Minnesota Seasons

It’s not uncommon to hear a Minnesota Weatherman claim how fortunate Minnesotans are because in this state we get to “truly experience all four seasons“.

This statement has always bothered me so, on this snowy April evening, I did a bit of research.

While today’s Winter Storm Warning seems irritating please keep in mind – it’s not uncommon. On average (1891 – 2013) snow in Minnesota lasts from mid-November through mid–April. That’s six months of winter. Remind me… how exactly does Minnesota “get to experience all four seasons” when half of the year we’re covered in snow?

WINTER: November – April
SPRING: May – June
SUMMER: July – August
AUTUMN: September – October

The breakdown that I’ve outlined above indicates six months of Winter; then each of the other three seasons get about 8 weeks each. That’s not Minnesota “experiencing each of the four seasons”… that’s being beat-up so bad for six months that even a 45 degree day seems pleasant and spring-like. Minnesota is largely a winter climate that allows us to merely get a taste of the other four seasons.

That monthly breakdown I had outlined above could also look like this:

WINTER = 50%
SPRING = 16.6%
SUMMER = 16.6%
AUTUMN = 16.6%

Does that seem fair?

As depressing as that looks even those percentages aren’t entirely accurate; because the numbers above assume that Minnesota is kind and divides the remaining three seasons equally throughout the rest of the year.

Don’t kid yourselves.

The summer heat really starts to wear off quickly and the temperature regulates into something more brisk right around mid-September. This is something us Minnesotan’s colloquially refer to as “The Fall Snap”.

To illustrate this point, my daughter and I ran a 5K last year on September 7 and it was ridiculously hot – topping out at 92 degrees that day. However, by September 15 (a mere week later) the recorded high was only 63. Autumn arrived seemingly overnight. September 2012 was no different. On September 11 that year it was 96 degrees but by the 17th it was regularly in the 60s. That 30 degree swing is the Minnesota “Fall Snap” and it happens just like that nearly every year. It literally feels like someone flips a switch.

Now, don’t think for a second that delightful 60 – 70 degree weather lasts for very long. It hangs around from mid-September until about mid-October; then it quickly drops down into the 40 – 50 degree range. Trick or Treating in Minnesota can be a real challenge because parents must either purchase or create a costume that’s still identifiable under layers of winter wear. Most children just end up looking like Biff the Michelin Man if he were going to a costume party. One year I went as the StayPuft Marshmallow Man who also happened to dress up like a cowboy.

Looking at the high temperatures for Halloween is misleading, because most of the festivities take place at night when it’s colder… but here are the high temps for the last five years:

2009 = 41 degrees
2010 = 48 degrees
2011 = 50 degrees
2012 = 53 degrees
2013 = 43 degrees

Boy, that 2012 was a real cooker huh?! We nearly went outside with only 3 layers of thermal underwear.

Now let’s talk snow.

If you’re counting only actual measurable snowfall – not just trace amounts like the snow we received on May 2 last year – the first snow of 2011 was four inches of powder on November 19. The high that days was 31.

The first measurable snowfall of 2012 was November 12 (one half inch). Ten days later we got 2-1/2 inches more.

November 5 marks the first snowfall of 2013 and we received nearly three inches.

With that new information it looks like Autumn in Minnesota really only lasts for about six weeks (mid-September through late-October), not eight.

Accumulating snow in Minnesota usually lasts until mid-to-late April and the spring showers begin, in earnest, around the first week of May. Warmer temperatures typically arrive sometime in mid-May. Temperatures are regularly back in the 70 – 80 degree range by mid-June and quickly escalate, along with the humidity, as July approaches.

Once again, I will quickly illustrate with a 5K that my daughter and I ran on June 15 last year… it was 82 degrees and we were nearly devoured whole by swarms of mosquitos.

That new information leads me to this final conclusion.

WINTER = 50%
SPRING = 13%
SUMMER = 25%
AUTUMN = 12%

I’ll readily admit, Summer in Minnesota is nice… but it hardly lasts long enough. Remember back to when you were still in school. Remember how long summer vacation never seemed to last long enough? Remember how fast those 104 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day flew by? Remember how you tried to cram as much fun and enjoyment as possible into that short amount of time before having to return to school in the Fall?

It’s kind of like that except, as a working adult, you only get the weekends.

I’ll let you do the math on that one.


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