Are the subzero temps finally behind us?

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Now is the time of year where many of us Minnesotans are just flat out done with winter; the snow, the bitter cold… all want to be left in our rearview mirror.  While that doesn’t happen overnight, and doesn’t typically happen in February, the harshest of winter conditions are usually behind us right?

So that begs the question, what are the harshest winter conditions? Some would say heavy snow, others would probably go with the wind, but I think many can agree that the bitter cold is probably the least appetizing.  My general philosophy is that as long as that thermometer stays above zero, it’s really not that terrible.  We average 24 subzero calendar days on average in the metro, which basically tells me that I have to suffer through 24 really cold mornings, and likely a few bone chilling afternoons.  But when are we done?  When is the worst cold behind us?

Well, clearly that is in the eye of the beholder, but climatologically speaking, the easiest way to decipher that is to focus on subzero temperatures.  When are we usually done? Well, much like every other aspect of Minnesota climate, that question is difficult because it varies wildly.  The 1981-2010 climate (the current climate record we use for daily averages) shows that the day we see our last subzero temperature in the metro ON AVERAGE is February 21st.  But that date can be totally deceiving because in those 30 years, our last subzero temperature of the season occurred anywhere from January 18th to March 26th… that’s more than a 2-month difference!  I mean, just in the last 3 years alone, the last subzero ranges from January 13th to March 5th.  But I have some good news for you Arctic air haters, that the 20th century average is a few days earlier coming in on Valentine’s Day, February 14th.

So what does this tell us?  Considering we just passed Valentine’s Day, it becomes increasingly difficult for the atmosphere to get below zero, especially in the heart of the metro with our urban heat island.  But we do have a shot at a subzero temp Friday morning and with more snow potentially on the horizon for next week, there very well could be more.  The deeper our snowpack, the better our chances for subzero lows because snow is an excellent insulator for cold air.  With all of that said, we’re probably not done yet, but we’ll see.