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      2-1-2013: The Depths of Winter

      A new month begins. The old weather proverb "As the day lengthens, the cold strengthens", applies to February. Some of our coldest weather has occurred during the second month, even as we gain two-to-three minutes of possible sunshine daily. The coldest temperature recorded by the National Weather Service (NWS) near Negaunee in its 51 years of record- keeping occurred on February 16, 1979 when it hit 34 degrees below zero. Iron Mountain plunged to 39 below, its coldest ever recorded, on February 4, 1996.

      The long-term mean temperature for February is around 16 degrees. The coldest February in the last 46 years was 1979 with an average of 6.9 degrees. Interestingly, the coldest second month on record occurred in the City of Marquette (a location that is, on average, much warmer than the NWS Negaunee location) in 1875, when the average temperature registered a bone-chilling 1.8 degrees.

      Even more ironic, the warmest February in the record occurred three years later with a mean temperature topping out at an astounding 32.6--a reading much warmer than most Marches. The winter of 1877-78 was, by far, the warmest on record. During the strong El Nino of 1998, the NWS site recorded a mean temperature of 28.4 degrees--the warmest February in the last 51 years.

      Snowfall for the month normally drops off as the average storm track drops to the south and the Great Lakes reach their coldest point of the winter. However, nature does not abide by averages. In February 2002, the NWS recorded its snowiest month as a series of storms buried the site under nearly 92 inches.

      February 2013 has started cold. The first week of the month should continue cold but there are signs that moderation will occur as next week wears on.