Weather service: February was ‘abnormally cold’
If you think Grand Forks was pretty cold in February, you’re right.
According to the National Weather Service, it was the fourth coldest on record with an average temperature of 0.4 degrees at the Grand Forks airport, which is 11.6 degrees colder than the norm during the past three decades.
The coldest February was in 1979 with an average of 4.1 degrees below zero. At the weather service’s office at UND, where records go back farther, the coldest February was in 1936 when the average temperature was 13.1 below zero.
But averages can be deceiving.
Out of 28 days this past February, there 24 during which the low temperature was at or below zero. In a normal February, there would only be 13.1 days like that.
Al Voelker, a lead meteorologist with the weather service, said it has been an “abnormally cold” winter but that’s partly because people are comparing it to the past few winters, which have been relatively mild.
There haven’t been many records broken this February, he said.
The only record was on Thursday when it was 29 degrees below zero, breaking the record for that day. The old record was 28 below on Feb. 27, 1962.
It’s not yet clear just how abnormally cold this winter has been. Voelker said meteorologists will probably compile the numbers for December, January and February on Monday.
What’s known right now is that this past December was the second coldest since monthly records began at the Grand Forks airport in 1965. January was the 16th coldest January.
In December, the average temperature was 0.1 degrees below zero with 24 days when the low was at or below zero. In January, the average was 1 degree with 24 days when the low was at or below zero.
So February fits the pattern pretty well.
Mercifully, the amount of snow that fell was relatively low at just 5.4 inches. The normal is 6.6 inches. It had snowed a lot in January — 15.9 inches, way above the norm of 10.7 inches — so the snow-depth in February was also above normal at 11 inches; the norm is 6 inches.
There was one blizzard, which the Herald named Fred, on Feb. 13.
Cold days ahead
Looking ahead in March, the warmest temperature in the weather service’s seven-day forecast is 26 degrees on Thursday, which is not quite the record high for that day. The record was 58 degrees on March 6, 2000.
The coldest temperature in the next seven days is tonight at 24 below.
According to the weather service’s climate outlook, it could be a pretty cool spring. March, April and May has a 40 percent chance of below normal temperatures, a 34 percent chance of near normal and only a 26 percent chance of above normal.