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Extension > Mark Seeley's WeatherTalk > March 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012

Preliminary climate summary for March 2012

Preliminary climate summary for March 2012

What a month! More temperature records were broken this month than any month since the Dust Bowl Era of the 1930s. Within the USA it is estimated that 6,500 to 7,000 daily high temperature records were set or tied during the month of March. This compares to only 300-400 new low temperature records during the month, mostly in western states. Across Minnesota climate stations 424 new daily high temperature records were set and 327 new daily warm low temperature records were set in March, including 8 new statewide daily high temperature records,, and for many observers (MSP included) the earliest date for an 80 degrees F reading (March 17). In addition many observers reported the highest dewpoints ever measured in the month of March, some even in the 60s F. You can see more record setting temperatures at two web sites:

http://www.climate.umn.edu/doc/journal/mild_march_2012.htm
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/records/

Mean temperatures for the month ranged from 12 to 18 degrees F warmer than normal. State extremes were 84 degrees F at Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) on March 19th and -18 degrees F at Babbitt and Embarrass on the 6th. Despite a record-setting warm month, Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states on the 4th (-13 F at Bemidji), the 6th (-18 F at Babbitt and Embarrass), and on the 9th (-14 F at International Falls).

Precipitation for the month was mixed with observers reporting above and below normal amounts for March. For those reporting above normal amounts much of this was due to thunderstorm rainfalls. Among those reporting a surplus of precipitation were: 3.33 inches at Kabetogama; 3.20 inches at Northome; 2.77 inches at International Falls; 2.87 inches at Kimball; 2.62 inches at Park Rapids; 2.87 inches at Hastings; 2.56 inches at Delano; 2.49 inches at Kabetogama; 2.46 inches at Vadnais Lake; 2.58 inches at Redwood Falls; 2.20 inches at Wright; 2.15 inches at New Ulm; 2.11 inches at Beaver Bay and Orr; 2.18 inches at Lanesboro; 2.14 inches in downtown St Paul; 2.12 inches at Lester Prairie; 2.08 inches at Isabella and La Crescent; 2.04 inches at Wolf Ridge; and 2.01 inches at Forest Lake.

Though March snowfall was minimal or totally absent in many parts of southern Minnesota, snowfall on Thursday night into Friday morning (Mar 29-30) up north added to already significant amounts for some northern communities. Isabella reported a March total of 21.5 inches, Wolf Ridge 19.9 inches, Two Harbors 14 inches, Duluth Airport 11.9 inches, and 8.4 inches at International Falls.

March was a windy month as well, with wind speeds over 30 mph on several days. Some observers reported 40 plus mph winds on the 8th, 19th, 26th, and 27th. Rochester reported winds up to 58 mph on the 19th, while Fargo-Moorhead reported winds up to 55 mph on the 27th.

In the end, March was so extraordinarily warm that it advanced phenology by 3 to 4 weeks, bringing some earliest ever ice-out dates to many Minnesota Lakes, including Gull Lake (Mar 26), Crane Lake (Mar 27), Minnewaska (Mar 21), and Mille Lacs (Mar 26). Other signs included early loss of soil frost, some planting of small grains in the Red River Valley, early leaving out of lilacs and other vegetation, early opening of golf courses, and an early navigation season on the Upper Mississippi River.

 

Record Warmth in Canada Too

While much attention has been focused on unusual March weather in the USA, many parts of Canada have recorded their warmest month of March as well. Across the eastern half of Canada scores of communities reported all-time highest maximum temperatures and all-time warmest minimum temperatures. North of the Minnesota border in Manitoba, Winnipeg reported an all-time March temperature maximum of 75 degrees F on the 19th, along with an all-time March dewpoint measurement of 63 degrees F. Brandon, Manitoba reported 8 new daily record high temperatures during March, including 73 degrees F on the 19th. In Ontario, just east of Lake of the Woods, Kenora reported 9 new daily high temperature records, including a reading of 75 degrees F on the 19th, with a record high dewpoint of 60 degrees F on the 18th.


An Invitation

For those interested in learning and wanting to visit the University of Minnesota, there is a golden opportunity this Saturday (Mar 31). The College of Agricultural, Food, and Natural Resource Sciences is hosting the annual event "Classes Without Quizzes" 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. For more information and a chance to register please check out the web site or call 612-624-0822. Walk-up registrations are welcome too, but you should try to get there between 8:00 and 8:30 am.

Weekly Weather Potpourri

Following the worst drought in history, many areas of Texas are seeing a very wet start to 2012, almost drought-busting in quantity of rainfall. College Station, TX reports a new monthly record rainfall for March with 8.56 inches, and a year-to-date total of 20.64 inches. The total for the first three months of 2012, exceeds the entire year's worth of precipitation at College Station in 2011 (only 19.04 inches).

Tropical Storm Pakhar was drifting 240 miles off the east coast of Vietnam and expected to strengthen before coming ashore on Saturday. It is expected to pack winds up to 90 mph with sea waves between 20-25 feet, as it bring heavy rainfall over the weekend.

The International Permafrost Association met in Germany last month to discuss the rapid loss of permafrost in the northern hemisphere revealed in detailed satellite measurements in recent years. As the permafrost disappears the interaction of the land surface with the atmosphere will change significantly in the future releasing more greenhouse gases. It is important to understand how the loss of permafrost will impact the pace of climate change in the polar latitudes. For more on this topic you can read this.

A recent paper from the John Innes Centre on the Norwich Research Park has described the manner in which a plant gene (PIF4) at higher temperatures in the spring binds a molecule (Florigen) to trigger early flowering in many plants. When the temperature is unusually warm this can trigger flowering behavior that is weeks earlier than normal. Much like what we have been observing in Minnesota this month. You can read more about this study here.

Dr. Jianglong Zhang of the University of North Dakota will receive the prestigious NOAA David S. Johnson Award on Friday, March 30th at the Goddard Memorial Dinner in Washington, D.C. This award recognizes young scientists who develop new techniques and products associated with satellite measurement systems. Dr. Zhang developed a new method to forecast aerosol particles in the atmosphere and a system to assess aerosol assimilation. Congratulations to Dr. Zhang. You can read more here.

MPR listener question

Everyone in my garden club is wondering if a warm March means the last spring frost will come early and we'll have a long growing season in the Twin Cities. What does our climate history show?

Answer: With thanks to Greg Spoden of the MN State Climatology Office I can say emphatically there is no historical correlation between a warm March and final spring frost dates. Here chronologically are the 10 warmest months of March and the associated last spring frost date for the Twin Cities. Bear in mind average final frost date for the Twin Cities in the spring is about April 29th.

1878 final frost April 6
1910 final frost April 25
1918 final frost April 30
1945 final frost May 10
1946 final frost May 13 (with 3" of May snowfall)
1968 final frost May 5
1973 final frost May 17
1987 final frost April 23
2000 final frost April 21
2010 final frost May 9

Despite this lack of correlation, I am sure some gardeners will plant things that are frost sensitive and just cover them if there is a threat of frost in late April or early May.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 30th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 47 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 29 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 30th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 83 degrees F in 1968; lowest daily maximum temperature of 15 degrees F in 1969; lowest daily minimum temperature of -3 F in 1923; highest daily minimum temperature of 54 F in 1967; record precipitation of 1.51 inches in 1933; and record snowfall of 2.4 inches in 1934. Snow depth was 18 inches on this date in 1965.
 
Average dew point for March 30th is 27 degrees F, with a maximum of 57 degrees F in 1943 and a minimum of -11 degrees F in 1969.

All-time state records for March 30th

The state record high temperature for this date is 87 degrees F at New Ulm (Brown County)in 1968; the state record low temperature for this date is -28 degrees F at Thorhult (Beltrami County) in 1975. State record precipitation for this date is 3.39 inches at Park Rapids (Hubbard County) in 1933; and state record snowfall for this date is 16.0 inches at Winona (Winona County) in 1934.

Past Weather Features:

March 30-31, 1923 brought a Cold Wave to Minnesota with over 40 communities reporting below zero F readings. Many set record low temperatures on those mornings in the minus teens and minus twenties.

A strong spring storm brought heavy rainfall to parts of Minnesota over March 29-30, 1933. This was one of the heaviest rain storms of the Dust Bowl Era for some observers. Cass Lake reported over a month's worth of rain with 2.00 inches, Fergus Falls reported 2.36 inches, Itasca State Park received 2.65 inches, and Park Rapids had a record 3.39 inches.

The next year, a late winter storm brought heavy snow over March 29-31, 1934. It was the biggest snowfall of the season for some with 10 inches at Fairmont, 12 inches at Albert Lea, 14 inches at Grand Meadow, 16 inches at Rochester, 17.5 inches at Zumbrota, and 19.8 inches at Winona. Schools and roads were closed in some communities.

Summer-like temperatures prevailed on March 30, 1943. Many southern Minnesota observers reported daytime temperatures in the 80s F, topped by by 85 degrees F at Bird Island and Pipestone. Another early dose of summer weather came on March 30, 1968 when 30 communities saw the mercury soar to 80 F or higher, topped by 87 degrees F at New Ulm.

With abundant snow on the ground March closed with bitter cold over the 30th and 31st in 1975. Temperatures were well below zero with dangerous windchill conditions in some places. The Twin Cities did not see a 50 F temperature that spring until April 13th.

Outlook

A warm weekend, with temperatures well above normal. Chance for showers Saturday and Sunday in the north, then a chance for showers and thunderstorms statewide by Monday. Cooler next week, but temperatures will generally remain warmer than normal. Chance for showers and snow northeastern sections on Tuesday, then drier for the rest of the week.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Records were made to be broken, but this is ridiculous!

Records were made to be broken, but this is ridiculous!

March of 2012 is delivering once in a lifetime temperature records. It has surpassed June of 1933, July of 1936, and February of 1981 in the total number of warmest maximum and minimum daily temperature records set. At last count (as of March 23), the Twin Cities have seen 17 new daily record temperature values (both max and min) so far this month. Rochester and International Falls have seen 16 new record temperatures so far this month, while St Cloud reports 14 new temperature records. Even Duluth, which has a climate that is highly regulated by Lake Superior, has reported 10 new temperature records so far this month. You can keep up to date with these records here.

Imbedded in these record-setting reports are even more profound significant features: earliest ever 80 degrees F at MSP (80 F) and Rochester (81 F) on March 17th; highest March temperature ever reported from International Falls (79 F on March 18th)and Kabetogama (77 F on March 20); highest minimum temperatures ever reported in March from nearly all climate stations in the state (with overnight lows in the 50s and 60s F); and highest dewpoints ever measured in March (many in the 60s F). Concerning the high dewpoints for March, the National Weather Service also reported a record-setting value of precipitable water measured by the Chanhassen radiosonde on Monday evening this week with a value of 1.27 inches in the column of atmosphere. This was just ahead of the significant rainfall event that night. More information can be found here.

In addition at least 8 statewide high temperature records for March have been tied or broken this month. These include:
66 F at Amboy, MSP, and Milan on the 10th
68 F at Marshall on the 11th
74 F at Rochester on the 14th
82 F at Redwood Falls on the 16th
82 F at Madison on the 17th
84 F at Canby on the 18th (tied state record)
84 F at Madison on the 19th
80 F at Redwood Falls on the 20th

Many locations, including the Twin Cities are on a pace to set a new record for the warmest month of March in history, surpassing the record warm March of 1910. International Falls which had never seen 70 degrees F in March before has reported 5 days with 70 F or higher this month. La Crosse, WI has reported 9 consecutive days with high temperatures of 70 degrees F or greater, a new record for March.

Early phenology and early tornado

Many of our weather observers have remarked about unusual spring phenology observations: insects (mosquitos, Asian beetles); butterflies; bud swelling, flowering, and leaf out; crops breaking dormancy (alfalfa fields); early spring wheat planting; and of course early ice-out dates on lakes. Green Lake in Kandiyohi County saw its earliest loss of ice on March 20, while White Bear Lake saw its earliest on March 19. Out west, Lake Minnewaska in Pope County saw its earliest ice-out date on March 21st.

The NOAA National Weather Service reported that an EF-0 (winds 65-85 mph) touched down in northern Waseca County on Monday evening, March 19th. It was on the ground for about 7 miles between 6:25 and 6:35 pm and damaged some buildings. This was the 2nd earliest tornado reported in Minnesota history, just a day later than the one that struck north of Fairmont (near Truman) on March 18, 1968. You can read more here.

BTW Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota does not occur until the 3rd week of April this year.

Did you know?

Greg Spoden of the DNR-State Climatology Office shared the following bit of climate history. For the Twin Cities climate record (1871-present) the year with the fewest number of rainy days (days with measurable precipitation of 0.01 inches or greater) was 1910 with only 74 rainy days (roughly 20 percent of all days). That year the total precipitation was just 11.54 inches and 1910 also brought the warmest ever March to the Twin Cities.

Conversely, in 1977 and 1991 there were 145 rainy days in the Twin Cities (nearly 40 percent of all days). Total annual precipitation in 1991 was 36.69 inches, while it was 34.88 inches in 1877, both considerably above the modern normal of 30.61 inches. Interestingly enough, during the wettest year in Twin Cities history, 1911 with 40.15 inches, there were 127 rainy days reported.

An Invitation

For 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 Potpourri


March 21-22 brought a heavy spring snow storm to parts of Oregon. Eugene reported a record 7.5 inches of snow, with a record cold high temperature of 36 degrees F on the 21st. At higher elevations in the Cascades observers reported over 30 inches of snow. Mt Hood Meadow reported 33 inches. Some power outages resulted from the heavy snow. March temperatures have been averaging colder than normal for much of the Pacific northwest.

Earlier this week the United Kingdom Meteorological Office announced a new updated global temperature dataset (HadCRUT4 ) that is more comprehensive than those previously used. It includes some surface observations from polar regions and from some oceans. This will be used to further study global patterns and change in temperature.

March 23 is World Meteorological Day in recognition of the formation of the World Meteorological Organization under the United Nations on March 23, 1950. The WMO has 189 member nations and helps coordinate the worldwide data gathering and distribution, as well as setting standards for observational and measurement practices. You can read more here.

MPR listener question

With the March 19th tornado report from Waseca County being the 2nd earliest in history, were environmental conditions similar on March 18, 1968 when a tornado struck near Truman in northern Martin County near the border with Watonwan County.

Answer: Somewhat similar conditions prevailed for both. Conditions Monday evening, March 19th in Waseca were near summer-like with a temperature in the low 70s F and dewpoints over 60 degrees F (plenty of low level moisture). Winds were blowing from the SE in the 20 to 30 mph range. On March 18, 1968 temperatures were in the mid 60s F, with dewpoints in the 50s F and strong winds of 30-40 mph. The tornado struck near Truman close to 5:30 pm, but was only on the ground for 4 miles. It damaged some farm buildings (winds were estimated at 113-157 mph, about F-2 scale). Fortunately both were short-lived tornadoes.

MPR listener question

Do southerly winds bring warm weather, or does warm weather bring southerly winds?

Answer: For the most part at our latitude and position on the North American Continent, southerly winds bring warm weather. Meteorologists call this warm air advection. Winds blowing from the south usually bring warmer air to our latitudes. These winds may be generated by the approach of a low pressure system to our southwest, or by the retreat of a high pressure system to our east. Often times southerly winds also bring higher dewpoints (humidity) as moisture released from the Gulf of Mexico can migrate north over the southern and central plains states all the way to Minnesota if the winds are persistent and strong enough.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 23rd

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 44 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 26 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 23rd

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 83 degrees F in 1910; lowest daily maximum temperature of 10 degrees F in 1965; lowest daily minimum temperature of -4 F in 1965; highest daily minimum temperature of 48 F in 1910 and 1920; record precipitation of 1.18 inches in 1966; and record snowfall of 11.6 inches also in 1966. Snow depth was 22 inches on this date in 1951.
 
Average dew point for March 23rd is 24 degrees F, with a maximum of 54 degrees F in 1945 and a minimum of -21 degrees F in 1974.

All-time state records for March 23rd

The state record high temperature for this date is 88 degrees F at Montevideo (Chippewa County)in 1910; the state record low temperature for this date is -37 degrees F at Baudette (Lake of the Woods County) in 1965. State record precipitation for this date is 3.87 inches at Isabella (Lake County) in 1979; and state record snowfall for this date is 18.0 inches at Montgomery (Le Sueur County) in 1966.

Past Weather Features:

March 23, 1843 at Old Ft Snelling began with a morning reading of -15 degrees F on the Fort thermometer. That especially cold month brought 22 days with below 0 F temperature readings, and a monthly high temperature of only 27 degrees F. The monthly mean temperature was 3.9 degrees F, about 42 degrees F colder than the present month of March!

March 23, 1910 was the warmest March day in history. Over 40 communities saw afternoon temperatures climb into the 80s F, topped by 88 degrees F at Montevideo. As far north as Roseau and Warroad it was in the low 80s F, their warmest ever March temperatures. That year, the early spring warmth was a precursor to an intense summer drought.

March 23, 1965 brought record cold temperatures, following a fresh deposit of snow. Ten northern Minnesota communities reported temperatures of -30 degrees F or colder. Hallock in the Red River Valley only warmed up to a high of 3 degrees F that day.

March 22-23, 1966 saw a major winter storm deposit heavy snowfall across the southern and central Minnesota landscape. Bricelyn and Grand Meadow reported a foot of snow, while Mankato reported 13 inches, and Farmington measured 15 inches. Hastings reported 14 inches, Rosemount 14 inches, and the Twin Cities 13.6 inches. Many schools were closed and there were several travel delays.

Outlook

Warm Saturday under cloudy skies, with a slight chances for showers in the north. Cooler on Sunday, but still warmer than normal. Continued cloudiness early next week and a chance for showers and thunderstorms late Monday through Wednesday. Breezy as well. Then cooler for Thursday and Friday.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Record warmth continues

Record warmth continues

Many 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 Outlook

The 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 Invitation

For 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 Potpourri

Tropical 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 questions

This 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 16th

The 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 16th

MSP 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 16th

The 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.

Outlook

A record-setting weekend coming up with exceptionally warm days and warm nights. Some new state record high temperature values may be set. Increasing cloudiness on Monday with a chance for showers and thunderstorms later in the day and breezy conditions. Continued chance for thunderstorms on Tuesday and Wednesday with somewhat cooler temperatures. Still, overall above normal temperatures will continue for the balance of next week.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Warm March 6th

Warm March 6th

March 6th was the warmest statewide in 12 years. Many observers reported daytime temperatures 20 to 30 degrees above normal. Several locations reached the 50s and 60s F. Among the warmest spots in the state were: 68 F at Minnesota; 67 F at Preston; 66 F at Winona; 65 F at Albert Lea; 64 F at Austin, Caledonia, and La Crescent; 63 F at Rochester, Amboy, Winnebago, and Fairmont; 62 F at Pipestone; and 60 F at MSP.

Kabetogama set a new record high with 51 degrees F, while La Crescent also set a record high with 64 degrees F. It was probably the 2nd warmest March 6th in history behind 2000 when a number of observers report 70 degrees F and higher.

In addition the warm, moist southerly winds brought near record setting dewpoint for the Twin Cities. The dewpoint reached 42 degrees F on March 6th and reached 45 degrees F on March 7th. For some southern Minnesota counties dewpoints reached the low 50s F before cooler and drier air settled in. The warm air mass brought plenty of fog to places as well.

Windy March 8th

The windiest day of the month so far occurred on Thursday the 8th, as a strong high pressure cell moved down from Canada with an associated cold front. The temperature at International Falls plummeted from 28 degrees F to -14 degrees F. From 5:00 pm in the late afternoon through 9:00 pm in the evening, many observations of 40 mph plus winds were reported around the state. All of these communities saw winds of 40 mph or higher for brief periods of time:
MSP, Duluth, Hibbing, St Cloud, Park Rapids, Warroad, Winona, Cloquet, Rush City, Canby, Clearwater, Hutchinson, and downtown St Paul. Highest wind speeds reported were 47 mph. You can find a summary here.

Weekly Weather Potpourri

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center was issuing advisories this week for two southern hemisphere storms: long-lived cyclone Irina between Madagascar and Mozambique (expected to weaken), and another tropical cyclone Koji way off the west coast of Australia (expected to strengthen) but no threat to land.

New South Wales in Australia continued to have flooding rains this week, after some areas received nearly 5 inches last week. Many daily and weekly rainfall records were set. It was said to be the wettest week since 1974. Evacuation orders were given for some cities, as roads and bridges were damaged by rushing waters. The economic cost of the flooding is estimated to exceed $530 million.
Researchers from McGill and Concordia University report that the outdoor hockey season in Canada is shrinking significantly. Ice conditions suitable for skating

have suffered as winter season temperatures have warmed since the 1950s. The largest decreases in the skating season length were observed in the Prairies and Southwest regions of Canada. You can read more here.

In other Canadian climate news, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources-Climate Change Program has released "A Practitioner's Guide to Climate Change Adaptation in Ontario's Ecosystem." It is a pragmatic look at what measures can be taken to adapt to climate change and build resilience. You can learn more on the web here.

MPR listener question

March was expected to see above normal precipitation. Last weekend brought heavy snow in the northeast. Which observers have already seen a wetter than normal start to March?

Answer: Some northeastern places have certainly seen above normal snowfall amounts so far this month: Two Harbors reports 13 inches; Duluth reports 11.8 inches; Tofte and Hibbing report 12 inches; Isabella reports 16.5 inches; and Hermantown reports 19 inches. Only Beaver Bay has reported over an inch of precipitation (liquid) with 1.21 inches in their gage so far this month.

Twin Cities Almanac for March 9th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 35 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 18 degrees F (plus or minus 11 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 9th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 61 degrees F in 1878 and 1879; lowest daily maximum temperature of 6 degrees F in 1933; lowest daily minimum temperature of -10 F in 1951 and 2003 (Pioneer Era -16 F in 1856); highest daily minimum temperature of 50 F37 F in 1878; record precipitation of 0.84 inches in 1918 (Pioneer Era 0.92 inches in 1871); and record snowfall of 10.9 inches also in 1918. Snow depth was 22 inches on this date in 1979.
 
Average dew point for March 9th is 16 degrees F, with a maximum of 44 degrees F in 1911 and a minimum of -17 degrees F in 2003.

All-time state records for March 9th

The state record high temperature for this date is 77 degrees F at Caledonia (Houston County) in 2000; the state record low temperature for this date is -33 degrees F at Tower (St Louis County) in 1984. State record precipitation for this date is 1.96 inches at St James (Watonwan County) in 1992; and state record snowfall for this date is 16.0 inches at Red Wing (Goodhue County) in 1999.

Past Weather Features:

March of 1878 was the 2nd warmest in Twin Cities history. Back to back afternoon temperatures of 61 degrees F occurred on the 8th and 9th. The temperature topped 60 degrees F eight times that month. By March 11, 1878 all the ice was out on Lake Minnetonka, the earliest date for such an occurrence. On March 9,1878 the minimum temperature never fell below 50 degrees F in the Twin Cities, 15 degrees warmer than the average daily high!

March 9, 1883 brought light snow to the Twin Cities, with 0.01 inches of precipitation recorded. That turned out to be a rare event, as that March brought only 0.06 inches, the driest March in Twin Cities history.

In March, 1951, 12 of the first 14 days of the month brought at least a trace of snowfall to the Twin Cities. This snowiest March in history brought 40 inches, and produced an average snow depth by mid-month of 27 inches. Later in the month a large spring snow melt flood began on the Mississippi River.

March 8-9, 1999 brought a very heavy snowfall to eastern sections of the state, closing roads and schools in many areas. The Twin Cities airport reported a new record snowfall of 12.5 inches on the 8th and a storm total of 16 inches. Stillwater reported 11 inches, Chanhassen 13 inches, Red Wing 15 inches, and Hastings 12 inches. Further north Two Harbors reported over 15 inches, and Duluth over 9 inches. It was the heaviest snowfall for the month of March that year.

An arctic cold outbreak held its grip on the state on March 9, 2003. Red Lake reported -27 degrees F, while Warroad recorded -21 degrees F. As far south as Marshall (Lyon County) it was the coldest March 9th in history, with a high of only 9 degrees F and a low of -12 degrees F.

Blizzard Coyote (named by the Grand Forks Heald newspaper) struck the Red River Valley on March 11, 2009. It was a precursor to spring snow melt flooding of long duration along the Red River.

Outlook

Sunny and mild on Saturday, with some afternoon highs in the 50s and 60s F. Increasing clouds on Sunday, with a chance for light rain. Continued chance for rain on Monday, then dry and mild Tuesday through Thursday next week, with much above normal temperatures.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A wet week

A wet week

The last week of February brought plenty of precipitation to the state. Many observers reported six consecutive days with precipitation, along with some record-setting amounts on the 28th and 29th. A blizzard was declared for some west-central counties, along with the north shore area of Lake Superior. The blizzard left many Duluth residents paralyzed and unable to more about on Wednesday and Thursday.

Some records set on February 28th included:
0.83 inches of precipitation at Rochester
0.89 inches of precipitation at Eau Claire, WI
1.11 inches of precipitation at Canby
1.20 inches of precipitation at Milan
1.78 inches of precipitation at Red Wing
0.97 inches of precipitation at Chanhassen
1.48 inches of precipitation at Elgin

Some records set on February 29th (Leap Day) included:

0.78 inches of precipitation and 9.7 inches of snowfall at Duluth
0.51 inches of precipitation and 4.7 inches of snowfall at St Cloud
0.51 inches of precipitation at Rochester
1.63 inches of precipitation at Austin (record for any day in February)
1.52 inches of precipitation at Dodge Center
1.35 inches of precipitation at La Crescent
1.37 inches of precipitation at Albert Lea
0.65 inches of precipitation at MSP
0.68 inches of precipitation at Eau Claire, WI
0.90 inches of precipitation at Amboy
1.05 inches of precipitation at Two Harbors
1.73 inches of precipitation at Gaylord
1.72 inches of precipitation at Winnebago
1.56 inches of precipitation at Hutchinson
1.46 inches of precipitation at Marshall
1.52 inches of precipitation at Windom
1.96 inches of precipitation at Waseca
2.01 inches of precipitation at St Peter
2.23 inches of precipitation at Faribault (a new statewide record for Feb 29th)

In addition many observers across central and northeastern Minnesota reported new record snowfall amounts for February 29th. Some reported over 10 inches, including Mora with 11.1 inches, Ortonville and Lake Carlos with 12 inches, Two Harbors with 10.2 inches, and Hinckley with 12.3 inches (a new statewide record for Feb 29th). Even greater amounts of snowfall occurred in northwestern Wisconsin.

The moisture was generally very welcome (the wettest week in the state since August 2011), but ice, sleet, and snow made for hundreds of traffic accidents over the 28th-29th.
You can read more at the following links:

http://www.crh.noaa.gov/news/display_cmsstory.php?wfo=mpx&storyid=79829&source=2
http://www.climate.umn.edu/doc/journal/leap_day_blizzard120228_29.htm

 

Climate Summary for February

February's climate kept up the trend of the past six months delivering above normal temperatures to the state. Most observers reported average monthly temperatures that were 4 to 9 degrees F above normal, with the highest departures in the north (International Falls was 9.2 degrees F above normal). February 2012 ranks 10th warmest statewide historically. Extremes for the month ranged from 55 degrees F at Milan, Montevideo, Marshall, and Lamberton on February 2nd to -20 degrees F at Fosston on February 11th. Despite the warmer than normal month, Minnesota reported the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states 7 times during the month.

Thanks to an extremely wet last week of the month, with record-setting amounts of precipitation on the 28th and 29th, February broke the string of six consecutive drier than normal months, as many observers finished with 200 percent of normal. In fact February 2012 ranks as the 10th wettest historically based on statewide average. A number of communities reported over 2 inches of precipitation for the month (statewide normal for February is only 0.67 inches), and Worthington reported a new monthly record of 2.23 inches, as did Faribault with 2.55 inches. Monthly snowfall for February ranged from 1 inch at La Crescent to over 30 inches along the north shore of Lake Superior. Both International Falls (17.7 inches) and Duluth (19.7 inches) reported their snowiest month of the 2011-2012 season. Two Harbors just missed tying their monthly record snowfall for February (30.3 inches in 2001) with a total of 30.2 inches, while Brimson in St Louis County set a new monthly snowfall record for February with 25.2 inches. Duluth reported at least a trace of snowfall the last ten days of the month (including a record 9.7 inches on Leap Day), while International Falls reported snowfall on 9 of the last 10 days of the month.

Weekly Weather Potpourri

The same winter storm system which brought rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow to Minnesota over Feb 28-29 produced severe weather in other Midwestern states. The NOAA Storm Prediction Center received 43 reports of tornadoes over those two days, with reports from NE, KS, MO, and IL on the 28th, and reports from IN, TN and KY and 29th. Twelve storm-related deaths and scores of injuries were reported from these tornadoes.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center was tracking and reporting on two tropical cyclones in the Indian Ocean this week. Tropical Cyclone Irina was spinning over the west coast of Madagascar and is expected to track across the Mozambique Channel striking that country over the weekend with wind gust of 95 mph and sea waves of 16-20 feet. Further east another, weaker tropical cyclone was playing out NE of La Reunion and Port Louis, but no threat to any land.

Parts of Victoria, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory were seeing flooding rains this week. Many areas reported over an inch of rain on March 1st, and storms were expected to bring another 1-3 inches of rainfall through the weekend, causing flooding on many watersheds.
A recent study of the Arctic by NASA scientists shows that the extent of perennial arctic sea ice is declining at a rate of about 13.5 percent per decade. The thicker ice of the Arctic is declining at a faster rate than the year to year seasonal ice cover. You can read more about this study here.

Thanks to Jan Null who pointed out a recent New York Times article about Texas State Climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon of Texas A&M University. He walks a fine line when it comes to climate change in a conservative state, but he is highly respected for the work he does. You can read more about him here.

The Iditarod sled dog race begins this Saturday, March 3rd from Anchorage, Alaska, and will conclude 975 miles later at Nome. There is abundant snow across much of the route this year as some parts of Alaska have seen record-setting snowfalls this winter. Mushers hope for ideal conditions during the race, with plenty of snow pack, and temperatures ranging from plus 10 F to -20 F along the way.

MPR listener questions

The storm of February 28-29 was quite significant for snowfall in then north. Both International Falls (17.7 inches) and Duluth (19.7 inches) reported their snowiest month of the season in February. The snowy end to February makes me wonder how often is February the snowiest month of the winter?

Answer: This varies depending on where you are in the state. For the Twin Cities, February is the snowiest month about 14 percent of the time historically (back to 1884); for Duluth, February is the snowiest month about 15 percent of the time (back to 1871); and for International Falls February is the snowiest month about 18 percent of the time (back to 1895).

The snow storm in northern Minnesota on February 26th brought brown and yellow snow. Was this soil picked up by the wind in the western prairie?

Answer: Indeed, I suspect it was. The day before (Feb 25th) low level winds, strong at times, were blowing from the west and I suspect picked up some soil particles. Many parts of the western Dakotas and Nebraska have seen relatively little snow cover this winter.

How much of the recent precipitation do you think will infiltrate into our dry soils? It is much needed.

Answer: Historically winter precipitation does not abundantly find its way into soils, mostly because the soil is frozen and/or relatively wet going into the winter season with little room to absorb more moisture. On average about 15-25 percent of the wintertime precipitation finds its way into the soil. However this winter, the soils are so dry, especially near the surface which has been going through some freeze/thaw cycles because of so many warmer than normal days, I think a greater percentage of the precipitation will find its way into the dry soil pore spaces. This will be helped by crop residues and tillage roughness that has left small pockets of micro-relief in agricultural fields. This will hold the moisture better until it has time to infiltrate the soil.

Perhaps as much as 50 percent or more of the recent precipitation will pass into the soil and help with recharge. That is not to say drought alleviation has occurred. The soil moisture deficits are too extreme for that. But it is a start, and with a wetter than normal month of March projected by the NOAA CPC, this is perhaps the start of a significant late winter and early spring recharge cycle with respect to soil moisture. We can only hope it is.

Almanac for March 2nd

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 32 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 16 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for March 2nd

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 54 degrees F in 1923; lowest daily maximum temperature of 5 degrees F in 1989; lowest daily minimum temperature of -17 degrees F in 1913; highest daily minimum temperature of 37 degrees F in 1882; record precipitation of 0.58 inches in 1951; record snowfall is a 7.1 inches in 1951.

Average dew point for March 2nd is 14 degree F, with a maximum of 41 degrees F in 1983 and a minimum of -26 degrees F in 1950 .

All-time state records for March 2nd

Scanning the state climatic data base: the all-time high for this date is 71 degrees F at Luverne (Rock County) in 1974 and at Browns Valley (Traverse County) in 1992. The all-time record low for this date is a very cold -50 degrees F at Pokegama Dam (Itasca County) in 1897. The all-time record precipitation amount for this date is 2.45 inches at Young America (Carver County) in 1965. State record snowfall for this date is 15.0 inches at Mountain Iron (St Louis County) in 1904 and at Santiago (Sherburne County) in 1965.

Past Weather Features:

The first four days of March 1951 brought heavy snows to Minnesota. Communities up north reported 10 to 15 inches of new snow, while some in central and southern Minnesota recorded 15 to 20 inches. Cokato reported 21 inches, while Winthrop had 22 inches. For many communities March of 1951 proved to be the snowiest in history. Communities reporting 40 or more inches of snowfall for the month included, MSP, Stillwater, Morris, Campbell, Farmington, Grand Meadow, Harmony, Wheaton, and Waseca.

1965 again brought a snowy March. Over the 1st and 2nd a strong winter storm produced record-setting snowfall amounts for many locations, including 14 inches at Grand Rapids, 17 inches at Little Falls, 18 inches at Bird Island and Springfield, 20.5 inches at St Cloud, and 23.3 inches at Collegeville. The month produced an all-time record of 66.4 inches of snow at Collegeville, and helped to produce spring flooding on the Upper Mississippi River.

March 2, 1974 brought an early taste of spring with many observers reporting temperatures in the 50s F. It was 50 degrees F as far north as Moose Lake, and many western Minnesota communities reached 60 degrees F or higher, topped by 71 degrees F at Luverne. In fact the whole first week of March that year brought temperatures that were 15 to 25 degrees F warmer than normal.

March 2, 1989 was one of the coldest in history, as at least 17 Minnesota communities reported a morning temperature of -30 degrees F or colder. The daytime high at Fosston only reached -7 degrees F, while Rosemount was a warm spot in the state with a reading of 5 degrees F. Tower which was -42 degrees F saw a 50 F temperature rise to plus 8 F by the next day.

March 1-2, 1992 brought another early taste of spring to western and southern Minnesota as temperature soared into the 50s and 60s F. Canby and Milan hit 70 degrees F, while Browns Valley reached 71 degrees F, setting records. Temperatures tailed off into the 30s and 40s F by the third of the month.

Outlook

Mostly cloudy with near normal temperatures over the weekend, and a slight chance for snow in places around state. Warm up starts on Monday, as daytime temperatures rise into the 40s and 50s F by the middle of the week. Chance for rain and/or snow later in the week.
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