When does winter end in Minnesota?
On the surface, this seems like a simple enough question but in truth it is anything but that. Aside from the finicky weather we sometimes experience in the Bold North, there are many stereotypes out there regarding weather in Minnesota. The end of winter also depends on what you consider to be “winter.”
Confused? Don’t worry. We’ll unpack this whole issue and get it figured out.
Let’s begin by defining what winter is. Webster’s dictionary defines winter as “the season between autumn and spring comprising in the northern hemisphere usually the months of December, January, and February or as reckoned astronomically extending from the December solstice to the March equinox.”
That makes sense. Let’s further muddy the waters: does there need to be snow to be considered winter? Does the snow have to “stick” to be considered legitimate? Do the lakes need to be frozen too? How cold does it have to be to be considered winter weather?
It is all subjective. I personally believe that for it to be truly winter, that the temperatures must be cold enough and the ground must be frozen to have the snow stick. That is the beginning of winter for me. Some years, that means early December. In others it could be as late as January.
By this measuring stick, when does winter end? Is it when the snow is gone? When the ground thaws? I place the beginning of spring when we experience multiple days in one week of temperatures over 40°. Sometimes this is in February, but most often it is early March. We’ll come back to what Minnesotans think later.
By The Calendar
A simple Google search of “when does winter end in Minnesota” will give you this result:
There you go. The calendar says that winter begins on Dec. 21st, 2018 and will end on March 20th, 2019. Cut and dry. Sadly, Mother Nature doesn’t seem to want to confine herself to calendar dates. For example, the actual weather report for Dec. 21st this winter showed a high of 28°. That is right around where we should be. However, historical data shows that we’ve had temperatures as low as -24° and as high as 56°.
The same can be said for March 20th. In 2018, Minneapolis saw a high of 33°. That day has records of 66° and -9°. The Easter holiday can be as early as March 22nd, Easter means spring doesn’t it? We’ve celebrated many Easters here in Minnesota with feet, not inches, of snow on the ground.
As a child, I was blessed and cursed to have been born into a retail family. This meant we moved- a lot. We had the opportunity to live in many different places but as far as winters go, North Carolina and Maryland stand out the most for me. We got all of the usual questions: “Have you seen Fargo? Is it really cold in the winter? Do you get a lot of snow in Minnesota?” Nothing wrong with those questions, par for the course. For the record, Fargo is in North Dakota.
The issue came when a friend blurted out to me that they heard that Minnesota has winter for six months out of the year. Yep, you read that correctly.
Let’s talk about some stereotypes I’ve heard:
Winter lasts for half of the year.
No, it doesn’t. If it did, no one would live here except those who love to ice fish or snowmobile. You can generally count on temperatures below 32° beginning around Thanksgiving until the end of February. Do the math, people!
Minnesota has snow covering the ground for nine months of the year.
Yes, someone really said this to me and no, it is not true. While you can see an odd snow shower as early as October (think Blizzard of 1991, Duluth saw 37 inches that day), snow does not stick to the ground until well into December most years. Snow does not typically last beyond March 15th due to rising temperatures and rain. Even in extreme years, nine months is a total fantasy.
I’ve heard that the snow doesn’t melt until June.
Someone told me that the ground is always frozen in Minnesota.
Can I just take a moment to say that we have hot weather here too? We have extended periods of temperatures approaching and surpassing 100°…plus humidity. Our average temperatures from March through October are 41°, 58°, 69°, 79°, 83°, 80°, 72° (in Sept.), and 58°. Besides, if the ground was always frozen HOW WOULD MINNESOTA BE IN THE TOP 5 FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION? It wouldn’t be, would it?
What Do Minnesotans Think?
I asked a handful of people that I work with when they believed winter was over. I received some very interesting responses! The first told me that she believes “April showers bring May flowers” and that April is the beginning of spring. Another co-worker said that when he sees the first motorcyclist or the first top down on a convertible, that is when he knows. I’ve seen motorcyclists out and about as early as February before.
As I mentioned earlier, I look at temperature trends. We can have fluke days for 40° or warmer in January and February but you have to look at the trend. I believe that if you start to string together a few days like that, you’re on your way. Also look at the low temperature overnight. If you stay above 20-25° for a few nights, you’re well on your way. I also look for people wearing shorts to run into the store, or even sandals. They come out around 40° in Minnesota. One other thing I look (and wait) for is the start of spring training for the Minnesota Twins. Once it is mid-February, it only gets better from there!
What do you think?
When do you believe winter ends in Minnesota? What are the signs you look for to know we’ve made it? I’d love to hear from you!