Record warmth continuesMany observers have reported new daytime high temperature records as well as warm overnight low temperature records over the last week. Up north at International Falls, they reported new daytime highs on March 10 (59 F), March 11 (61 F), March 13 (55 F), March 14 (57 F), and March 15 (57 F tied record). Other northern Minnesota locations reported some remarkably high temperatures for so early in the year, including records of 65 F at Grand Rapids and 62 F at Hibbing on the 10th, and 66 F at Cass Lake, with 55 F at Embarrass on the 11th and 64 F on the 15th (incredibly high for a location that is usually the state's cold spot). Duluth Airport reported new record highs on the 11th (57 F) and the 14th (68 F).
Further south more records were set, with Moose Lake reporting a record high of 67 F and Hinckley a record 72 F on the 14th. In fact, many observers reported afternoon readings in the 70s F on the 14th. A record of 71 degrees F was reported at St Cloud, 73 F was reported at MSP, Madison, and Grand Meadow, 74 F at Austin and Rochester, and 75 degrees F at Winona Dam. The last reading established a new statewide temperature record for March 14th, breaking the old record of 73 F at Pipestone on March 14, 1935. Eau Claire, WI broke their record for March 14th by 10 degrees F, hitting 76 F at 4:00 pm in the afternoon. Thursday, the 15th brought even more 70 F plus readings, but fell short of the statewide record of 80 F set at Waseca in 1927. Rochester reported a record 74 degrees F, while Luverne, Albert Lea, and Preston hit a record 73 degrees F. Forest Lake and Red Wing Dam reported record highs of 75 degrees F, while Windom and Worthington also reported record highs with 72 degrees F.
The overnight air remained warm too at many locations, as Rochester reported their warmest low ever for March 14th with 49 degrees F and MSP reported a record 48 degrees F. Temperatures around the region were expected to hit record-setting territory again Friday through Monday as daytime highs are expected in the 70s F and perhaps even some 80s F, while overnight lows may remain in the 50s F.
With the persistent warmth lake ice-out dates may be 2-3 weeks earlier than normal this year. Certainly lake ice in southern Minnesota counties has been disappearing rapidly this week. You can follow the progress of lake ice-out reports at the DNR-State Climatology Office web site.
One further note, thunderstorm season may come early as well, especially if dewpoints reach into the 50s and 60s F this weekend and next week. The highest March dewpoint in the Twin Cities climate record is 60 degrees F on March 24, 1945. But this value may be surpassed next week as strong warm, moist air from the south is expected across the state, with increasing chances for thunderstorms.
New Monthly and Seasonal Climate OutlookThe NOAA Climate Prediction Center released new outlooks this week. For April the continued trend of significantly above normal temperatures (now six months long in the state) is expected to prevail in Minnesota. There is no indication whether precipitation will be above or below normal. Similarly the outlook for April, May, and June shows no tendency for either above or below normal values of mean temperature and total precipitation.
An InvitationFor those interested in learning and wanting to visit the University of Minnesota, there is a golden opportunity this month. The College of Agricultural, Food, and Natural Resource Sciences is hosting the annual event "Classes Without Quizzes" on Saturday, March 31st from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm on the St Paul Campus. I will be speaking about evidence for climate change and its consequences in Minnesota, but there will be many other fine speakers and interesting topics presented as well, including a talk on grapes and the wine industry, the new plant hardiness zones, invasive species, and other great topics.
Weekly Weather PotpourriTropical Cyclone Lua was being monitored as it strengthened off the NW Australian coast. This relatively large system was producing wind gusts over 100 mph and sea waves over 30 feet as it approached the Australian coast line near Port Hedland. It was expected to bring heavy rain to the area over the weekend.
A recent study from the University of Connecticut and published in Global Environmental Change suggests a link between the great economic recession and increased skepticism in climate change. When job security and economic health are at risk, many people don't want to contend with the problems presented by climate change. You can read more about this study here.
NOAA announced last week results from a study of trends in Great Lakes winter ice cover. Generally over the past 40 years the trend is downward in the areal coverage of ice on the Great Lakes. In addition there is less variability from year to year.
MPR listener questionsThis has been such a mild winter for the Twin Cities. Have we had any week-long spells of weather when the temperature never rose above 32 F? I can't recall.
Answer: Yes, despite the persistent warmth this winter we have had two such spells in the Twin Cities. December 4-10 saw no temperature above 32 F, and also January 17-24. But those are the only two. Remarkably, 76 percent of all days since November 1, 2011 have seen above normal temperatures in the Twin Cities.
If Friday, March 16 brings record high temperatures (as forecasted), the Twin Cities will report 5 new record highs in the last 7 days, a remarkable string of warmth. Does the Twin Cities climate record show any other weekly periods when 5 or more record high temperature values were set? It seems highly unusual.
Answer: Indeed, there have only been 5 other similar periods of persistent record-setting warmth in the Twin Cities climate records. Going back to 1871, maximum daytime temperature records were set over the following 5-day periods:
June 26-June 30, 1931
June 16-June 20, 1933
July 10-July 14, 1936
February 16-February 20, 1981
March 4-March 8, 2000
I might also add that the Twin Cities report three new record warm lows this week as well, and there may be more in store for the weekend.
Twin Cities Almanac for March 16thThe average MSP high temperature for this date is 37 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 19 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation).
MSP Local Records for March 16thMSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 71 degrees F in 1930; lowest daily maximum temperature of 8 degrees F in 1900; lowest daily minimum temperature of -10 F in 1900; highest daily minimum temperature of 43 F in 2003; record precipitation of 0.80 inches in 1917; and record snowfall of 9.0 inches also in 1917. Snow depth was 23 inches on this date in 1962.
Average dew point for March 16th is 19 degrees F, with a maximum of 52 degrees F in 2003 and a minimum of -10 degrees F in 1941.
All-time state records for March 16thThe state record high temperature for this date is 75 degrees F at Fairmont (Martin County), New Ulm (Brown County), and St Peter (Nicollet County) in 1930, and again at Luverne (Rock County) in 1966; the state record low temperature for this date is -34 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1899. State record precipitation for this date is 2.44 inches at Lynd (Lyon County) in 1917; and state record snowfall for this date is 24.0 inches also at Lynd (Lyon County) in 1917.
Past Weather Features:A period of bitter cold ended on March 16, 1897 as temperatures went from below 0 F readings in the morning to afternoon highs in the 30s and 40s F. For pioneer settlers in Campbell (Wilkin County) it was the last below 0 F reading of a long, bitter winter. Further north at Detroit Lakes, after bottoming out at -43 degrees F on March 15th temperatures rise to 56 degrees F by the 18th. For the rest of March temperatures moderated from the 30s F to 50s F, prompting rapid snow melt and spring flooding.
A winter storm brought heavy snowfall to Minnesota over March 16-17, 1917. Railroad traffic was blocked for a period of time as huge drifts covered the tracks. Some of the snowfalls from this storm included: 12 inches at Milaca, New London, and Bird Island; 13 inches at Collegeville and Redwood Falls; 14 inches at St Cloud and Glencoe; 15 inches at Duluth; 17 inches at Hutchinson; 18 inches at Willmar and Tyler; 20 inches at Canby; and 24 inches at Lynd. That month, Duluth reported 48.2 inches of snowfall, with a maximum snow depth of 40 inches.
A brief, but record-setting warm spell visited the state over March 15-16, 1930. Many climate observers saw temperatures climb into the 70s F, setting record highs. Among these locations: Chaska, Hutchinson, Faribault, Fairmont, Waseca, Pipestone, New Ulm, St Peter, and the Twin Cities. It was 68 degrees F as far north as Floodwood. Following the early spring warm up, temperatures plummeted to single digit lows on the 21st of March.
The St Patrick's Day Blizzard struck Minnesota on March 17, 1965. Some incredible snowfall amounts were reported, as roads schools were closed. Some of the reported snowfalls included; 12 inches at Springfield, Cloquet, Gaylord, and New London; 13 inches at St Cloud and Santiago; 14 inches at Hutchinson, Two Harbors and Buffalo; 17 inches at Duluth; 18 inches at Mora; and 23.6 inches at Collegeville.