Old Fashioned Winter
"Meteorological Winter" ends today. (Cue the applause & ticker-tape)
It may not match the barbaric winters of the late 70s, but this "meteorological winter" in Minnesota will go in the books as a respectable one.
December through February is "climatologically" the 3 coldest months of the year.
It doesn't take a genius, or even a meteorologist to tell you that this winter has been far more rigorous than last winter. It's not your imagination.
When you add up the numbers for Minnesota, it turns out this winter is running significantly colder... and snowier than last winter in the metro.
In the weather blog today we add up some (preliminary) numbers on the Meteorological Winter of 2012-'13, that ends Thursday, keep one eye on Monday's snow chances, and look forward to what looks like a significant thaw late next week.
Does my thermometer remember how to hit 40+F?
38F high temp at MSP Wednesday
29F mild low temp at MSP this morning
-1.8F temp vs. average for MSP in February 2013
(Estimates pending final numbers)
+1.0F temps vs. 30 year average at MSP this meteorological winter
-6.5F temps this winter compared to last winter at MSP Airport
Winter 2012-'13: Colder & Snowier
There are many ways to "measure" winter in Minnesota. Here's one way.
The outdoor ice was good this winter for Friday night hockey with "The Boys", and my driveway snowplow bill doubled over last winter.
That's how the intuitive side of a meteorologist measures how this winter's cold and snow compared to last winter.
For the past 20+ years, it's a tradition for our same group of guys to skate on Friday nights in winter at one of our local outdoor rinks. The players change a little from week to week and year to year, but one thing stays the same. You can feel the "character" of winter as your blades cut into the ice below your feet and the wind stings your face on a crisp Friday night outdoors in Minnesota. It's my weekly weather "product sample" during a Minnesota winter.
This winter started mild, but showed a much different personality over time.
Temperatures vs. average at MSP Airport:
(Latest 30 year averages are from 1981-2010)
February -1.8F (estimate pending final NWS numbers)
Overall near +1.0F (estimate pending final NWS numbers)
Comment: Last winter ran about +6.0F vs. average at MSP. That makes this meteorological winter about -5F colder than last winter.
Heating Degree Days (HDD) A more precise way to measure winter temps, and the cost of heating your home is through HDD. For every degree the daily average temp is under 65F you get 1 HDD. Adding them up all winter gives you a good gauge on heating costs.
HDD at MSP
4009 HDD since December 1st
4133 average HDD since Dec 1st
-124 HDD vs. average
3434 HDD last meteorolocial winter to date
-575 HDD this winter compared to last winter
Comment: Overall it's costing us about 17% more to heat our homes this winter vs. last year.
Days at or below zero:
12 days so far
3 days last winter
22.5 days on average
Comment: We only had to endure a little more than half the average number of sub-zero days this winter. But 9 more days at or below zero this winter vs. last winter is a significant difference in how cold we felt.
35.5" so far
40.8" season average to date
18.2" last winter to date
Comment: We've roughly doubled last winter's snowfall totals in Minnesota. International Falls has tallied 70.3" so far. That's a good 17" above average.
Overall the character of this winter in Minnesota is much closer to an average winter than last year.
Given the uncertainty regarding El Nino last fall, this winter turned out to be surprisingly closer to estimates at that time than I thought it might.
Temp Roller Coaster Ahead:
March comes in like a "cool lamb" this year. Look for a quiet, but cool weekend with highs in the upper 20s.
Milder Pacific air will try and push in next week, and temps will rebound back into at least the upper 30s, with a shot at 40+ for parts of Minnesota again by Thursday of Friday of next week.
The warm up will be fighting snow cover over the Upper Midwest, and snow melt injects additional moisture into the air that favors fog formation. That is one factor that can keep temperature rises in check in March.
I'm also keeping one eye on a clipper type system for Monday of next week that could bring some snow to southern Minnesota, and maybe the metro.
The latest modles show a trend toward steering the system into southwest Minnesota....probably keeping the bulk of the significant accumulating snow southwest of the metro.
Happy Meteorological Spring
Meteorological winter (and many Minnesotans least favorite month of February) ended at midnight.
While it doesn't look like we'll rush headlong into spring this year, it is likely that a month from today there's a decent chance we'll see scenes like this popping up in southern Minnesota.
The Minnesota Twins hope so...it's the earliest home opener since moving outdoors to Target Field...just 1 month away on April 1st this year.
As the final data trickles in Friday for the winter that was, it appears we ended up about +1F vs. average in the temperature department overall this winter. That's a good -6F vs. last winter in most of Minnesota... but in reality much closer to what passes for "average" these days.
We're still counting up the inches on snowfall, and I have little doubt we'll add more inches (maybe as soon as Monday) to the 35.5" in the metro we've shoveled and played in so far.
In this edition of Updraft we look ahead to spring and we introduce a shiny new weather term..."concrete frost."
How does it increase or risk for spring flooding in parts of Minnesota? Flood and drought at the same time? Only in Minnesota.
Plus, signs of a spring like thaw are already in sight. How warm will it get next week? How much snow will be left by next Friday?
Things to ponder as we launch into "Meteorological Spring 2013."
February snow boosts flood risk:
It seems counterintuitive, but Minnesota is likely to have both flood...and drought this spring.
Here's the deal.
Our February snow blitz has laid down 2" to 5" of water content in the snowpack over Minnesota. The highest concentration is in western and north-central Minnesota watersheds that feed into the Red, Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers.
As that snow melts in the coming weeks that water will runoff into the rivers. Add any heavy spring rainfall...or a rapid warm up and you increase the chances for spring flooding.
Now we can throw in an extra "incentive" for flooding in southern Minnesota this spring.
Remember our wet rainy systems in December followed by a rapid "flash freeze?" That water was basically frozen in place from the metro south to the Iowa border. The hard...impervious layer of ice on top of the ground under the snow cover acts like "concrete kryptonite" to spring rains.
Any rainfall that hits the "concrete frost" will quickly runoff into rivers. That increases the risk for flooding...and an inch or two of spring rain may cause flooding that parched...thawed soils would normally gulp down.
Until the concrete frost thaws...the dice are loaded in favor of flooding from heavy spring rainfall...and drought depleted soils are unable to soak up the much needed rainfall.
Flood and drought.
Twin Cities NWS Hydrologist Dianne Cooper has put together an excellent video describing the concept of "concrete frost."
The frost and snowpack...and any additional snow and spring rain has boosted flood forecasts to "normal" in much of Minnesota and "high" along the Red River near Fargo and Wahpeton.
Some details from the Twin Cities NWS & North Central River Forecast Center in Chanhassen.
Here's a closer look at where things stand on the Minnesota River at Montevideo.
Forecast: Cool & quiet weekend & big thaw next week?
March comes in like a "chilly lamb" this year.
My MPR colleague and UM Climate expert Dr. Mark Seeley has an interesting look at the numbers behind the old saying "In like a lion, out like a lamb" a preview of this week's "Weather Talk."
Topic: The Lion and the Lamb Climatology of March for MSP
March months which have come in "like a lion and out like a lamb" or in "like a lamb and out like a lion" are remembered for both their storminess and temperature deviation.
Standard deviations in daily maximum and daily minimum temperature are generally in the 10 to 11 degree F range during March for the Twin Cities. Occasionally daily temperature deviations exceed one standard deviation during the first and last weeks of the month.
Using temperature records for the first and last week of March from the Twin Cities (1900-2012) and looking for opposite temperature patterns based on approximately one standard deviation statistically (plus or minus 11 degrees F from normal), the following characteristic years fell out......
"In like a lamb/out like a lion" "In like a lion/out like a lamb"
(March starts mild, finishes cold) (March starts cold, finishes mild)
Temperature records confirm these years, 16 in all, fell into one category or the other. But 16 out of 113 years is only 14 percent of the time when this old saying has been true, at least based on MSP temperature standard deviations for March. Looks like the March will begin with near normal temperatures.
Mark also highlights how a wet February shaved a few points off drought percentages in Minnesota.
Precipitation was generally abundant during the month of February. It was the wettest February statewide since 2007. Many observers reported over 2 inches of precipitation, most of which came as snowfall.
For some the moisture was record-setting for the month, including 2.45 inches at Breckenridge, 2.49 inches at Benson, and 2.57 inches at Rothsay. For most areas of the state February brought the most snowfall for the winter as well. Itasca State Park, Breckenridge, Bemidji, Pelican Rapids, Wheaton, and Hermantown reported over 20 inches for the month, while Ottertail, Rothsay, and Battle Lake reported over 25 inches. Some of these values were record-setting for the month.
For the most part the moisture was welcome. As we concluded the month the US Drought Monitor reduced the total area of the state designated to be in severe to extreme drought from 84 percent to less than 70 percent of the state landscape.
March Lamb... with Monday snow??
As we search for warmer days I see (bright) a ray of hope next week. I also see some potential snow between now and then.
The models have been hinting at a potential snow system for Monday,The latest model trends suggest this system may clip the metro and southern MN with snowfall Monday.
Milder Pacific breezes kick in by next Wednesday & Thursday. By then most of our remaining 5" snow cover in and near the metro should be fading fast. That should allow us to warm up into the 40s if everything goes right next Thursday and Friday.
Weather fingers and toes crossed!