Warming Trend: 9th coldest winter eases with 30s ahead

"Make no big decisions in March in Minnesota." - Dave Moore, WCCO TV News Legend

My former WCCO colleague was right on the money. March is typically more winter than spring in Minnesota. After a long harsh winter many are tempted, even compelled, to flee south for warmer climes for good.

We begin to crawl out of the deep freeze this week after a the ninth coldest meteorological winter on record.  Thankfully for many, two words best describe the forecast.

Warming trend.

We warm up this week, but pay for it with a few snowy dustings. The first wave of light snow rolls in this afternoon and evening. It should be less than an inch in most areas but keeps streets slick this evening.

Cutting to the welcome weather chase, the warming trend kicks in Wednesday and Thursday, and ramps up big time next week. It's amazing how 30s can feel like heaven in March. A powerful March sun angle will start working on snow cover and residual road ice big time later this week and next week as temps soar. A shot at 40s next week and around St. Patty's Day?

Stay tuned.

  • 9th coldest winter on record  in the Twin Cities

  • 9.7 degrees average temp this meteorological winter at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (December-February)

  • -9 degrees vs. average this winter at MSP Airport

  • 50 subzero days this winter as of this morning

  • 5th highest number of subzero days on record at MSP

  • -10 degrees low this morning at MSP Airport

  • -44 degrees at Embarrass this morning

  • 58.1 inches season snowfall so far at MSP Airport (+15.6 inches vs. average)

  • 35.5 inches snowfall last year at this time

  • 0 - actual number of record lows set this winter at MSP Airport (We set 1 record low maximum with 3 degree high Sunday)

Severe winter

There's no doubt about it, this has been a severe winter in Minnesota. There are many ways to dissect the winter numbers to reflect just how harsh this winter has been.

As Marketplace Host Kai Ryssdal would say, "Let's do the numbers."

Subzero temps 

By the measure of subzero days, this was the fifth highest number on record in the Twin Cities. The tally stands at 50 as of this morning when we bottomed out at -10 degrees at MSP Airport. That's the highest number of subzero days in 36 years.


Overall winter temps

If you look at overall winter average temp it was the ninth coldest winter record in the Twin Cities. That's the coldest winter in 35 years. Eau Claire, Wis., ties for the coldest winter on record, and it was the fifth coldest in St. Cloud.

'Misery Index' 

Only a climatologist in Minnesota could invent a ruler to tell us just how miserable we feel in a given winter. According to the Minnesota State Climatology Office, this Twin Cities winter ranks as "severe" with a Winter Misery Index of 190 as of this morning.

The most severe? 305 points back in 1905-05. The least? a mere 16 points just two winters ago. Remember lilacs in March and shorts on St Patty's Day as temps soared to 80 degrees?


Here's the explanation on how they add up the numbers for the Winter Misery Index at the State Climatology Office.

Were the winters when you were young worse than they are now? You may be able to prove it with the Winter Misery Index.

The Winter Misery Index (WMI) is an attempt to weigh the relative severity of winters. The index assigns points for daily counts of maximum temperatures 10 degrees or colder and daily minimums of 0 or colder. If the minimum temperature is -20 or colder greater weight is assigned to the value times 8. For snowfall, one inch is assigned a point per calendar day. A four inch snowfall is times 4, and an 8 inch snowfall is times 16. The duration of a winter is noted by the number of days the snow depth is 12 inches or greater. All current measurements are at the Twin Cities International Airport.

So far as of March 3, 2014 the WMI for the winter of 2013-14 in Twin Cities is 190 points, or in the "severe winter" category. Of course there is quite a bit of winter left. The lowest WMI score was the winter of 2011-2012 with 16 points. The most severe winter is 1916-1917 with 305 WMI points. How many WMI points will this winter score? stay tuned!

Note, this could also be called the "Winter Fun Index" depending on your perspective!

Cold, but few records

It's interesting and important to note that while this winter was the coldest in about 35 years by most measures, we set very few actual cold temperature records this winter. In fact we did not set any record low minimum temperatures at MSP Airport this winter by my count. We managed to set only one record cold maximum temperature with a high of 3 above Sunday.


Warmer days ahead

Now the good news for fans of warmer weather.

Temps climb to around 10 above today, and in the upper teens Tuesday. We rise through the 20s toward 30 by Thursday and Friday of this week. The price? A few snowy dustings with the first one late today and this evening.

705 sky
Image: Weatherspark

A cooler puff of air this weekend will give us a shot at one more subzero morning in the metro, but I'd say there's a 70 percent chance today was the last subzero day of winter at MSP Airport.

Sustained warming next week?

All systems appear to be go for a more sustained thaw next week. Temps should routinely rise well into the 30s, and a shot at 40 degrees is possible; 40s may (or may not) be optimistic, but the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts' take on temps next week in the metro may be a good barometer of coming trends in Minnesota.

705 next week
Image: Weatherspark

More red than blue?

The upper winds change to a more westerly flow later this week and next. That means milder temps, and we may finally see temps rise slightly above average for a change.

Here's a look at projected temp anomalies, and some rare red colors on the weather map over the Midwest by next Monday from Climate Reanalyzer.

705 clim mon
Image: Climate Reanalyzer

Hang in there!

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