaking or crunching sound of the aggregates and ice crystal bridges that hold them together collapsing under your weight.

So typically snow that has not been compacted, or partially melted by warm temperatures will crunch or squeak underfoot when the temperature is 14 degrees F or colder.

(Paul Huttner has written about this, as well as Jim Nash)

Twin Cities Almanac for March 2nd:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 35 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 19 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 2nd:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 54 degrees F in 1923; lowest daily maximum temperature of 3 degree F in 2014; lowest daily minimum temperature of -17 degrees F in 1913; highest daily minimum temperature of 37 degrees F in 1878 and 1882; record precipitation of 0.58 inches in 1951. Record snowfall on this date is 7.1 inches in 1951.

Average dew point for March 2nd is 14 degree F, with a maximum of 41 degrees F in 1983 and a minimum of -26 degrees F in 1950.

All-time state records for March 2nd:

The all-time state high temperature for today's date is 71 degrees F at Lake Browns Valley (Traverse County) in 1992; the all-time state low for today's date is -50 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1897. The all-time state record precipitation for this date is 2.45 inch at Young America (Carver County) in 1965. Record snowfall is 25.0 inches at Wolf Ridge (near Finland) in Lake County falling in 2007.

Past Weather Features:

Arctic cold gripped the state for the start of March in 1916. Twenty climate stations reported a morning low temperature of -30 degrees F or colder, with over a foot of snow on the ground. The temperature never rose above -5 degrees F all day at New London (Kandiyohi County).

One of the wettest starts to the month of March occurred in 1965 when a slow moving low pressure system brought mixed precipitation to the state over the first four days of the month. Many areas of the state received 10 to 20 inches of snow, while Collegeville, Winsted, St Cloud and Bird Island received over 20 inches.

Spring temperatures arrived early in 1992. On March 2nd many climate stations reported daytime highs in the 60s F, while both Browns Valley and Canby reached 70 degrees F. But it was not a sign of a warm spring, as the weather pattern sharply cooled down after that.


There will be partly to mostly cloudy skies over the weekend, with a chance for rain or snow., especially later on Sunday. Temperatures will remain a few degrees warmer than normal, but there will be continuing chances for precipitation on Monday and Tuesday as well. Drier weather will settle in for Wednesday through Friday with cooler temperatures.
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Jerry Wright said…
Thanks Mark for your explanation on why one hears crunching sounds when you walk in sub zero weather. I have always enjoyed these sounds since my early age on the farm. Today I like to share this event with my friends when I comment on liking to go walking in very cold weather especially if there is not wind and surrounding noises. Thanks.