The numbers are in: Rochester experienced the wettest, snowiest astronomical winter ever

As we wrap up winter and move into spring today, we can not officially look back at the final statistics from what we call astronomical winter in Rochester. It was the snowiest, wettest astronomical winter in the city’s history!

Keep in mind, this is just one way of breaking down the numbers and looking at winter, because there are multiple ways of keeping track of climate statistics. Astronomical winter is what many people think of when we talk about “winter”. It’s the time between the winter solstice in December and the vernal equinox in March. Another way of doing it is by using “meteorological winter” which is done for simplicity, using three month season beginning on the first day of those months (December 1st through February 28th) and not relying on the astronomical positioning of the sun’s rays on the earth as in the case of the equinoxes where the sun’s rays are at the Equator as those dates change from year to year.

Snowfall totals are seasons are typically done from July 1st through June 30th to encompass the full year of snowfall that means fall and spring snow storms as well. This season’s total overall is 78.6 inches in Rochester, placing us in third place all-time for seasonal snowfall. The record is 85.1 inches set in 1996-97.

Below is the full climate statement from the National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wisconsin:

Rochester, MN…

Temperatures –

During astronomical winter, temperatures averaged 14.8°F at Rochester International Airport.  This was 2.8°F below the long-term (1886-2019) average of 17.6°F. It was the coldest winter since the 2013-14 astronomical winter (average temperature of 10.1°F – 8th coldest).

  • The average high temperature was 22.6°F.  This was 3.8°F colder than the long-term average of 26.4°F.
  • The average low temperature was 7.0°F.  This was 1.8°F colder than the long-term average of 8.8°F.
  • The warmest high temperature was 44°F on January 5.
  • The coldest high temperature was -19°F on January 30.
  • The warmest low temperature was 35°F on February 3.
  • The coldest low temperature was -30°F on January 31. Coldest temperature in a winter since 1995-96 (-35°F).

Precipitation – Wettest 

During astronomical winter, a total of 6.70 inches of precipitation fell at Rochester International Airport.  This was 3.70 inches wetter the long-term (1886-2019) average of 3.00 inches.  This was the wettest winter on record.  The previous record was 6.36 inches during the winter of 1887-88.  The table below lists the 5 wettest astronomical winters.

Wettest Astronomical Winters
in Rochester MN
1886-2019

Precipitation
Rank        Total         Winter
—-    ————-     ——
1      6.70 inches      2018-19
2      6.36 inches      1887-88
3      6.01 inches      2016-17
4      5.51 inches      1950-51
5      5.32 inches      1982-83

The wettest day occurred on February 23 when 0.89 inches of precipitation fell.

Measurable (0.01 inches or greater) precipitation fell on 35 days (39.3 percent) and trace amounts of precipitation fell on another 15 days (16.9 percent).

Snowfall – Snowiest 

During astronomical winter, a total of 65.1 inches of snow fell at Rochester International Airport.  This was 37.2 inches above the long-term (1908-2019) average of 27.9 inches.  This was the snowiest winter on record.  The previous record was 52.8 inches during the winter of 1996-96.  The table below lists the 5 snowiest astronomical winters.

Snowiest Astronomical Winters
in Rochester MN
1908-2019

Snowfall
Rank        Total         Winter
—-    ————-     ——
     1      65.1 inches      2018-19
2      52.8 inches      1996-97
3      48.6 inches      1950-51
4      48.3 inches      1916-17
5      47.0 inches      2013-14

The snowiest day occurred on February 23 when 10.1 inches of snow fell.

Measurable (0.1 inches or greater) snow fell on 28 days (31.5 percent) and trace amounts of snow fell on another 14 days (15.7 percent).

Snow Depth – 12th Greatest

During astronomical winter, the average snow depth at Rochester International Airport was 9.9 inches.  This was 4.3 inches above the long-term (1939-2019) average of 5.6 inches.  The greatest average 15.6 inches in 1978-79.

Measurable snow was on the ground on 71 days or 79.8 percent of the season.

The greatest snow depth was 28 inches on February 24.

There was no snow on the ground on 12 days or 13.5 percent of the season.

Ted Schmidt

Ted Schmidt

Ted Schmidt is the morning and noon meteorologist at KTTC.

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