DULUTH – With the final snowflakes counted, 2019 was Duluth’s third-snowiest calendar year on record, according to the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. Nearly 130 inches have fallen since January.
The annual record was set in 1950 at 168.9 inches, based on measurements taken at the Duluth International Airport since 1948. The next highest total was 149.8 inches in 2013.
Monday’s snowfall brought the year’s snowy sum to 129.6 inches, edging 1955’s total by a one-tenth of an inch.
By midday Tuesday, the final day of the calendar year, windchills in the city hovered above zero under blue skies with no precipitation forecast.
While November and December each brought more than 26 inches of snow this year, it was February’s record-high 3 feet of powder and May’s record 13.3 inches that propelled the year’s snowfall well above the annual average of 86.1 inches.
The lowest annual snowfall recorded at the Duluth airport was 41.9 inches in 1973.
There was no single factor driving the excessive precipitation, said Bryan Howell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth, though it does fit a pattern.
“One of the trends recently has been wetter overall, regardless of the season,” he said.
For the rest of this season, below-average temperatures and average or slightly above-average precipitation is expected around Duluth, Howell said.
The city’s snowfall record goes back less than a century because in the 1940s the weather service moved its station from near Lake Superior to the top of the hill — where weather can be vastly different, rendering older comparisons moot.
“There could have been some 19th-century snows that beat what we’re looking at now,” said Pete Boulay, assistant state climatologist at the Minnesota State Climate Office. “It’s a truncated record.”
He said the past decade has seen its share of heavy snowfalls; there have been three years with more than 100 inches.
When looking at the snowy season, and not the calendar year, Duluth is 23 inches above normal snowfall levels so far.
“There’s no snow drought in Duluth lately,” Boulay said. “We’ll have to see how the season pans out — winter continues.”