While February 2015 has been far colder than average, now approaching 10 degrees below average for the month, we haven't set any records AND likely won't even finish in the top 10 coldest Februarys ever. BUT, if we would have had last years snow cover, this would be a far different story.
Minnesota snow cover at the end of the week
I'd say one of the biggest surprises for many Minnesotans this year has been the shear lack of snow. While there isn't anything unusual about this little snow to this point in the year (it's happened dozens of times before), I think it's the change from the last couple of years that have most of us a little off. But imagine if we would have had 10, 20 or 30 inches of snow on the ground to start this cold February?? We may have had a real shot at the coldest February EVER.
Snow is a great insulator of cold air. It prevents the relatively warm ground and the radiation the earth expels from warming the atmosphere. This allows the cold arctic air to plunge into the state with very little if any moderation from when it was near the North Pole. This gives the area a prime opportunity to get as cold as possible. It's a lot like what's been happening on the East Coast and a lot like what happened in Iowa and Illinois Saturday morning. So here is a peek at the Saturday morning lows around here.
Cold yes, but no records broken and we have seen far colder in days past. Now look at areas to our SOUTH in portions of Iowa and Illinois.
Temperatures are in the teens and 20's below zero. So how can it be so much colder to our SOUTH? The only difference… fresh snowfall. Parts of Iowa and Illinois have a fresh few inches of snow on the ground. Check out their recent snow totals.
You can see for yourself that the areas that saw more snow, were far colder than the locations that saw just a little snow or nothing at all.
If you take 2 nights with identical conditions, but one has fresh snow on the ground, and the other is mostly bare ground, the spot with the snow will be colder. In some cases, it can be 30 or even 40 degrees colder just by adding a little fresh snow to the ground.
With this very principal, if we had a several inch snow cover or more through this month, then our lows in the single digits below zero could have turned into 30 below… and our teen below zero nights could have turned into 40 below… or worse! So, as much as I love the snow, even I have to admit, it was nice not having it around because this February has been cold enough!