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Extension > Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk > December 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Top 5 weather-related events for Minnesota in 2012

A WISH FOR MERRY HOLIDAYS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL MINNESOTA WEATHERTALK CONTRIBUTORS AND READERS!

Top 5 weather-related events for Minnesota in 2012

The Minnesota State Climatology Office (Pete Boulay and Greg Spoden) put together the top 5 weather-related events for the year. The list includes:
1. Outrageously mild March, breaking the previous record warm March of 1910. Earliest 80 F temperature readings, earliest ice-out dates on many lakes, one of the earliest springs of all-time.
2. Northeastern Minnesota flood of June 19-20, concentrated in Carlton, St Louis, and Lake Counties where 8-10" of rain fell (Duluth). Severe damage to homes and infrastructure, FEMA declared disaster
3. Widespread drought, with over 83 percent of the Minnesota landscape in severe to extreme drought and most counties eligible for disaster assistance through USDA. Low flows and lake levels as well
4. Hot July, on a statewide basis the 2nd hottest of all-time (1936 is 1st), with Heat Index values well over 110 degrees F on some days, and some overnight lows in the 80s F
5. Non-winter of 2011-2012, on a statewide basis Jan-Mar was the warmest in history. Fewest ever seasonal Heating Degree Days, and also little snowfall except for the far north

For more discussion and details you can visit our web site and vote on these here.

Winter Storm of Dec 19-20

A strong winter storm passed over the region on Wednesday and Thursday (Dec 19-20) this week, bringing significant snowfall, high winds and blizzard conditions, especially in southeastern Minnesota, much of Iowa, southern Wisconsin, and northwestern Illinois. Difficult driving conditions were widespread (multiple accidents in IA and WI) and there were many reports of school delays and closures, especially in Iowa and Wisconsin. Preliminary snowfall amounts were record-setting for a number of communities on December 20th, including 13.3 inches at Madison, WI. Some of the Minnesota communities reporting record-setting amounts included:
9.7 inches at Minnesota City
6.6 inches at Wabasha
7 inches at Harmony, Grand Meadow, and Lake City
6.5 inches at Winona
6 inches at Spring Valley and Zumbro Falls
Several other observers reported 3 to 5 inches along the I90 corridor in southern Minnesota, while along I80 in Iowa amounts were even greater. A number of total snowfall reports over a foot came from Iowa (Des Moines 12.4") and Wisconsin (Madison 15.2"). All the snow was accompanied by winds ranging up to 35-40 mph or greater.

A relatively snowy December has already been reported by a number of Minnesota observers, including 19 inches at Cottage Grove and Madison (Lac Qui Parle County), 18.5 inches at Granite Falls, 18.1 inches at Forest Lake 17.9 inches at Marshall, 17.8 inches at Montevideo, and 17 inches at Lake City and Chisago City. More snow is forecast for the balance of the month as we near New Years.

Temperature record set at Rochester, MN

The National Weather Service reported this week that Rochester, MN has set a new record for the lack of sub-zero temperature readings in that city. They have seen a period of 335 days without a single below 0 F temperature reading (dating back to January 22 of this year). This breaks the old record of 333 days set in 1987. 

Weekly Weather potpourri

NOAA reported this week that there were 11 weather and climate extremes during 2012 that produced at least $1 billion in losses. These included 7 severe weather/tornado events, two tropical storm/hurricane events, and a year-long drought and associated wildfires. NOAA further estimates that the grand total in losses due to weather events and climate episodes in 2012 will exceed the total from last year (2011), surpassing $60 billion, mostly from drought and Super Storm Sandy. You can read more from a NOAA release.

The weekly Drought Update (Dec 18) from Brad Rippey with the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board includes the following comments:
-There was another small drop ­ less than one-tenth of a percentage point ­ in overall U.S. drought coverage, from 61.87% last week to 61.79% on December 18.
-However, the portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category ­ D4, or exceptional drought ­ crept upward to 6.64%, the greatest U.S. coverage since November 22, 2011.
-Hay in drought (64%), cattle in drought (73%), and winter wheat in drought (63%) were all unchanged from the previous week.
-Hay in drought has been at or above 60% and cattle in drought has been greater than two-thirds of the domestic inventory for 24 consecutive weeks (July 10 ­ December 18).
-On the central Plains, winter wheat benefited from widespread snow on December 19. Any improvement in the central Plains’ drought situation will be reflected next week.

This week the United Kingdom Meteorological Office issued a global temperature forecast for 2013. They used recent trends in global climate data sets to estimate that 2013 will likely be one of the warmest ten years since 1850.

Weather reports from Europe indicate that the skiing season for the Alps is off to a great start. Early December snowfall has been heavy and powdery in the French, Swiss, and Italian Alps. Observers say conditions are great and comparable to the early skiing seasons of 1965, 1992, and 2007. You can read more here.

Parts of Russia are reporting one of the coldest Decembers in 70 years with many reports of daytime high temperatures remaining below 0 degrees F even in areas around Moscow. Overnight lows in Siberia have been as cold as -58 degrees F, near record values for December. Yakutsk reported a high on Thursday (Dec 20) of -22 degrees F.

MPR listener question

It seems that below zero degrees F temperatures readings in the Twin Cities are less frequent than they once were. Is this true?

Answer: Yes, indeed. From 1871 to 1990 the Twin Cities recorded an average of 29-30 days per year with an overnight low below 0 F. Since 1990 the average has been about 19-20 days. Further in 2006 and this year (2012) there have been only 3 such days, second only to 1931 when there were just 2 days with below 0 F lows.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 21st

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 25 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 11 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for December 21st

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 56 degrees F in 1877; lowest daily maximum temperature of -10 degrees F in 1872; lowest daily minimum temperature of -24 F in 1916; highest daily minimum temperature of 38 F in 1877; and record precipitation of 0.71 inches in 2006; Record snowfall is 5.3 inches in 1920.

Average dew point for December 21st is 10 degrees F, with a maximum of 47 degrees F in 1967 and a minimum of -33 degrees F in 1989.

All-time state records for December 21st

The state record high temperature for this date is 64 degrees F at Lynd (Lyon County) in 1908. The state record low temperature for this date is -49 degrees F at Hallock (Kittson County) in 1916. State record precipitation for this date is 1.45 inches at Bricelyn (Faribault County) in 1948; and the state record snowfall for this date is 12.0 inches at Tracy (Lyon County) in 1920.

Past Weather Features:

This week in 1877 was one of the mildest spells of December weather in the history of the Twin Cities. December 21-23 brought three consecutive days with daytime highs in the 50s F and overnight lows in the upper 30s to mid 40s F.

December 21, 1916 was probably the coldest in history, with at least 45 Minnesota communities reporting morning lows of -30 degrees F or colder. In western Minnesota Angus never rose above -15 degrees F during the day. For many communities temperatures remained below 0 F until Christmas Eve when they rose into the single digits and teens F.

December 21-22, 1920 brought a heavy snow storm to southern Minnesota, with many observers reporting 6-12 inches of fresh snow. Blowing and drifting made traveling difficult for the Christmas season.

December 20 21, 1967 brought a very mild spell of weather to much of Minnesota. Over 20 communities reported daytime highs of 50 degrees F or higher. A strong cold front brought an abrupt end to the mild spell as temperatures plummeted into the single digits on December 22nd and snow fell on Christmas Eve.

Outlook

Cooler than normal temperatures over the weekend, but under some sunny skies. Some chance of snow on Monday under cloudy skies, then cooler again for Christmas Day (Tue). General cooler for the balance of next week as well, with some below 0 F readings.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Heavy snow

Heavy snow

Sunday, December 9th brought snow to much of the region, and some record-setting values to a few Minnesota communities. Among those with long-term climate histories reporting record snowfalls were: MSP-Airport with 10.5 inches; St Cloud Regional Airport with 11 inches; Montevideo with 12 inches; Milan with 10 inches; Chanhassen with 13.6 inches; Forest Lake with 13.5 inches; Marshall with 6 inches; and Hastings with 12 inches. According to Greg Spoden of the Minnesota State Climatology Office the 10.5 inches measured at MSP-Airport is the 4th largest daily amount for the month of December in history for the Twin Cities, trailing only 16.3 inches on December 11, 2010, 12 inches on December 28, 1982, and 10.8 inches on December 17, 1908. Many other observers reported amounts ranging from 8 to 17 inches. For some the liquid content of the snowfall was the greatest amount of moisture received in a single day since late July. Some of the record amounts of precipitation reported for December 9th included: 0.87 inches at MSP, 0.35 inches at Rochester, 0.49 inches at Winona, 0.82 inches at Milan, 0.87 inches at St Cloud, and 0.97 inches at Marshall.

December total snowfalls are already above normal in a number of areas. Madison, Montevideo, Chisago City, and Forest Lake have reported over 17 inches. Bird Island, Chanhassen, Red Wing, Hastings, and Redwood Falls have reported over 14 inches, while Princeton and Stillwater report over 13 inches.

New dewpoint records in 2012

Tracking as the warmest year in USA history, 2012 has already produced thousands of new daily temperature records within the nation's climate network. The Minnesota State Climatology Office also reports that several new dewpoint records were set during 2012. For the Twin Cities 12 new record daily high dewpoints (a measure of moist air) were set during the year, along with 4 new record low dewpoints (a measure of dry air). Those new record high dewpoints included 8 consecutive days in March, plus other dates:
3/16 57 F
3/17 60 F
3/18 59 F
3/19 60 F
3/20 59 F
3/21 56 F
3/22 60 F
3/23 60 F
4/16 63 F
5/27 70 F
11/10 56 F
12/03 54 F
Those new record low dewpoints included:
8/17 39 F
10/07 14 F
10/11 11 F
10/12 10 F

Weekly Weather potpourri

According to a new AP-GfK poll from over 1000 adult cell phone and landline users during the week of November 29-December 3rd (following Super Storm Sandy) four out of five Americans think temperatures are rising and that this is leading to weather and climate issues that pose serious problems. These poll results also showed a higher fraction of those who trust scientists only a little think that temperatures are rising and causing problems. You can read more about this recent poll here.

NOAA reports this week that 2012 is virtually certain to be the warmest year of record in the USA regardless of what the rest of December brings. You can read more here.

The weekly Drought Update from Brad Rippey with the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board includes the following comments:
-The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category – D4, or exceptional drought – remained virtually unchanged at 6% (rounded) for the eighteenth consecutive week (August 14 – December 11).
-Hay in drought fell slightly to 64%, but has been at or above 60% for 23 consecutive weeks – since July 10.
-Cattle in drought was unchanged at 73%, and has been greater than two-thirds of the domestic inventory for 23 consecutive weeks (July 10 – December 11).
-Winter wheat in drought was down slightly to 63%, although the hard red winter wheat belt – especially from South Dakota to Texas – remains deeply entrenched in drought.

NOAA reports this week that 2012 is virtually certain to be the warmest year of record in the USA regardless of what the rest of December brings. You can read more here.

An article in the current edition of Science describes how the insurance industry is documenting climate change and making adjustments for it. Insured losses due to weather and climate-related damages and disasters have average $50 billion per year recently, and more than doubled each decade since the 1980s. The industry is trying to diversify its exposure to such risks and more accurately price its insurance policies. You can read more about this study here.

Located near Pago Pago in the Southern Pacific Ocean, Cyclone Evan was producing over 30 foot sea waves with its 110 mph winds this week. It caused serious flooding and wind damage on the island late this week and was expected to strengthen before passing over Fiji this weekend. Slow dissipation will occur by the end of next week.

MPR listener question

With the recent heavy snowfall I was wondering what the greatest depth of snow has been for Minnesota, and perhaps in the Twin Cities area as well?

Answer: The greatest depth of snow recorded in Minnesota history was on March 28, 1950 at Pigeon River Bridge in Cook County, near the Canadian Border. The measured snow depth was 75 inches (as tall as I am). In the Twin Cities climate records the greatest depth of snow was 38 inches on January 23, 1982. The Twin Cities received 46.4 inches of snowfall that January, a record as well.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 14th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 25 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 11 degrees F (plus or minus 15 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for December 14th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 55 degrees F in 1998; lowest daily maximum temperature of -14 degrees F in 1901; lowest daily minimum temperature of -27 F in 1901; highest daily minimum temperature of 38 F in 1891; and record precipitation of 1.50 inches in 1891; Record snowfall is 5.2 inches in 1996.

Average dew point for December 14th is 10 degrees F, with a maximum of 39 degrees F in 1928 and a minimum of -22 degrees F in 1985.

All-time state records for December 14th

The state record high temperature for this date is 60 degrees F at Pipestone (Pipestone County) in 1912. The state record low temperature for this date is -48 degrees F at Detroit Lakes (Becker County) in 1901. State record precipitation for this date is 2.38 inches at Red Wing (Goodhue County) in 1891; and the state record snowfall for this date is 14.3 inches at Moorhead (Clay County) in 1927.

Past Weather Features:

Over December 13-14, 1891 a winter storm brought heavy rainfall to many southern Minnesota communities. Amounts ranged from 1 to 2 inches with mild temperatures in the 40s and 50s F. Farmington reported 2.50 inches a record amount of precipitation for two days in December.

December 13-15, 1901 brought Arctic cold to Minnesota, producing several record setting low temperatures. On the 14th over 30 Minnesota communities reported lows of -30 degrees F or colder, and several observers recorded minimum below -40 degrees F. At Beardsley the daytime high only reached -23 degrees F.

December 14-14, 1912 brought Indian Summer-like temperatures to southern Minnesota. At least a dozen communities reported daytime high temperatures of 50 degrees F or greater under sunny skies and south winds. Temperatures remained relatively mild for the rest of the month.

December 14-16, 1927 brought a strong winter storm to Minnesota producing a heavy snowfall. Many observers reported over 10 inches of snow. Some of the larger amounts included 20.3 inches at Moorhead, 18 inches at Grand Marais, 16 inches at Pigeon River Bridge, 13 inches at New Ulm, 12 inches at Detroit Lakes and Brainerd, and 10 inches at Willmar and Fort Ripley.

December 14, 1998 brought mild temperatures to Minnesota as dozens of cities reported daytime highs in the 50s F. The mild air kept temperatures above the freezing mark overnight as well.

Outlook

Warmer than normal temperatures with mixed precipitation on Saturday. Freezing rain and rain in some places, then snow later in the day, with accumulations of a few inches in central and northern areas. Drier on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday with continued warmer than normal temperatures. Then another winter storm for Wednesday and Thursday with possible significant snowfalls.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Mild Monday

Mild Monday

Warm, moist air dominated southern Minnesota on Monday, December 3rd. Many observers reported daytime high temperatures in the 50s and 60s F (in the range of 20 to 30 degrees F above normal). Some observers reported new records for the date, including 63 degrees F at Preston, 62 degrees F at Rochester, Caledonia, Theilman, and Madison (tied record from 1941), 61 degrees F at Marshall, 59 degrees F at Austin, Grand Meadow, and 58 degrees F at Browns Valley. In addition, some observers reported record warm minimum temperatures for the date as well, before a cold front caused temperatures to plummet. Preston after setting a record high of 63 degrees F, fell to a low of only 14 degrees F the next day.

MSP airport reported a noontime dewpoint on December 3rd of 54 degrees F, breaking the record for the date of 52 degrees F set back in 1951. According to the State Climatology Office it was at least the 12th new daily dewpoint record set at MSP this year. Other locations also reported mid-June like dewpoints in the 50s F including 52 degrees F at Mankato, and 55 degrees F at Waseca, Red Wing, and Rochester. By December 4th dewpoints had fallen into the mid-teens F, putting a distinct chill in the air.

Temperature extremes in December

There have been three years when December temperatures have reached 70 degrees F in Minnesota, 1939, 1941, and 1998. The all-time high is 74 degrees F at Wheaton on December 9th of 1939. Canby and Long Prairie reported 72 degrees F and 71 degrees F, on December 3 and 4 of 1941, respectively. Fifty-seven years later Chaska reported 70 degrees F on December 1, 1998, and a few days later Campbell and Redwood Falls reported 70 degrees F on the 6th. In December 1998 a number of citizens were still golfing the first week December, something to brag about.

On the other end of extremes, Pokegama Dam reported -57 degrees F on December 31, 1898, the state record low for the month. As recently as 1993, Tower reported -50 degrees F on December 27th, only two days after Christmas. Last December (2011) many northern Minnesota observers reported only 5 days with below 0 degrees F readings in the morning, while in some southern Minnesota observers reported no days in December with below zero F temperature readings. 2011 brought the 8th warmest December in state history.

Weekly Weather potpourri

Environment Canada released winter season climate outlooks earlier this month covering the December through February period. Their model suggest a warmer than normal winter along the border with the central and eastern USA (including Ontario and Quebec), and a wetter than winter as well, especially in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. You can read more about these outlooks at their web site.

After traveling across the southern parts of the Philippines during the week Typhoon Bopha had weakened to a tropical storm and was expected to dissipate over the South China Sea. On Tuesday and Wednesday (Dec 4-5) Bopha raked the large southern Philippines island of Mindanao with winds of 110 mph, heavy rains and high seas. There were many reports of power outages and washed-out roads. Hundreds of citizens were reported dead or missing and thousands were left homeless due to damages from the storm. NASA's TRMM satellite captured Bopha in 3-D near its peak intensity. You can view images and read about this here.

Another tropical cyclone formed in the Southern Indian Ocean south of Diego Garcia this week. It was expected to strengthen over the weekend.

A report card on Arctic Sea Ice was released by NOAA this week. It provides data and analysis for snow and ice conditions in the high northern latitudes. You can find text and images from this report at the NOAA web site.

Briefing highlight statements from Brad Rippey of the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board for the drought-monitoring period ending 7 am EST on December 4 include:

-There was little change in overall U.S. drought coverage, as improvements in the Far West were offset by some drought expansion in the Southeast. The portion of the contiguous U.S. in drought fell slightly (less than one-third of a percentage point) and currently stands at 62.37%.
-The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category ­ D4, or exceptional drought ­ remained virtually unchanged at 6% (rounded) for the seventeenth consecutive week (August 14 ­ December 4).
-Hay in drought was unchanged at 65%. However, that value is up five points from November 13.
-Cattle in drought was also unchanged at 73%. That value is up four points from November 13.
-Winter wheat in drought was unchanged at 65%, after being as low as 63% in mid-November.
-NOTE: Since the 1950s, there have been only two years when U.S. winter wheat abandonment reached or exceeded one-quarter of the crop: 1988-89 (25% abandonment) and 2001-02 (29%). Current U.S. winter wheat conditions are lower than those observed late in the year in both 1988 and 2001­and for that matter, current conditions are the lowest on record for this time of year (period of record, 1986-2012). The 1988-89 crop was planted during the drought of 1988 and was further harmed by a severe cold wave in February 1989. The 2001-02 crop was adversely affected by a La Niña-driven drought.

NOAA released a video update this week concerning the drought impact on agriculture and water resources in the USA as we enter the winter season. Short in length it is still well worth viewing. You can find it under the NOAA ClimateWatch section.

MPR listener question

It seems odd to me that so much of the state is designated to be in severe or extreme drought. I looked up precipitation totals at some locations in the state since January 1st of this year and some are in the surplus:
Chanhassen 31.15 inches, +1.30 inches
Duluth 29.69 inches, +2.07 inches
International Falls 23.96 inches, +0.59 inches
Even MSP airport shows 27.95 inches, only 1.45 inches short of normal
Given these numbers it is hard to understand why so much of the state is in drought.

Answer: Indeed, some observers have reported surplus precipitation for the year. Consider the community of Wright in Carlton County where they have reported 39.01 inches, 9.56 inches above normal. Bear in mind that 20 to 30 percent of the yearly precipitation in some northeastern communities came from one thunderstorm over June 20-21 (leading to the flooding at Duluth, Two Harbors and other communities). Nevertheless, many observers in the state are reporting significant shortages of precipitation in 2012. Some of these include:
Moorhead 16.42 inches, -7.89 inches from normal
Red Lake Falls 14.86 inches, -9.10 inches from normal
Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) 17.14 inches, -7.31 inches from normal
Grand Meadow 24.70 inches, -9.81 inches from normal
Waseca 24.57 inches, -10.01 inches from normal
Albert Lea 22.77 inches, -10.46 inches from normal
Austin 20.64 inches, -12.90 inches from normal

You can read more about the geographic distribution of precipitation and drought at our web site.

Twin Cities Almanac for December 7th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 29 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 14 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for December 7th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 54 degrees F in 1939; lowest daily maximum temperature of -1 degrees F in 1882; lowest daily minimum temperature of -20 F in 1972; highest daily minimum temperature of 41 F in 1894; and record precipitation of 0.56 inches in 1883; Record snowfall is 6.30 inches in 1927.

Average dew point for December 7th is 14 degrees F, with a maximum of 39 degrees F in 1951 and a minimum of -29 degrees F in 1972.

All-time state records for December 7th

The state record high temperature for this date is 69 degrees F at Grand Marais (Cook County) in 1913. The state record low temperature for this date is -42 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1936 and at Tower (St Louis County) in 1976. State record precipitation for this date is 1.31 inches at Lynd (Lyon County) in 1927; and the state record snowfall for this date is 12.0 inches at Chaska (Carver County) in 1927.

Past Weather Features:

Very warm and sunny weather dominated the state in early December of 1913. Indeed that December was perhaps the sunniest in Minnesota history with 16 perfectly clear days noted during a month that is usually dominated by cloud cover. Many observers reported temperatures that were 15 to 25 degrees F above normal.

December 6-8, 1916 brought a strong winter storm to northern Minnesota. High winds and heavy snow caused large drifts across the landscape. Warroad measured 10 inches of snowfall, Roseau 10.5 inches, and a foot of snow fell at Baudette. It was a precursor to a long, snowy winter (196-1917) in much of the state.

December 6-7, 1927 brought another strong winter storm to parts of Minnesota with a mixture of precipitation. Where snow was the dominant form of precipitation some of the amounts were record-setting, including 19.5 inches at Maple Plain, 14 inches at Chaska, 11.3 inches at St Paul, 10.5 inches at Winona, 10 inches at Canby and Tracy, and 9 inches at Willmar and Campbell. Following the storm temperatures plummeted to below 0 F readings.

Arctic air dominated Minnesota on December 7, 1936 with 25 communities reporting morning lows ranging from -20 to -40 degrees F. The temperature rose no higher than -8 degrees F at Baudette and Virginia that day, and few observers reported readings about 0 degrees F.

December 4-12, 1939 was one of the warmest stretches of winter weather in state history. Over 30 communities reported daytime highs in the 50s F, some even reached the 60s F. An arctic cold front brought temperatures back to below 0 F readings by the 13th, but only temporarily. December 1939 proved to be the warmest in state history.

Probably the coldest December 7th in state history came in 1976. Over 60 communities reported morning lows of -20 to -40 degrees F. The daytime high at Cook, MN only reached -10 degrees F and many record cold values were reported.

Outlook

Winter storms over the weekend. Scattered snow Friday night into Saturday (perhaps 0.5 to 3 inches), then a more formidable storm Saturday night into Sunday. This second storm may bring amounts ranging from 3 to 7 inches with strong winds. Travel conditions on Sunday may be impacted. Sharply colder Monday and Tuesday, with lows falling into the single digits and below 0 F readings. Warmer on Wednesday with increasing cloudiness and a chance for more precipitation.

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