2013-14 winter ranks third for all-time coldest
A warm-up is coming for the winter weary.
But if there is any consolation in surviving this winter it’s the ability to carve out new territory in the record books. This winter — with its polar vortex and epidemic of frozen water lines — ranked third coldest in recorded history in Brainerd.
During the official meteorological winter season, from December through February, Brainerd averaged a meager 1.7 degrees. To find colder winters means going back perhaps beyond available memory to 1923-1924 and 1903-1904. So it’s no wonder Minnesotans were struck by the prolonged and relentless cold this season offered and continues to provide.
“Obviously no one remembers this,” said Geoff Grochocinski, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth.
In Duluth, this winter ranked second coldest with an average temperature of 3.9 degrees. The coldest winter in Duluth was in 1874-1875 with an average temperature of 3.7 degrees. The third coldest was in 1884-1885 with an average temperature of 4.1 degrees.
Temperatures have been 30 degrees colder than normal and subzero nights are ongoing bringing January cold to set new record lows in March.
But a thaw is coming.
Grochocinski said a brief warm-up this week is also arriving with the potential for freezing drizzle, which can be tricky to forecast. A cold front is back Friday and while the forecast calls for subzero temperatures, it isn’t expected to drop more than a few degrees below zero.
Another warm-up is expected Sunday and into the early part of next week.
“We’ll finally see some melting,” Grochocinski said.
The continuous cold this winter stood out, but it didn’t set many overnight low records, but there were records set for unseasonably low high temperatures and for record overnight cold in March.
Sunday’s high of 3 below zero ranked number three for all time lowest highs. The only two colder March days were 52 and 95 years ago on March 1 in 1962 and 1919. Other years on the top 10 of coldest March daytime temperatures were in 1899, 1900, 1901, 1933 and 1948. Monday’s high of 5 degrees was just shy of making the list. It was just 2 degrees warmer than other frigid March days rounding out the top 10.
By this time of year on a normal winter, the overnight lows would have left the subzero numbers behind as of mid-February. The 25 below zero overnight lows are about 34 degrees colder than normal.
But this relentlessly cold winter has been anything but average. On a normal year by March 4 the slow melt should be on with temperatures increasing every two days and rising to 40 just after St. Patrick’s Day.
Looking at a nearly 30-year history of the most recent Brainerd weather, the average number of days at zero or below have numbered 47. That’s nearly 12 days in December, 17 in January, just shy of 13 in February and only four in March.
Since December, the number of days at zero or below reached 74. And there are more in the forecast.
So has the weather finally turned a corner? Last year, when spring overslept, the streets were literally snow white for the St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Brainerd. Grochocinski said the models are still calling for a colder spring, but not as cold as it has been. Temperatures may be 5 to 10 degrees cooler than normal. But at this point any warm-up is welcome. Highs on Sunday and Monday are forecast to be 39 degrees.
The year 2014 is going to be a familiar one in the record books. This week, two days were the coldest March nights in Brainerd history. A new low of 25 below was set March 3 and a 23 below set a new record for March 4.
Earlier this year on Jan. 7, Brainerd set a new record, landing in the top 10 for lowest high temps separated by any of the other dates on the list by 18 years.
■ 1. — 23 below, shared by Jan. 25, 1904 and Feb. 9, 1899.
■ 3. — 20 below on Jan. 15, 1972.
■ 4. — 19 below shared by Dec. 24, 1983 and Feb. 10, 1899.
■ 6. — 18 below share by three dates, Jan. 18, 1994, Jan. 2, 1928, and Dec. 14, 1901.
■ 9. — 17 below on Feb. 2, 1996.
■ 10. — 16 below on Jan. 7, 2014.
So if Minnesotans couldn’t find relief from the cold this winter, at least it rewrote the record books.