Statewide in Minnesota these are the coldest weeks of winter, and nothing is static outdoors.
Whitetail bucks continue to drop their antlers. Red foxes are normally solitary but now can be observed in pairs as their mating season approaches. Some great-horned owls have begun laying eggs or even incubating. Wintering-over mourning doves, commonly seen at feeding stations in the past 30 years, prefer to eat cracked corn, millet and other seeds scattered on the ground in protected spots and directly under a traditional feeder on a pole. Black bear cubs are born this time of year while their mothers are still sleeping.
Thinking about weather, it's interesting to note that record temperatures have been as high as 114 degrees (July 6, 1936, in Moorhead), and as low as 60 below (Feb. 2, 1996, at Tower), a 174-degree range that is unrivaled over most of Earth.
The record low temperature for the Twin Cities is 41 below set Jan. 21, 1888. An arctic air outbreak from 5 p.m. Dec. 31, 1911, to 1 p.m. Jan. 8, 1912, produced 186 consecutive hours of below-zero weather in the Twin Cities, second only to a spell of 226 hours in January 1864. In 2021, by mid-January we in the metro area had experienced only two days with below-zero temperatures, when 24 days with subzero readings is normal here for a winter season.
Listed below are a few noteworthy low temperature readings from history in Minnesota. These temperatures were taken 6 feet off the ground, in weather instrument shelters, and are not windchill temperatures.
• 59 below at Leech Lake Dam (Cass County), Feb. 9, 1899.
• 59 below in Moorhead on Feb. 16, 1903.
• 57 below in Embarrass on Jan. 20 and 21, 1996.
• 55 below in International Falls on Jan. 6, 1909. The afternoon high was 29 below zero, and the daily average was 42 below.
• 53 below in Moose Lake on Jan. 15, 1972.
Record low temperatures from other states include:
• 55 below in Couderay, Wis., on Feb. 4, 1996.
• 60 below at Parshall, N.D., on Feb. 15, 1936.
• 58 below at McIntosh, S.D., on Feb. 17, 1936.
• 47 below at Elkader, Iowa, on Feb. 3, 1996.
• 70 below at Rogers Pass, Mont., on Jan. 20, 1954.
• 80 below at Prospect Creek, Alaska, on Jan. 23, 1971.
The only state to not have experienced a subzero temperature, not surprisingly, is Hawaii. But it has been cold, with a record low of 12 degrees May 17, 1970, at the observatory on top of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, elevation 13,796 feet.
Antarctica holds the record for the coldest air temperature recorded on Earth; 144 below, June 18, 2018. Wow!
Jim Gilbert's observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.