February: Winter's last chance?

  • Article by: BILL MCAULIFFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 31, 2012 - 11:37 PM

Today begins the final month of an unusually warm "meteorological winter."

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A penguin that was part of the fast-fading ice sculptures of a St. Paul Winter Carnival contest clung Tuesday to a disappearing ice block sitting in the mud of Rice Park.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Today begins the third and final month of "meteorological winter," and it's going to have to work hard in the next 29 days to redeem itself.

Long on warmth and short on snow, the season has been bliss for drivers and air travelers but a blow to Minnesota's image as a place where winter can be embraced. Ice fishing contests, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon and key features of the St. Paul Winter Carnival and the City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis have been altered or dropped.

At Wirth Park in Minneapolis on Tuesday, where crowds of skiers have been confined all season to narrow lanes of manmade snow, skiers entering the final stages of training for major races this month had some choice words for the winter. "Miserable," "disappointing" and "frustrating" were but a few.

"We don't need much snow, but what's been so bad about this winter is that we get just about enough, and it melts," said Erik Johanson, who's training for a pair of 50-kilometer races; this involved skiing the 3-kilometer Wirth Park loop 15 times Tuesday.

"If it's going to snow, it'd better do it soon," said Nathaniel Baeumler, a Wayzata High School senior training for a district meet. "If it waits until May, I'll be pretty upset."

Our winter, by the numbers

• December and January together ranked as the fifth-warmest such period on record in the Twin Cities, going back to 1872, and had a shot at climbing to fourth depending on Tuesday's readings, according to assistant DNR state climatologist Pete Boulay. The temperature average of 25.3 through Monday was 7.6 degrees above normal.

• Snowfall (11.9 inches for the two months) was about half of what is now normal (23.6), and paltry compared with what fell in December and January last winter (50.6).

• Nine January days brought highs of 40 degrees or more to the Twin Cities. The record is 13 (1880), but the warmest January on record (2006) had only four.

• The Twin Cities reached 52 degrees twice during December and January, setting daily records (Dec. 26, Jan. 10).

•By this time last winter, 50 state Department of Transportation plows had been struck by other vehicles, mostly in the rear end. This winter, only 15 have been hit.

• There have been no snow emergencies in the Twin Cities this winter. A year ago Tuesday, Minneapolis declared its seventh of the winter.

• The Climate Prediction Center's outlook for February indicates strong chances of above-normal temperatures, particularly for southern Minnesota.

Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646

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