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February Cold in Historical Perspective

February Cold in Historical Perspective:

Last week I mentioned that February 6-15, 2021 brought the 5th coldest ever 10-day February period of weather (mean temperature -5.4°F) to the Twin Cities (back to 1873). Several people wanted to know how the first half of February (1-15) ranked historically. Some preliminary calculations show:

Statewide mean temperature for February 1-15 was -2.4°F. This ranks 9th coldest in history for the first half of the month dating back to 1895. There have been 16 years when the first half of February brought a statewide mean temperature that was subzero, the most recent before this year was in 2014 when the first half of the month average -0.4°F. The coldest first half of February all time was in 1936 with a statewide mean temperature of -12.3°F.

For the Twin Cities climate record (back to 1873) the first half of this February averaged 2.7°F, about 16 degrees colder than normal. This ranks as the 11th coldest first half of February. The coldest first half of February in the Twin Cities record is 1875 when the average temperature was -8.9°F. The MN-DNR State Climatology Office reports that from 4pm on February 11 to 11am February 16th, a period of 116 consecutive hours the Twin Cities was at or below 0°F. For historical perspective you can visit their web site which shows many longer periods at or below zero degrees have occurred in the past.

At International Falls, MN the first half of this February averaged -8.0°F, also about 16 degrees F colder than normal. This is the 4th coldest first half of February in their climate record. The coldest in their area for the first half of February was -16°F in 1936.

At Rochester, MN the first half of February brought a mean temperature of 0°F, about 18 degrees colder than normal. This ranks as the 4th coldest first half of the month in their record. The coldest was in 1936 with an average temperature of -5°F.

At Duluth, MN the first half of this February averaged -3.2°F, about 16 degrees colder than normal. This ranks as the 7th coldest first half of February in their climate history. Coldest was in 1936 with a mean temperature of -7.9°F.

Since February 7th Minnesota has reported the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states everyday but one (Feb 10 the coldest temperature was from Diamond Lake, WI). This includes a reading of -50°F at Ely 25SE on February 13th which was a new all-time state record low for the date. Low temperatures of -50°F or colder are not all that unusual in February. Leech Lake reported three mornings of -50°F or colder in February of 1899, Pokegama Dam reported three such mornings in February of 1903, Detroit Lakes in February of 1907, Warroad in February of 1933, Baudette in February of 1966, and Itasca State Park in February of 1996.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

There were many media reports about the winter storms and cold temperatures affecting the southern states this week. CNN reported that Oklahoma City, OK went 9 consecutive days without reaching 20°F, a record stretch of cold there, and Austin, TX went 6 consecutive days without topping 35°F, a record cold streak of days there. Millions were without power to heat their homes and there were widespread reports of frozen pipes across many southern states.

The National Weather Service reported many new record low temperature records that were set in Texas on February 15 and 16. Some on February 15th included:
-11°F at Amarillo
-6°F at Wichita Falls
-2°F at Abilene and Midland
-1°F at San Angelo
0°F at Lubbock
6°F at Dallas
8°F at Austin
16°F at Houston
17°F at Corpus Christi
21°F at Galveston

Scores of other low temperature records were set across Texas on February 16th as well. In addition, February 14-15 brought record snows to parts of Texas, ranging from 6 to 15 inches. Some areas reporting new record daily snowfall amounts included:
9 inches at Jefferson
6.2 inches at Temple
5.4 inches at Austin
2.5 inches at San Antonio

Many parts of Oklahoma also reported 7 to 17 inches of snowfall this week and record low temperatures. On February 15, Roosevelt, OK reported a record snowfall of 12 inches, while Oklahoma City with -6°F and Stillwater with -8°F reported new record low temperatures. In Louisiana Shreveport reported a record snowfall of 6.3 inches on February 15th, and then on February 16th new record low temperatures were reported across the state including 6°F at Shreveport and 20°F at Baton Rouge. Overall, many daily temperatures in the southern states have been from 35 to 38 degrees F colder than normal for this time of year. Widespread power outages have been intolerable for many who have sought warmer shelter.  CNN, ABC news, and others reported on this.

Cold and snow have also garnered news headlines in Greece this week. The BBC reports that unusually heavy snowfall has blanketed the city of Athens and the ancient monuments of the Acropolis. The heavy snow disrupted transportation systems in the city, and also slowed the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations. Temperatures there fell to as low as -2°F.

Anthony Hanson and Robert Koch report on the effects of the extreme cold on insect mortality in this week’s Minnesota Crop News from University of Minnesota Extension. It may be of interest to Minnesota farmers to know that certain insect species, especially soybean aphid eggs, that were exposed to the extreme cold this month, may have suffered high mortality and not appear to be as abundant later this year.

A new study published in Nature Communications finds that the extinction of some large mammals in North America some 13000 years ago was not due solely to overhunting by the expanding human population but that species declines were associated with a sharp downward trend in temperatures and changes in seasonality. These trends favored the survival of smaller mammals over larger ones.

MPR listener question:

Joann Eichten asked did we set any records for the coldest Valentine’s Day in history (Feb 14) across Minnesota earlier this week?


For the Twin Cities, we just missed the record cold daily maximum temperature value with a reading of -4°F (record is -5°F in 1920). But many other places with long term climate records reported their coldest Valentine’s Day in history. There were scores of cold maximum temperature and cold minimum temperature records set. Some of these included:

Coldest Maximum Temperature on Valentine’s Day (Feb 14)
Rochester -8°F
International Falls -7°F
Duluth -6°F (also set a new minimum temp record with -26°F)
Park Rapids -10°F
Ada -12°F
Tower -11°F (also set a new minimum temp record with -42°F)
Granite Falls -6°F (also set a new minimum temp record with -25°F)
Two Harbors -2°F (also set a new minimum temp record with -22°F)

Twin Cities Almanac for February 19th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 30 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 14 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for February 19th:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 59 degrees F in 2017; lowest daily maximum temperature of -3 degrees F in 1929; lowest daily minimum temperature of -20 degrees F in 1941; highest daily minimum temperature of 40 degrees F in 1930; record precipitation of 0.72 inches in 1952. Record snowfall is 8.3 inches also in 1952.

Average dew point for February 19th is 12°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 46°F in 1930; and the minimum dew point on this date is -31 degrees F in 1941.

All-time state records for February 19th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 68 degrees F at Winona (Winona County) in 1981. The state record low temperature for this date is -52 degrees F at Baudette (Lake of the Woods County) in 1966. The state record precipitation for this date is 2.50 inches at Montevideo (Chippewa County) in 1984. Record snowfall is 23.0 inches at Luverne (Rock County) in 1962.

Past Weather Features:

A major winter storm brought heavy snow to Minnesota over February 19-20, 1952. Most areas of the state measured 7 to 15 inches of snowfall. Milan (Chippewa County) accumulated 18 inches of snow. Schools were closed in many parts of the state.

An Arctic air mass had its grip on Minnesota on February 19, 1966 bringing the coldest temperatures ever for the date. All areas of the state reported subzero morning temperatures ranging from -8°F at Winona to -52°F south of Baudette. The high temperature at Argyle (Marshall County) only reached -18°F.

The warmest February 19 in state history was in 1981 when most areas of the state saw afternoon temperatures reach the 50s F. Many southern counties enjoyed temperatures in the 60s F and farmers were seen tilling their fields.


Significant warming trend will begin on Saturday as temperatures warm towards normal for this time of year. Chance for snow showers late Saturday night and into Sunday. Warmer than normal temperatures for Monday through Wednesday next week, then a slight cool down. Little chance for precipitation over the period.

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Jerry said…
Thanks Mark for those interest data sets. Hope all is well with you and your family....
Mark Lang said…
I I was told when I flew out of Minn on February 19 , 66. The temperature was -50 with a 50mph wind. Never did find out what the windchill temperature was