The good news: This winter season has not been the snowiest season the Brainerd lakes area has ever seen.
The bad news: The Brainerd area had 45.7 inches of snowfall as of Thursday, Feb. 14, and most likely the snow accumulation will continue until spring arrives.
The National Weather Service in Duluth collected data for a Top 10 ranking on the highest amount of snowfall for the Brainerd area winter seasons ending on Feb. 13, going back to 1949. This season ranks No. 6, with the 45.7 inches. The No. 1 season was in 1969 with 63.8 inches of snowfall. There are some missing dates for some of the years in the data, but the ranks are a good estimate on how much snowfall the Brainerd area has seen over the years.
Top 10 snowfall seasons through Feb. 13
• 1969 with 63.8 inches of snowfall.
• 1997 with 59 inches of snowfall.
• 1989 with 57.6 inches of snowfall.
• 1971 with 50.8 inches of snowfall.
• 1984 with 48.5 inches of snowfall.
• 2019 with 45.7 inches of snowfall.
• 1994 with 42.7 inches of snowfall.
• 1993 with 42.3 inches of snowfall.
• 2001 with 41.6 inches of snowfall.
• 1996 with 41.4 inches of snowfall.
Weather service meteorologist Steve Gohde, the observation program leader, said farther north in Cass County, Cass Lake received 50 inches of snowfall this season, giving the city its fifth snowiest winter season, thus far. Cass Lake's record snowfall is 68.4 inches in 1996.
When looking at the amount of total snowfall for an entire winter season, Brainerd's current winter season ranks No. 32, but the season is not done yet, so will most likely move up in rank by winter's end. It shouldn't take long for Brainerd's rank to move up, as the No. 31 year was in 1999 with 46 inches-so Brainerd only will have to see three-tenths of an inch to move up one rank.
Brainerd had the most snow with 80.6 inches in 1997 and the next top seven after that had between 79.4 inches in 1989 to 70 inches in 1965-including last winter season, ranking No. 5 with 73.5 inches.
Since September 2018, Brainerd had 51 days with at least a trace of snow.
The National Weather Service calculates snowfall by the amount of snow falling in a 24-hour accumulation, and snow depth is the amount of snow remaining on the ground, as snow melts, evaporates or is compacted.
Gohde also calculated data for the snow depth maximums for the Brainerd area-with the most in 1965 with a snow depth of 38 inches, 1969 with 36 inches, 1997 with 34 inches, 2001 with 30 inches and 1982 with 29 inches. Last winter season ranked No. 27 with a snow depth of 19 inches and this winter season follows behind with a snow depth of 18 inches so far, ranking No. 29.
Diving deep into the data
In a previous Dispatch weather story, the weather service stated there is a 20-year gap in Brainerd snowfall records covering the years from 1998 to 2017. It should be clarified, it is not technically a gap.
The weather service has two official weather observation sites reporting its Brainerd weather data. One is identified as "Brainerd, MN," on the online database and is information compiled from the Brainerd water plant and, prior to 1972, from the Brainerd Ranger Station, Minnesota Department of Conservation Division of Forestry. The other data identified online is called "Brainerd Area," which is information compiled on temperatures from the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport and information on precipitation and snowfall coming from the Brainerd water treatment plant.
The gap in data previously mentioned was a result of how the data is queried and was not a lack of observations, the weather service noted.
"The Brainerd snowfall historical observations are a combination of snowfall from the Brainerd Ranger station and the water treatment plant. The data retrieved from our NWS website falling under the name 'Brainerd' is temperature, rain and snow observations from those official cooperative observation stations (also known as COOP)," Gohde explained in an email. "When we created 'Brainerd Area,' it was done through a process called threading.
"We threaded the current Brainerd airport observations with historical observations from Brainerd COOP stations. This was done to extend the period of record and allow us to create daily, monthly and annual climate products. These products can be found at https://w2.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=dlh and heard every morning around 8 a.m. on the (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather radio broadcast."
To develop the threaded data, the weather service used the record of a currently active station as the starting point for a station thread. This station's current record was used as far back in time as possible, taking precedence over a closed station's record during any periods of overlap.
Gohde explained a search was conducted to identify other weather stations in the area that could be used to extend the thread further back in time.
"In this process, preference was given to Weather Service/Bureau stations (that were not themselves Local Climate Data stations). The thread was extended back in time as far as possible using NOAA daily data available in digital form. Partner input was solicited and this local expertise was used to fine-tune the station threads."
Temperature data for the Brainerd station dates back to Feb. 1, 1899. Rain and snow data began on Aug. 2, 1948.
Outside of the snow, Brainerd did break two records this year.
On Jan. 7, NWS recorded the highest low temperature on record for that day-the temperature did not fall below 28 degrees.
In opposite fashion, a second record was added to the books Jan. 30, when the coldest high temperature high of 16 below zero was set for that date, the NWS reports in its climate data report. This broke the previous record of 12 below zero set in 1996. Twelve days had average temperatures above normal.
The average temperature for January was 5.3 degrees, which was 5.9 degrees below the normal of 11.2 degrees. The highest temperature for the month was 41 degrees set on Jan. 4 and the lowest temperature was 43 below on Jan. 31.
January was below normal for snowfall with a total of 8.6 inches for the month, 1 inch below the normal of 9.6 inches.
The average wind speed for the month was 6.9 mph, with the windiest day on Jan. 8 with an average wind of 15.8 mph. The highest sustained wind was also on Jan. 8 with a speed of 32 mph out of the west-northwest. A peak wind gust of 46 mph out of the west was recorded on this day.