Mild winter is a brow-raiser, not a record-breaker

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 14, 2012 - 8:18 AM

If temperatures remain above average through February, this will be the second-warmest winter on record in the Twin Cities. But it still doesn't come close to the winter of 1877-78.

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Runners made their way around Lake Harriet as the dense fog loomed above the lake on Feb. 2 in Minneapolis.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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Shorts and flip-flops in Minnesota -- in February?

It's become a common sight during this unusually warm winter. And if temperatures remain above average through February, this will be the second-warmest winter on record in the Twin Cities.

As warm as it's been, it still doesn't come close to the winter of 1877-78.

"It was arguably the only time in Minnesota history without a winter," said University of Minnesota climatologist Mark Seeley.

In case you don't remember 1878, that was the year the winter temperature (December through February) averaged 29 degrees. Small lakes never froze, there were blooms on some gardeners' plants at Christmas, and half of the days in February topped 40.

It was so balmy, said Seeley, that farmers planted early -- in February. (Today, oats, barley and wheat are typically planted mid-April.)

That planting survived fairly well, according to Seeley, who detailed the year in his book, "Minnesota Weather Almanac."

Of course, winters didn't remain unnaturally warm. Christmas 1879 set the record for the lowest temperature: 39 below.

Is there a message in this for us pessimistic Minnesotans, who are always waiting for the other shoe to drop?

Don't sell your snowblower.

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