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A Brief Taste of Winter

A Brief Taste of Winter:

Valentine’s Day brought a brief return to winter with the heaviest snowfall of the season for many parts of the state. Seven to eight hours of snowfall, sometimes mixed with rain produced difficult driving conditions resulting in over 300 crash reports according to the Minnesota Stzate Patrol. Across central Minnesota many observers reported 3 to 6 inches, with a few reports of 7 inches or more (near New Prague and Hastings). A few spots reported record amounts of snowfall, including:

6.9 inches at MSP
6.5 inches at Bird Island in Renville County (tied record from 1967)
5.3 inches at Kimball in Stearns County
5.2 inches at Hastings Dam in Dakota County

Following the snowstorm, colder air swept into the state bring the first days (Thu and Fri) of near normal or colder than normal temperatures since January 20th. Temperatures are expected to warm up above normal values again over the weekend and remain so for the rest of the month.

Still on Track to Be the Warmest Meteorological Winter (Dec-Feb):

Though the arrival of snow and colder temperatures this week slowed the pace of record warmth this winter, the statewide average temperature since December 1 of 2023 remains roughly 13°F above normal. A number of climate stations have reported a record number of days with high temperatures of 50°F or greater this winter. Some of these include:

MSP with 12 days
Rochester with 9 days
St Peter with 11 days
Granite Falls with 10 days

According to medium range models we may see more high temperatures of 50°F or greater over the last week of February. MSP and other climate stations remain on a pace to break the record for the warmest month of February by several degrees, and we may see monthly mean temperatures for February that are 13°F to 15°F above normal. Of further note, the latest extended forecast from the NOAA Climate Prediction Center indicates that above normal temperatures will likely dominate most of Minnesota in March.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

This week’s AGU-EOS Bulletin features a new study about atmospheric rivers, those concentrate ed streams of water vapor embedded in the troposphere that are so visible on satellite imagery. The study finds that climate change will continue to increase the frequency and amplitude of these atmospheric rivers over certain geographies, increasing the risk of extreme and damaging storms.

This week the BBC reviews a recent study of polar bears in the Arctic. The study tracked polar bear eating habits and weight gain and loss. The animals use the sea ice as a platform to hunt ringed seals, which have high concentrations of fat, mostly in late spring and early summer. The polar bears hunts these seals from ice floes, but in some areas the ice-free period has increased by three weeks between 1979 and 2015. When they cannot hunt from ice floes, they scavenge on land, but usually lose weight due to different food availability.

Jonathan Erdman of the Weather Underground provides a nice synopsis this week of all the communities in the Midwest and Northeast that are likely to set new warm records for meteorological winter (Dec-Feb) once the month of February finishes. Besides all the communities in Minnesota experiencing a record warm winter, so are residents in places like Cedar Rapids, IA, Fargo, ND, and Caribou, ME.

MPR listener question:

We heard the Twin cities received a record snowfall for Valentine’s Day, 6.9 inches, and wondered how often a daily snowfall that size occurs in the month of February? Seems rare.


You are right about that being a rare amount for February. Since 1885, a period of 140 years, there have been only 14 daily snowfalls of 6.9 inches or greater during the month. The record most daily amount for February is 11/8 inches on the 20th in 2011.

MPR listener question:

I understand that our strange weather is due the combination of global warming and the El Niño. I’ve been wondering if global warming affects the frequency of El Niño episodes?


El Nino episodes are pretty well documented back to 1950. Their frequency and duration have been highly variable historically, and so far there is no scientific evidence to suggest that these historical variabilities have changed significantly with climate change. But I am sure there are continued studies about this.

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 13 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for February 16th:

MSP records for this date: highest daily maximum temperature of 60 degrees F in 1981; lowest daily maximum temperature of -11 degrees 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. There was a record 3.2 inches of snowfall in 1938.

Average dew point for February 16th is 11°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 38°F in 2011; and the minimum dew point on this date is -29 degrees F in 1973.

All-time state records for February 16th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 67 degrees F at Canby (Yellow Medicine County) in 1981. The state record low temperature for this date is -59 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1903. The state record precipitation for this date is 2.20 inches at Brainerd (Crow Wing County) in 1921. The state snowfall record is 12.0 inches at both Aitkin (Aitkin County) and Mora (Kanabec County) in 1990.

Past Weather:

February 16 of 1936 brought Arctic cold to most of Minnesota. Many new low temperature records were set, as subzero temperatures prevailed across the state, ranging from -25°F to -45°F. The afternoon high temperature at Fosston (Polk County) only reached -25°F.

By far the warmest February 16th was in 1981. With little or no snow on the ground in most areas, afternoon temperatures soared into the 50s and 60s F, setting many records highs. High temperatures of 60°F or greater were reported from 25 counties.

Parts of Minnesota from Little Falls to Cloquet were hit with heavy snowfalls from a winter storm over February 15-16 of 1990. Many observers reported from 8 to 12 inches of snowfall.


Generally breezy with partly cloudy skies on Saturday. There will be a slight chance for snow in the farm north, as temperatures warm back to above normal levels. More sun in some areas on Sunday and temperatures will continue to warm. It appears next week with be dry with well above normal temperatures in most places.
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