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Outlook calls for wetter than normal spring

Icicles glow in the setting sun. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Spring is nearly here.

As any long winter lingers—with the snowpack slowly, but steadily melting—thoughts turn to sunny skies, open water and warm temperatures. The National Weather Service in Duluth recently provided both a winter recap and a look at what spring could bring.

The three-month outlook calls for an equal chance for above-normal temperatures or below for Minnesota. This comes on the heels of predictions for a colder than normal winter season, which was proven by the numbers.

The spring prediction calls for higher than normal temperatures stretching across the southern two-thirds of the nation from California through the middle of the nation, across the East Coast from the tip of Florida to the top of Maine. Parts of Oregon, Washington state, Idaho and Montana, and the western halves of North and South Dakota are predicted to be colder than normal.

• Normal highs for spring in Brainerd start in the low-30s in early March and warm to the low-70s by the end of May, the weather service reported.

• Normal lows start in the single digits above zero in early March and warm to the upper-40s by the end of May. Normal precipitation for the spring is 7.24 inches.

• Normal snowfall for the spring is 11.8 inches, looking at March, April and May, although snowfall for May on average is so small it doesn't register on the weather services graph for normal snowfall.

While temperatures for spring have an equal chance of being above or below normal, the three-month outlook is calling for a 40 percent chance it is wetter than normal. The upper Midwest and all of Minnesota are predicted for above-normal precipitation.

The Brainerd area winter was listed as the 13th snowiest for the weather station's record. Brainerd recorded 5 inches of snow on March 5 and 5.3 inches on March 6. Another 19.4 inches fell in February, with the greatest snowfall for a single day coming Feb. 23 with 7 inches followed by a trace of snow the next day. Another 5 inches was recorded on Feb. 25. The coldest day of the winter—37 below on Dec. 27. The warmest day fell on Feb. 14 with Mother Nature's Valentine's Day gift of 48 degrees.

Overall, the winter of 2017-18 was colder than normal with a mean high temperature of 16.5 degrees compared to 18.8 degrees for the norm. The mean low temperature was also colder at 6.6 degrees below compared to 2.5 degrees below for the norm. And the overall mean temperature was 4.8 degrees compared to the norm of 8.1 degrees. The winter of 1997-98 still stands out for its warmth with a mean temperature of 19.6 degrees.

Snowfall was nearly normal with 40.6 inches for this winter compared to a normal snowfall of 40.8 inches. The record snowfall still belongs to the eye-popping 81.8 inches from the winter of 2008-09.

With winter almost in the rearview mirror—spring officially starts Tuesday—its measure can be taken with some confidence. And it matched predictions to be colder and snowy. It's not to say the Brainerd lakes area is out of the woods entirely for snowfall. The greatest snowfall for the month of March was in 1965 with 38.5 inches. And everyone knows, snow is capable of falling well into what is considered late spring. In fact, 3.4 inches of snow is normal in April. While anecdotally it can seem March brings the most snow, the data collected from 1981 to 2010 reflects the highest total snowfall is in January and February—nearly 10 inches each—while March is closer to November for its normal total of 8.4 inches. But March often seems to deliver its snow in larger lump sums, sometimes of the heavy, wet snow variety that makes those shoveling sessions stand out in painful muscle memory.

But warmer days are ahead and it's only a matter of time until the first robins are a common sight.

Spring stats

The National Weather Service in Duluth looked at seasonal climate norms from a 30-year period from 1981 to 2010 for data for March, April and May, or meteorological spring.

• 42.9 degrees as the normal, seasonal average temperature.

• 7.24 inches of precipitation for a normal season.

Records include:

• 48.9 degrees for the warmest average temperature for the spring season in 2012.

• 35.4 degrees was the coldest seasonal average set in 1975.

• 14.61 inches is the record for the greatest seasonal precipitation-- set in 2012.

• 2.58 inches—the lowest seasonal precipitation set in 1958 and in 1980.

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