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Halfway through winter: Colder, less snow than normal

Jan 17, 2018 06:45AM ● Published by Editor

Aubrey Potratz snugs her hood against bitter winds and blowing snow on Jan. 11 on her way home from class at UMD. She's majoring in environmental science and sustainability and looked forward to not having to go out again in the wind for the day. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com

By John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune on Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Look on the bright side: We're halfway through winter.

Whether you consider winter strictly as December-January-February, as meteorologists do, or whether you're a Northland realist and assume winter often starts in late October and can linger into April — we're halfway home. There's light at the end of the tunnel. We're on the downslope. Over the hump.

Colder

So far, this winter in Duluth has been colder than normal — especially in January, which to date is a frigid 7.1 degrees colder than the 30-year normal. December was 4.3 degrees colder than normal, and November 3.2 degrees colder.

While the only record cold days were back on Nov. 9-10, it's been pretty consistently cold, which means bigger bills from Comfort Systems or your propane or oil delivery company (or at least more trips to the woodshed). Heating degree days, a complicated equation to measure how much energy it takes to heat a home, are at 4,591 for the heating season so far, up 3.7 percent from the normal of 4,428.

Less snow

Duluth's snowfall this season started with a bang, with a record October single-day snowfall of 10.6 inches on Oct. 27, but has mostly sputtered along since then. Duluth sits at 41.2 inches of snow for the season as of winter's halfway mark, down 2.7 inches from the normal 43.9 inches.

There were 9 inches on the ground at the National Weather Service office in Duluth as of Monday, 2.7 inches less than normal for mid-January. As of Tuesday, the next major winter storm was expected to mostly miss the Northland next Monday, tracking to the south and east.

Warmth, daylight always win

Now the best part. Starting Sunday, the average temperature in Duluth starts going up every day. It's not always a linear march — there can be cold snaps interspersed with warm — but it always gets warmer, at least until July 21 when it starts getting colder again.

And if you thought you heard chickadees stirring a bit earlier on recent mornings, you may be right. We've already gained 28 minutes of daylight since the shortest day on Dec. 20. Sunsets started getting later on Dec. 21 and sunrises have been getting earlier since Jan. 1. (And if you want to know why those happen on different days, you'll have to ask Astro Bob.)

Odds favor warmer trend

The forecast for the second half of winter? Good luck with that. The National Weather Service in Duluth and the GFS computer model show a noticeable warming spell, and a potential January thaw, through the end of this week. And the National Climate Prediction Center on Friday posted even odds for normal temperatures into late January, then an above-average chance for a warmer trend into the first week of February.

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