The average high temperature drops to the freezing mark on the 27th of November and stays at freezing or below until March 2nd. The majority of days in mid winter have highs from the mid teens to around 30, although Arctic outbreaks may bring periods of frigid weather when high temperatures stay below zero for several days in a row. Rochester averages 36 nights per winter when the temperature falls to zero or below with 14 such nights usually occurring in January.
There are several tracks which storm systems may take to produce snow in southeast Minnesota. The heaviest snows usually develop when low pressure systems develop in the southern plains states and move northeastward into Missouri and Illinois. These storms often produce 6 to 10 inch snowfalls and may cause snows in excess of one foot.
More common are the lows which track southeastward from Alberta, Canada and the northern plains states toward the Upper Mississippi Valley. These lows, known as "Alberta Clippers", typically produce lighter snows in the 1 to 4 inch range. Widespread blowing and drifting of snow may occur with these systems if the area of low pressure is strong. This is because the moisture content of the snow tends to be lower with these systems, leading to "lighter" or "drier" snow, which is moved more easily.
The Rochester area will experience freezing or mixed precipitation when cold high pressure is in place at the surface and a warm front approaches the region from the south. The warm air is forced to rise, causing liquid precipitation to freeze as it falls into the cold air. Bouts with freezing rain are not that common, but can occur a few times a winter season, generally at the start or end of the "winter".
Winter is, on average, the cloudiest season of the year in Rochester with lengthy periods when low clouds cover the sky. These clouds are typically stratus or stratocumulus which develop on the western side of storms which cross the upper Midwest. Clear weather in the winter is most likely to occur when a fresh dry Arctic air mass moves south from Canada into the Midwest.
The prevailing wind directions during most of the winter are from the northwest, with average wind speeds around 13 mph.