Bad to Worse

by Mark Lahtinen
February 2, 2024

Here it is…done with January and two-thirds of the way through calendar winter. We’ve had 7.6 inches of snow so far which is about a foot and a half below normal. Early February is usually when we have the greatest average snow depth with about 6 inches on the ground. So far this winter we’ve had one day with 2 inches or more on the ground and that wasn’t even winter…it was Halloween.

In the records (since 1899-1900 for daily snow depths from the MDNR Twin Cities Climate website) I found 6 other winters with 6 or fewer days with 2 inches of snow, or more, on the ground through January.

Year Days Snow Ski Days Dec-Jan Temp Dec-Jan Precip
2024 1 ? ? 28.2 F 2.41 in.
1981 0 21.1 15 18.9 .54
1961 1 40.2 24 14.4 .83
1959 2 19.1 9 13.3 .32
1944 3 26.9 16 25 .24
1914 5 22.5 23 26 .88
1900 6 36.4 29 21.4 1.99
1877-78 (only temp and precip. records then...not snow) 27.8 4.23
Average 40 ~50 inches ~70    

Are we going to beat the previous for lowest winter snowfall which was in 1930-31 with 14.2 inches total and 13 ski days?

We are also running warm with the warmest December on record. The warmest calendar winter on record was 1877-78 – “The Year with No Winter” - when the average winter temperature was 29 F (normal is 19.6 F). For this calendar winter through January we are at 28.2 F. February is starting out warm with the first 7 days about 20 F above normal which will be plus 5 F for the month. If February averages about 30.5 F this winter will pass 1877-78 for the warmest on record. There were no snowfall records in 1877-78 but the calendar winter precipitation was 4.58 inches which is over 1.5 inches above average for winter. There was 4.23 inches of precipitation for December through January for that winter compared to an average of 2.06 inches and this winter 2.41 inches. Remember the 2 inches of rain around Christmas?

From the weather records the last minimum low daily temperature was set in January 1977 (1/9 -32F & 1/11 -31F, the ‘70s were cold) but since then there have been 13 high maximum daily temperatures set in January.

Alaska is experiencing cold and near record snowfalls this winter. In the past when it has been cold in Alaska it has been warm here and vice versa. The record for the snowiest winter in Anchorage (134.5 inches) was set in 2011-12. The winter of 2011-12 was the eighth least snowiest here with 22.3 inches and 21 ski days.

Word came out today from the Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS) that the Loppet Cup is a go.


About the author...

Mark Lahtinen has been skiing since the late ‘60s woodies, 3-pins bindings, bamboo poles, and skied in tracks at Wirth at best. Starting about 15 years ago, Mark thought he could figure out winter snows -- too unpredictable, but he tries. Mark has some big spreadsheets and once in awhile can find some interesting data. Mark says: "I’m not a weatherman nor a climatologist nor do I play one on TV."