A “Real” Winter: 6 degrees colder than last winter; 40s possible late next week?

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

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-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

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Good qulaity ice this winter at Cottagewwod rink in Deephaven

Image: Paul Huttner MPR – News

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.

Last winter was the 4th warmest and 9th “least snowy” (22.3″) on record in the Twin Cities.

This winter started mild, but showed a much different personality over time.

Some numbers.

Temperatures vs. average at MSP Airport:

(Latest 30 year averages are from 1981-2010)

December +3.7F

January +1.3F

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.


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.

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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.

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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.

Stay tuned!


  • Tom Thompson

    So when MDNR says we have had a mild winter and therefore should have a bumper crop of fawns, are they mistaken? Are there some ways this was a mild winter? What criteria do they use?