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Persistent Warmth Ends as the Other Shoe Drops

Persistent Warming Trend Ends as the Other Shoe Drops:

Since November 2, 2020 over 80 percent of all days have been warmer than normal across Minnesota, a persistence that is highly unusual. Over the first four days this month that trend has continued with temperatures averaging 6 to 14 degrees F above normal. As is so common in Minnesota weather history, Mother Nature is applying the brakes this Friday, and putting the weather machine in reverse. We are likely to have at least 2-3 weeks of colder than normal temperatures prevail across the state. Not necessarily record-setting, but nevertheless a large number of subzero nights will emerge.

This dramatic change reminds me of two anniversaries of historically cold episodes of February weather in Minnesota history.

Early in 1936, 85 years ago, was the coldest February in state history with a statewide mean monthly temperature of -7.2 degrees F, nearly 23 degrees colder than normal. Clearwater, Polk, Norman, and Roseau Counties reported temperatures of -50 degrees F or colder. Twenty-six other climate stations reported temperatures of -40 F or colder. Many climate stations in western and northern Minnesota saw subzero temperatures persist continuously from Feb 1-22, with daytime highs remaining below zero and sometimes no warmer than minus 20 degrees F. Wind chill values ranged from -50 F to -69 F on some days. Many records still stand from that month with 346 record cold maximum temperatures and 295 record cold minimum temperatures being reported within the state climate network, including a high of -26 F at Hallock on the 5th. Highest temperatures in the state came on the 23rd and 24th as some areas reporting a brief thaw with daytime highs ranging from the mid 30s F to low 40s F. Those were the only two days of the month with above normal temperatures. Snowfall was abundant during the cold with 25 counties reporting from 20 to 26 inches for the month.

25 years ago, 1996 was another historical February, with three distinct Cold Waves during the month. Though very extreme the total number of cold days did not equal that of 1936. The cold waves came over February 1-6, 16-18, and 26-29. About a third of the days actually brought above normal temperature readings to the state, especially on the 23rd and 24th when daytime highs reached the 40s and low 50s F. But the cold waves brought record shattering temperatures to many parts of the state and made the national news. On Groundhog;s Day (February 2) Tower, MN set a new all-time state record with a minimum temperature reading of -60°F. Fourteen other climate stations reported a reading of -50°F or colder. Many records still stand from that month with 137 record cold maximum temperatures and 142 record cold minimum temperatures being reported within the state climate network, including a high of -31 F at Hallock on the on the 2nd.

First Snowfall of February

February 3-4 brought a winter storm across the Midwest, but it just grazed portions of Minnesota. Some southwestern parts of the state saw 3-5 inches of snowfall accumulate, while many others recorded 1-3 inches. An initial light freezing drizzle made for slippery roads in many places before the precipitation became all snow. That may be the last threat of snowfall for a while as the forecast shows most storm systems tracking south of Minnesota through the 20th of this month.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

Early this week over February 1-2 an slow moving winter storm brought very heavy snowfall, and in some cases record-setting snowfall to portions of NY and PA. The National Weather Service Office at Binghamton, NY reported some areas received 20 to 35 inches closing many roads.

Also, on February 4 (Thursday) this week blizzard conditions along Interstate 80 through Iowa caused a large multi-vehicle pileup that shut down I80 for a period of time. The Weather Channel reported that at least seven ambulances were called into duty for inured motorists.

The BBC reports this week that all of the ski resorts in Scotland are recording one of the best snow seasons in recent years and are well equipped for skiers. But the United Kingdom Lockdown for COVID-19 has prevented them from opening for guests.

In this week’s AGU-EOS Bulletin is an interesting article about President Biden’s Executive Order to consider more methane emission regulations. The area of accidental release of methane into the atmosphere has been somewhat neglected from a regulatory standpoint, yet methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Perhaps this will provoke more worldwide action to curb these emissions.

Anniversary Date

February 5 is National Meteorologist's Day (formerly called National Weatherman's Day), the anniversary of when in February 1870 that the Congress sent legislation for President U.S. Grant's signature forming a telegraphic weather service within the U.S. Army Signal

Service. This organization is a predecessor to the present National Weather Service. The day has been said to also commemorate the birthday of John Jeffries in 1744. He was one of America's first weather observers, taking daily weather observations in Boston starting in 1774. Jeffries also took the first balloon observation in 1784.

MPR listener question:

How common is it in the Twin Cities climate record for February to be colder than the January preceding it?


Over the past 147 years of climate history in the Twin Cities, February has been colder than January about 25 percent of the time, most recently in both 2018 and 2019. Since the 1970s this has been happening with less frequency. Looks like it may happen again though in 2021.

Twin Cities Almanac for February 5th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 26 degrees F (plus or minus 13 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 5th:

MSP records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 51 degrees F in 2005; lowest daily maximum temperature of -11 degrees F in 1936; lowest daily minimum temperature of -27 degrees F in 1979; highest daily minimum temperature of 33 degrees F in 2005; record precipitation of 0.52 inches in 1908. Record snowfall is 7.5 inches also in 1908.

Average dew point for February 5th is 6°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 42°F in 1946; and the minimum dew point on this date is -36 degrees F in 1979.

All-time state records for February 5th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 68 degrees F at Lamberton (Redwood County) in 2005. The state record low temperature for this date is -54 degrees F at Leech Lake (Cass County) in 1895. The state record precipitation for this date is 1.70 inches at Bird Island (Renville County) in 1975. Record snowfall is 24.0 inches at Lynd (Lyon County) in 1915.

Past Weather Features:

Artic high pressure had a grip on Minnesota on February 5, 1895. All parts of the state reported subzero temperatures ranging from the minus teens to minus 50s F. The daytime high only reached -15°F at St Cloud.

Absence of snow cover, southerly winds, and sunny skies brought record-setting high temperatures to Minnesota on February 5, 2005. In several southern and central Minnesota cities the afternoon high temperature reached the mid 50s F to mid 60s F.


The weekend and most of next week will bring daily high temperatures only in the single digits and overnight lows of subzero. There will be many days with Wind Chill Advisories, so dress appropriately. The consistent cold will keep out any chance of significant snowfalls, as most storm systems pass to the south.

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