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Record Breaking Winter Continues

Meteorological winter is over! For those of you wondering if I failed calendar reading, the answer is no. For the sake of record keeping and a truer sense of season, meteorological seasons run in 3 month stretches and winter ends at the end of February. This blog post is all about those three months with a slight focus on February dissecting how cold it was, how snowy it was and what is in store for us during the first month of meteorological Spring.

Temperatures:

The average temperature for winter is 18.5º, this year we were 9.7º colder than that average with a mean temp of 8.8º. Not the coldest winter ever, but certainly the coldest since the late 70s and enough to put us in 5th place for the coldest meteorological winter on record!

Most of the cold was thanks to a dip in the jet stream which allowed arctic high after arctic high to dip down into the upper Midwest. Our coldest temperature during the past three months was -23º on January 6th where wind chills were felt to -55º. We also had a great number of days below-zero. As of February 28th that number stands at 48 which is enough to put us in 7th place during meteorological winter and 10th place when counting from July 1st to June 30th.

During February we typically see a jump in temperatures of about 10º starting with highs in the middle 20s at the beginning of the month and ending the month in the lower 30s. However, the February of 2014 was the 4th coldest on record with an average temperature of just 6.6º, only a tenth of a degree away from January’s average temperature of 6.5º!

Another fun fact is that we only spent 190 hours or 9% of winter above the freezing mark of 32º. Image courtesy of Daryl Herzmanm.

Snow:

We only had one major snowstorm during meteorological winter, which just happened to be a blizzard of dangerous proportions giving way to the worst conditions plows had seen in 25 years. You can read more about that blizzard here:

What this winter did have was plenty of nuisance snow events making road conditions dangerous and dropping anywhere from 1-4” of snow. The combination of that snow and our February blizzard gave us a meteorological winter total of 46.5” making us the fourth snowiest on record!

And just in case all of that wasn’t enough, our consistent snow events placed us #16 in the number of days with measureable snowfall and #10 in number of days with measureable precipitation.

Most of that snow fell during the month of February which came in as the 4th snowiest February on record with 18.6”, over 10” above average.

Only 7 days since December have we not had any snow on the ground, which happen to be the first 7 days of December. Since snow fell on December 8th the snow has consistently stayed on the ground in southeast Minnesota. If you are counting, that means we have had 83 straight days or 92.2% of winter with snow on the ground.

Our snow depth this winter also made it into the top 5. On average, the snow depth for 2014’s meteorological winter was 18.6”, over a foot greater than the winter average. This was the 4th greatest average snow depth since records on the subject have been kept. Currently 21” of snow sits on the ground at Rochester’s International Airport.

March:

As the saying goes, “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb” and this year is no different. Statistically, we warm the most during March than any other month of the year with average high temperatures rising from 33º to 49º. This year however, our March starts with record-breaking cold. Low temperatures both Sunday & Monday mornings could break records.

In 127 years of record keeping, March has never once registered a high temperature below 0º. That looks to change on Sunday, March 2nd when high temperatures are only forecast to reach the single digits below-zero.

But, there is hope at the end of the 7 day forecast when the upper 20s and lower 30s look to make a return at least for a few days. Still below average, but I think we will take it!

A special thank you to the National Weather Service in La Crosse for most of this data.

Note: All data, unless otherwise noted, is from Rochester International Airport, the official climate station of southeast Minnesota.

Justin Thompson-Gee
Storm Tracker 6 Meteorologist