Cold and Snowy Meteorological Winter of 2021-22

It was a cold and snowy meteorological winter (December through February) in Minnesota, with above-normal temperatures in December giving way to well below-normal temperatures in January and especially February.

Temperatures were lowest, both in real terms and relative to what's "normal" (based on 1991-2020 averages), in northern Minnesota. In International Falls, for example, December's warm departure from normal was smaller than at Minnesota's other major daily climate stations, both January and February's negative departure from normal was larger than the the other stations, and February was the seventh coldest on record. By contrast, Rochester had  the largest above-normal margin in December, and the smallest below-normal departures for February, and for winter as a whole.

Although February was quite cold in northern Minnesota (#7 at International Falls and #14 at Duluth), the cold of the three-month winter was not historically significant. In fact, at the National Weather Service cooperative station in Milan, which has among the most geographically-stable records of any climate station in the state, the winter ended up tied for the 65th coldest, out of 126 qualifying seasons. This is a good reminder that our climate normals have shown enough warming in recent decades that what appears to qualify as "cold" or "well below-normal" now, was somewhat more common in decades past.

 

 

temperature chart
Graph of monthly and average seasonal temperature departures for December 2021 through February 2022 at Duluth, International Falls, Rochester, Saint Cloud, and the Twin Cities. Image produced by Minnesota State Climatology Office, based on data from NOAA and ACIS (Applied Climate Information System).

 

It was not an excessively snowy meteorological winter in Minnesota, but most stations, particularly from the Twin Cities to Alexandria and northward, had above-normal snowfall. December was snowy virtually everywhere in the state, with many stations doubling their normal snowfall. January and February generally had near to above-normal snowfall in central and northern Minnesota, but near-normal to well below-normal snowfall in southern Minnesota. Of Minnesota's five "first-order" climate stations, only Rochester finished the 3-month season with below-normal snowfall.

Areas along Interstate 90 in far southern and southwestern Minnesota received little snowfall during February, and the southwestern-most counties spent much of the month with little or no snow cover. Most of the northern 2/3 of the state had above-normal February snowfall, contributing to the ongoing trend of February becoming a snowier month.

Snowfall chart​​

Cumulative graph of monthly snowfall, along with normal total snowfall for December 2021 through February 2022 at Duluth, International Falls, Rochester, Saint Cloud, and the Twin Cities. Image produced by Minnesota State Climatology Office, based on data from NOAA and ACIS (Applied Climate Information System).

 

Modified March 1, 2022