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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • February had above normal temperatures, while the drought persisted

  • Weather.com is predicting a better than average chance that March temperatures will be above average with predictions that April and May temperatures will most likely be above average.
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  •     Perhaps I’ve become too spoiled by the mild winter months we’ve had the last couple of years, because before I added the daily highs up for February I believed with certainty this February was a colder than average month.
        Nope. February 2013 goes into the books with the average high being nearly two degrees above the historic average for the month.  
                   For St. James the average high for February is 28 degrees F. This past month saw an average daily high of 29.86 degrees F according to the information provided by weather.com.
        Meteorological winter is defined as the months of December, January and February.  With February, 2013 in the books it means that we have not had a below average month the last two winters.      
        Another fact is that neither of the past two winters saw a night with a teens below zero reading.
        The big ‘cold wave’ this past month saw back to back single digit below zero nights  on the 19th and the 20th. Remember when a cold wave meant the highs for the day were single digit below zero numbers - and that kind of misery went on for a week?   
        A recent report from Climate Central confirms winters in Minnesota are warming, “Since 1970, winters in the top five fastest-warming states: Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Vermont and South Dakota heated up four-and-a-half times faster than winters in the five slowest-warming states: Nevada, California, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington. The five fastest-warming states have seen at least 4 degrees F. warming in winters since 1970.”             
    This past month saw slightly above average precipitation as we recorded .74 inches of moisture compared to the  .62 inches for an average February. That was not enough to quench the drought conditions the region is facing.
        Plus the recent snowfall might not sink into the soil. Meteorologists are using a term called ‘concrete frost’ to describe the top layer of the earth. Rains in December did not sink deeply into the soil as a cold snap flash froze the ground.
        So right now the surface of the soil  is like a big block of  ice. Water on top of the flash frozen soil is likely to run off the into streams, rivers and lakes before the soil thaws. Meaning we are likely to begin the spring still in drought with the possibility of some of the rivers in the upper Midwest flooding.
    Page 2 of 2 -     According to the National Weather Service, “Parts of the Upper Minnesota and Mississippi River basins now have a normal risk for flooding. In addition, parts of southern and eastern Minnesota and west central Wisconsin are at risk for flooding due to ‘Concrete Frost’.
        “With the snowfall in February, conditions have changed from below normal with the January outlooks to a normal risk of flooding with the February outlooks for locations including:
        “Montevideo on the Minnesota River
        “Granite Falls on the Minnesota River
        “Long Prairie on the Long Prairie River
        “St Cloud on the Sauk River
      “St Cloud on the Mississippi River
        “While severe to extreme drought conditions still exist across the region, precipitation from December 2012 through the end of February has been near normal to even above normal in some areas.                     “Hence some regions do have a decent snow pack with water equivalents of two to four inches.”
        According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the flood threat for the Red River is deemed ‘high’  near Fargo and Wahpeton, while the land in that region could also remain in drought conditions.
        The latest drought forecast from the NWS that runs till the first of June says western Minnesota will still experience ongoing drought conditions, though there will be some improvement.  
        Weather.com is predicting a better than average chance that March temperatures will be above average with predictions that April and May temperatures will most likely be above average.
        Is this the new normal for us? Temperatures above  the historic average, while rainfall is below the historic average.

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