People across Minnesota tend to hold a belief that March is the snowiest month of the year. Whenever the winter high school sports tournament season rolls around, a common Minnesota comment usually links snowstorms to the hockey and basketball tournaments.

When you think about elements of the science involved, it makes sense. People tend to think of springtime (including the shoulder month of March) as a wet month. Add some cold air, and boom! Snow. We've also seen plenty of big March snowstorms over the years, so it would make sense that March is one of the snowiest (if not the snowiest) month of the year.

After looking into the historical data, it turns out that March isn't Minnesota's snowiest month. At least, not anymore.

WCCO TV talked to a Minnesota DNR climatologist, who said that once upon a time, March was indeed Minnesota's snowiest month of the year. This was largely driven by some major March snowstorms from 1950 through 1980 that pushed up the average snowfall totals for March to make it the snowiest month of the year for the state.

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After 1980, that changed, with March falling from the top of the list of snowiest months. The month now ranks further down the list of snowy months, depending on where you live.

What is Minnesota's snowiest month of the year?

It varies a little from place to place around the state, but data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identifies a winter month most people might not guess as the snowiest of the year.

Of the sampled cities below, December generally ranks as the snowiest month of the year for most parts of Minnesota in recent years. This does vary in parts of northern and western Minnesota.

The data provided gives a few different timeframes at which you can look at the data. The information I am looking at is the most recent 30 years of average snowfall data, spanning from 1991 to 2020. There are obviously years where we received way more than the information below, but those numbers are what each town has received on average each month.

What's interesting is that this data shows March actually ranking toward the bottom of the top-5 snowiest months around much of the state.

Duluth's snowiest months of the year (in order, 1991-2020):

  1. December - 18.7 inches
  2. January - 16.8 inches
  3. February - 15.1 inches
  4. November - 14.1 inches
  5. March - 12.8 inches

Minneapolis's snowiest months of the year (in order, 1991-2020):

  1. December - 11.4 inches
  2. January - 11 inches
  3. February - 9.5 inches
  4. March - 8.2 inches
  5. November - 6.8 inches

Rochester's snowiest months of the year (in order, 1991-2020):

  1. December - 12.4 inches
  2. January - 12.2 inches
  3. February - 10.7 inches
  4. March - 8.6 inches
  5. November - 4.5 inches

St. Cloud's snowiest months of the year (in order, 1991-2020):

  1. December - 9.3 inches
  2. February - 8.9 inches
  3. January - 8.8 inches
  4. March - 8.2 inches
  5. November - 6.9 inches

Brainerd's snowiest months of the year (in order, 1991-2020):

  1. (TIE) December - 10 inches
  2. (TIE) January - 10 inches
  3. March - 9.2 inches
  4. February - 8.3 inches
  5. November - 5.7 inches

Ely's snowiest months of the year (in order, 1991-2020):

  1. January - 13.8 inches
  2. December - 13.2 inches
  3. November - 9.8 inches
  4. February - 9.3 inches
  5. March - 8.4 inches

Grand Marais's snowiest months of the year (in order, 1991-2020):

  1. January - 15.6 inches
  2. December - 13.4 inches
  3. February - 8.7 inches
  4. March - 6 inches
  5. November - 3.8 inches

International Falls's snowiest months of the year (in order, 1991-2020):

  1. December - 15.8 inches
  2. January - 15.7 inches
  3. February - 12.6 inches
  4. November - 12.1 inches
  5. March - 7.9 inches

Owatonna's snowiest months of the year (in order, 1991-2020):

  1. December - 11.2 inches
  2. February - 10.2 inches
  3. January - 9.5 inches
  4. March - 6.8 inches
  5. November - 3.1 inches

Marshall's snowiest months of the year (in order, 1991-2020):

  1. December - 10.1 inches
  2. February - 8.1 inches
  3. March - 7.6 inches
  4. January - 6.6 inches
  5. November - 5.3 inches

Moorhead's snowiest months of the year (in order, 1991-2020):

  1. January - 12.2 inches
  2. December - 10.8 inches
  3. March - 9.3 inches
  4. November - 8 inches
  5. February - 7.7 inches

Redwood Falls's snowiest months of the year (in order, 1991-2020):

  1. December - 9.4 inches
  2. February - 9.3 inches
  3. March - 8.9 inches
  4. January - 7.1 inches
  5. November - 4.4 inches

Why is March not the snowiest month of the year anymore in Minnesota?

There are two key factors. One is, as pointed out earlier in this story, that there were a number of notable storms spanning from 1950 to 1980 that swayed data toward March for a time. Additionally, the climate expert from the Minnesota DNR that WCCO talked to also points to warmer March temperatures, leading to more rain falling during some storms during this final winter month.

This same expert also says that February is an "up-and-coming month" in terms of rankings, but December tends to hold the snowiest month ranking across most of the state for now. As you can see from the sampled cities in the data above, February does currently rank second in many parts of the state, in some cases by only a fraction of an inch.

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