Snowfall in Minnesota

Over the weekend a low, moving westward across northern Iowa, dumped a large amount of snow across much of southern Minnesota. The town of Madison in western Minnesota (on the below map, is just WNW of Montevideo) reported 19 inches of snow, while Eden Prairie and my hometown of Bloomington, two suburbs SW of Minneapolis, each reported 17 inches. In conjunction with the snow in the SW portion of Minnesota, gusting winds of over 30 mph created blizzard conditions. The winds near the Twin Cities were not quite strong enough to prompt a blizzard warning, but the storm still triggered a Winter Storm Warning. Snowfall accumulated during the snow is as below:

February 20-21 Snowfall

This system is just the latest in an unusually snowy winter for the Twin Cities. It may be a winter that will go down in the record books. Through February 20th, there had been 72.9 inches of snowfall measured at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, with additional snowfall (last upping the season total to 73.6 inches at last measurement) falling earlier today. The 72.9 inches through the 20th makes this winter the 3rd snowiest on record through that day.

As seen above, the record through February 20th is 76.9 inches, set during the Winter of 1981-1982. One interesting note about this chart is that this winter has surpassed the snowfall accumulated during the Winter of 1983-1984 (72.9 vs. 69.3). The Winter of 83-84 is currently the snowiest winter on record, with 98.6 inches of total snowfall accumulated. The only other winter to surpass 90 inches is the Winter of 81-82, which accumulated 95 inches of snow. This winter is already the 11th snowiest on record, with just under two months of additional snowfall still to come.

This winter is coming off of a series of winters that had below average snowfall accumulation. Take a look at the graph below:

The graph is coded as followed: this winter (red), average winter (black), 1983-84 (yellow), 2009-10 (orange), 2008-09 (green), 2007-08 (purple), and 2006-07 (blue). While the average winter accumulates 55.9 inches of snow, the past four winters have all had roughly 40 inches of snow, close to 15 inches below normal. This winter is already nearly 20 inches above normal. For comparison’s sake, this winter surpassed 40 inches even before the calendar turned to 2011, whereas the average winter surpasses 40 inches around this time of the season. This winter has a very good chance of surpassing the combined total snowfall of the past two winters-not even a foot of additional snow is needed to accomplish this, and the average winter has roughly 15 accumulated inches of snow from this point onward. It should be noted that by this time last year, all of the accumulated snow had occurred.

While this winter is currently ahead of the pace that 83-84 set, it seems unlikely that it will become the snowiest winter on record. The Winter of 83-84, from this point on, still had two separate storms that dropped at least 10 inches of snow at the airport, with one of them occurring the last week of April. Typically, the last recorded snowfall in the Twin Cities occurs in early April. For this winter to surpass 83-84, there would need to be at least two significant snowstorms, with accumulations approaching 10 inches in each storm. Even if it does not become the snowiest winter on record, I would expect this to become the 3rd winter to surpass 90 inches of snowfall.

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