If this winter seems colder than normal, it is
The “Game of Thrones” dire mantra “Winter is coming” should have been the catch-phrase in anticipation for central Minnesota this season.
But now for those weary of colder than normal temperatures extending into February, the new tagline may be “winter won’t leave” or “cold to continue.”
If it seems like a bitter winter, well, that’s because it is.
The National Weather Service in Duluth now has this winter averaging the second coldest on record. It’s not that the nights have been so cold. The record book isn’t budging so much when it comes to record cold temperatures. In past winters, the lakes area has witnessed 40 below air temperatures. This time it’s the overall average temperature, which has been far below normal and stayed there.
“Our average has been very low, it’s been the coldest in Duluth for the past 20 years,” said Melody Lovin, meteorologist at the weather service in Duluth. “The last time it was this cold was in 1994.”
Brainerd, if anything, has been colder than the Twin Ports area, Lovin said.
After a short stint with one-day warm-ups followed by frigid temperatures and bitter wind chills, the lakes region has settled into a steady big chill. Temperatures are routinely dropping into double-digit below zero numbers and often struggling to reach a few degrees above zero for highs.
Now, when the sun is out and the temperature reaches 11 degrees, it’s a warm day.
Lovin said it’s been hard for the weather service not to have daily headlines. There have been numerous weather advisories, blizzard warnings and nearly daily reminders of the dangers of wind chills. And the people severely injured or who have lost lives this season due to the cold temperatures brought the reality of the danger home.
By now, the average high temperature should be 20 degrees, something that hasn’t happened this month. The highest temperature this month was 16 degrees on Feb. 2, which was followed by a night where the temperature dropped to 27 below.
“We are on track for a new record for number of consecutive days with the low temperature below zero,” Lovin said. It’s a record that is in sight as overnight lows should be as cold as 20 below through Monday night. Tuesday may be the last day. In order to set the record or tie it, the number of nights below zero would have to top 22. With the forecast, Lovin said it’s possible the record could be set or tied.
In January, Brainerd was below zero 26 days of the month. The coldest arrived on Jan. 28 with 33 degrees below zero, without factoring the wind chill. It’s been below zero overnight consecutively since Jan. 21. On Jan. 20, one of the few days with an overnight low above zero, the temperature bottomed out at 9 degrees. The warmest day in January was 38 degrees. But those days were few and far between. The high temperature averaged 12.2 degrees in January. The overnight low averaged 14.8 below.
Don’t expect a break in the prolonged cold just yet.
“Through the entire month of February we are expected to stay below normal,” Lovin said.
But a break may arrive at the end of the month. Lovin said the West Coast is expected to be significantly above average and that warmth should edge its way to the Midwest, meaning closer to average temperatures. The average high in February, looking at years from 2010 to 1981, posts 26.4 degrees in February and 38.5 degrees in March.
Sunday night will continue the recent pattern the forecast for a low of 21 below. The Monday high may reach 1 degree before the temperature plunges again overnight to another nearly 20 below. But Wednesday may rise to 24 degrees. A serious warm-up compared to recent days.
“The three-month outlook through April still has us below normal but only slightly,” Lovin said. “So basically, I think there is hope.”
And she said, hopefully, the region won’t have those late snow storms like last year that pushed spring into a late arrival.
“Everyday we’ve almost been 20 degrees below normal for about two months now,” Lovin said. “Absolutely everyone is sick of it.”