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Friday, April 12, 2013

Winter storm this week

Winter storm this week

A late winter storm brought a mixture of weather to the state over April 10-11 (Wed-Thu) this week. Rain, sleet, freezing rain, snow, thunder, lightning, and strong winds were all elements of this storm system, causing numerous power outages, traffic accidents, paralyzing communities in some cases, and cancelling many events. An ice storm knocked out power in many areas of SW Minnesota including Worthington where a good deal of tree damage was reported. Winds of 40-50 mph were reported from the Duluth area.

April 10 (Wed) brought record setting amounts of rainfall to many south-central and southeastern communities including a new statewide record for the date of 2.80 inches at Caledonia. Others setting records that day included 2.30 inches at Preston, 2.25 inches at La Crescent, 2.08 inches at Lanesboro, 2.07 inches at Minnesota City, 1.97 inches at Fairmont and Winnebago, 1.95 inches at Wells, 1.83 inches at Spring Valley, 1.64 inches at Waseca, 1.37 inches at Windom, and 1.35 inches at Worthington (much of this fell as freezing rains weighting down power lines). In addition Marshall received a new daily record snowfall amount of 5.0 inches.
Then overnight and early on April 11 (Thu) the colder air brought mostly snowfall which was predominately wet, and heavy with some observers reporting record-setting amounts, including a new statewide record for the date of 13.0 inches at Ortonville. Others reporting new daily record amounts for snowfall on April 11 included 10.5 inches at Marshall and Bird Island, 9.0 inches at Pipestone, 8.8 inches at Glencoe, 8.5 inches at Worthington, 8.2 inches at St Cloud, 7.2 inches at Montevideo, 7.1 inches at Fairmont, 7.0 inches at Willmar, Duluth, St James, and Windom, and 6.5 inches at Browns Valley. Many others reported record setting amounts as well, and the water content was high ranging from 0.75 inches to over 1.50 inches.

Snowfall and precipitation totals mounting up

This week's snowfall totals coupled with significant snowfalls over April 6-7 combined to produce some large monthly totals for several climate stations in the state. In northern areas many have reported over a foot of snow for the month so far, including Cass Lake, Tower, Embarrass, Two Harbors, and Babbitt. In many of these areas yet more snow is expected over the weekend and into early next week. Monthly total precipitation amounts range over 2 inches already in some southern communities including New Ulm, Faribault, Blue Earth, Redwood Falls, Windom, Worthington, Grand Meadow, and Zumbrota. Still others reported over 3 inches for the month (already a very wet April) including Waseca, Wells, Amboy, Springfield, Lanesboro, Caledonia, La Crescent, and Winnebago. The moisture surplus will help to recharge soils, lakes, and streams, though over two-thirds of the state remains in long term drought.

The 2012-2013 snowfall season (October 2012 to date) has produced some large seasonal totals in places. Detroit Lakes, Bemidji, Cass Lake, International Falls, Duluth, Kelliher, and Two Harbors observers report over 80 inches, while Orr, Cook, Chisholm, Wolf Ridge (near Finland), and Isabella report over 90 inches. And yet more snow is expected this month in northern counties.

11th Annual Larson/Allmaras Lecture on April 18th

Please consider attending the Larson-Allmaras Lecture Series on Emerging Issues in Soil and Water hosted by the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate on April 18th, 1:00 pm in Rm 335 Borlaug Hall on the University of Minnesota St Paul Campus. We will be hosting two distinguished speakers for this event: Dr. Mark David from the University of Illinois and Dr. Ron Follett from the USDA-ARS. Dr. David's talk is entitled “Nitrate Losses in the Tile Drained Cornbelt: Why are Reductions so Difficult?” and Dr. Follett will speak on “Global Climate Change and Agriculture.” Following the seminars, there will be a reception in celebration of our centennial year. A link with more details about the seminars and the centennial celebration along with online registration can be found here.

New features on DNR web site

The MN-DNR web site now features an interactive map to examine lake ice-out data. You can find a map with a point and click feature to examine the earliest, latest, and median dates for lake ice-out on many of the states more popular lakes. Give it a try here.

Weekly Weather potpourri

A paper published recently in the Journal of Climate by researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the United Kingdom Hadley Centre documents detectable changes in the frequency of temperature extremes. The analysis shows that there are more frequent extremes of warm temperatures in all seasons, and less frequency of cold temperature extremes. The researchers also note that climate models show a tendency to significantly overestimate changes in warm daytime extremes of temperature, as opposed to warm nighttime extremes, especially in the summer season. You can read more about this here.

Another study recently released by NOAA (Kunkel et al)-NCDC via Geophysical Letters documents an expected increase in intense rainfall events (thunderstorms) as the world continues to warm. "We have high confidence that the most extreme rainfalls will become even more intense, as it is virtually certain that the atmosphere will provide more water to fuel these events," according to co-author Dr. Ken Kunkel. Maximum possible 24-hour precipitation may increase by 20-30 percent over some Northern Hemisphere landscapes. You can read more about this study here.

Tropical Cyclone Imelda was churning in the Southern Indian Ocean this week with winds approaching 80-90 mph. Warnings to shipping were posted as sea wave heights ranged from 20-30 feet. Imelda was on a course headed SE and away from any islands. It was expected to dissipate by April 16th.

Highlights from USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey's weekly US Drought Assessment include:
-Overall U.S. drought coverage decreased substantially (1.10%) to 50.82% of the contiguous U.S. Drought coverage is down 10.27% since the beginning of 2013 and down 14.56% from the record-high of 65.45% on September 25, 2012.
- The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category – D4, or exceptional drought – fell significantly (1.82%) to 3.38%. This breaks a 34-week run of D4 coverage in the 5 to 7% range and represents the smallest D4 area since July 31, 2012.
- Winter wheat in drought was unchanged from last week at 56%. There were 1 percentage point declines in hay (50%) and cattle (61%) in drought (61%).

MPR listener question

Here in Perham, MN we are having one of the shortest ever spring high school sports seasons (softball, baseball, track and field) I can remember. Still a good deal of snow cover, and very cold temperatures. Is this one of the coldest Aprils on record so far?

Answer: Spells of cold and snowy early April weather occur in your county (Otter Tail) about once every five years. In Spring of 1935 cold and snow cover persisted there until May 2nd. So as cold and snowy as it is this year, it is not close to a record, unless it persists into May. Certainly April has brought above normal snowfall and precipitation so far this month, along with temperatures that are averaging 8 to 14 degrees F colder than normal in most places.

Twin Cities Almanac for April 12th

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 55 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 35 degrees F (plus or minus 8 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for April 12th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 83 degrees F in 1931; lowest daily maximum temperature of 28 degrees F in 1950; lowest daily minimum temperature of 12 F in 1962; highest daily minimum temperature of 60 F in 1941; and record precipitation of 0.67 inches in 1983; Record snowfall is 6.0 inches in 1962.

Average dew point for April 12th is 31 degrees F, with a maximum of 61 degrees F in 1941 and a minimum of -1 degrees F in 1950.

All-time state records for April 12th

The state record high temperature for this date is 90 degrees F at Beardsley (Big Stone County) in 1931. The state record low temperature for this date is -7 degrees F at Warroad (Roseau County) in 1924. State record precipitation for this date is 3.74 inches at Grand Meadow (Mower County) in 2001; and the state record snowfall for this date is 11.8 inches at Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) in 1995.

Past Weather Features:

The warmest April 12 in state history occurred in 1931. Most observers reported daytime highs in the 70s F, many reached 80 degrees F or greater. Both Beardsley and Canby reached 90 degrees F. The growing season of 1931 turned out to be an exceedingly warm and dry one in Minnesota.

The coldest April 12 on a statewide basis was in 1950 which brought a cold and snowy winter that lingered deep into the spring. On the morning of April 12th many observers reported single digit low temperatures and at least ten cities registered below zero F readings. Temperatures rebounded into the 60s and 70s F the next week.

April 11-12, 1962 brought a major winter storm to southern and central Minnesota, where snowfall amounts ranged from 5 to 11 inches. It was a delayed, wet spring that year as most Minnesota crops were planted later than usual.

Spring thunderstorms brought heavy rains to many parts of the state over April 11-12, 2001. Many areas of the state received 1-2 inches of rainfall, and several observers reported well over 2 inches. The storm was a precursor to even more wet weather as April of 2001 was the 2nd wettest in state history with many observers reporting 6-8 inches of rainfall for the month.


Some sun on Saturday with warmer temperatures. Increasing cloudiness on Saturday night with mixed precipitation into Sunday, snow in the north and rain in the south. Chance of snow continuing into Monday, then drier on Tuesday. The balance of next week looks to be cool and wet, with another chance for mixed precipitation on Wednesday and Thursday.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cold start to April

Cold start to April

Many observers reported very cold temperatures for the first few days of April. In the central and northern counties overnight lows dipped into the single digits F. Embarrass, Kabetogama, Orr, International Falls, Tower, and Crane Lake reported overnight lows below 0 degrees F, with a -6 degrees F at Crane Lake on April 3rd. During the daytime hours on Wednesday (April 3)the winds shifted from the north to the south raising the temperature at Canby from a morning low of 25 degrees F to an afternoon high of 63 degrees F under sunny skies. Similarly Madison, MN (Lac Qui Parle County) rose from a morning low of 23 degrees F to an afternoon high of 61 degrees F.

Red River Valley flood risk pushed back on the calendar

With the cool start to April and expected cooler than normal temperatures into next week, the NWS-Grand Forks office issued an updated hydrological outlook this week for the Red River of the North which projected the flood risk on that watershed not to materialize until after April 16th. Further the northern end of the Red River Valley may not see flood volume flow until the last week of the month. The actual flow volume on this watershed will be highly dependent on how fast the thaw of the snow pack occurs and how much precipitation falls during the second half of the month. For those interested in following the day to day volume flow along the main stem of the Red River and its tributaries you can see the hydrographs for gage points on these watersheds at the "Puddles" section of our web site.

Weekly Weather potpourri

Heavy rains brought flooding to many parts of Argentina this week. Up to 16 inches of rainfall occurred near La Plata and Buenos Aires reported some of its worst flooding in a century. Thousands of people were displaced from their homes, and many more were without power. At least 31 deaths were blamed on the storms and flooding.

The United Kingdom Meteorological Office announced this week that their WOW program (Weather Observations Website) has now received over 100 million weather reports from enthusiasts all over the world since its beginnings in 2011. The site shares measurement data, comments, and photos about the weather from all parts of the world. You can view this web site here.

The latest national drought assessment from Brad Rippey of the USDA:

-Overall U.S. drought coverage increased slightly (0.28%) to 51.92% of the contiguous U.S. Despite the slight weekly increase, drought coverage is down 9.17% since the beginning of 2013 and down 13.53% from the record-high of 65.45% on September 25, 2012.
- The portion of the contiguous U.S. in the worst category – D4, or exceptional drought – increased one-tenth of a percentage point 5.20%. D4 coverage has ranged from 5 to 7% for 34 consecutive weeks (August 14, 2012 – April 2, 2013).
- Once again, there were no changes in hay in drought (51%), cattle in drought (62%), and winter wheat in drought (56%). Those numbers have remained unchanged since March 12.

Ohio State University researchers have retrieved ice cores from the Peruvian Andes that provide a high resolution of year to year climate for nearly 1800 years. In this record they can see from the signature of chemical composition within the ice layers an indication of El Nino activity in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, providing the longest known record of El Nino. These ice cores are being preserved to study other indicators of ancient climate fluctuations as well. You can read more about this here.

MPR listener question

How deep is the frost right now and will much of the rain in the next couple of days soak into the ground?

Answer: With the loss of snow cover the soil is beginning to thaw from the surface downward more rapidly. In southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities area the top 5 to 8 inches of soil has thawed out, however there is still a frost layer between 8 and 20 inches in most places. Further west and north in the Red River Valley frost still extends down to 30-40 inches deep and there is relatively little surface thawing so far. The rainy pattern we expect to see develop for the weekend and extend into next week will help accelerate the thaw, and indeed some of the rainfall will go into the dry soil (at least in southern MN), but not too much depth. In the north the additional precipitation will likely add to the snow pack before it melts later this month.

Twin Cities Almanac for April 5th

 The average MSP high temperature for this date is 45 degrees F (plus or minus 12 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 28 degrees F (plus or minus 10 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for April 5th

MSP weather records for this date include: highest daily maximum temperature of 80 degrees F in 1991; lowest daily maximum temperature of 29 degrees F in 1982; lowest daily minimum temperature of 12 F in 1979; highest daily minimum temperature of 60 F in 1921; and record precipitation of 0.91 inches in 1999; Record snowfall is 1.5 inches in 1964.

Average dew point for April 5th is 27 degrees F, with a maximum of 60 degrees F in 1929 and a minimum of -2 degrees F in 1979.

All-time state records for April 5th

The state record high temperature for this date is 88 degrees F at Madison (Lac Qui Parle County) in 1991. The state record low temperature for this date is -18 degrees F at Warroad (Roseau County) in 1936. State record precipitation for this date is 2.95 inches at Pigeon River Bridge (Cook County) in 1933; and the state record snowfall for this date is 28.0 inches also at Pigeon River Bridge (Cook County) in 1936.

Past Weather Features:

Between 5:30 pm and 7:00 pm on April 5, 1929 an F-4 tornado (winds 207-260 mph) crossed portions of Hennepin, Anoka, Ramsey, Washington, and Chisago Counties and into western Wisconsin with an estimated path length of nearly 80 miles. It injured 40 people and killed two farm residents near Forest Lake. Many farm homes and farm buildings were destroyed by this storm.

The first week of April in 1979 continued a winter-long cold and snowy weather pattern in the Red River Valley. Several nights brought temperatures that were below 0 degrees F and measurable snowfalls occurred on the 4th and 5th. Many observers still reported over a foot of snow on the ground. Heavy rains combined with warm temperatures brought spring snow melt flooding to the Red River Valley during the third week of the month.

April 5-7, 1991 brought mid-summer heat to Minnesota, with over 40 communities reporting daytime high temperatures of 80 degrees F or higher. Temperatures even reached the low 90s F in some western counties and farmers were out planting small grain crops.

April 5-6, 1997 brought a late season blizzard to the Red River Valley, depositing 4-7 inches of fresh snowfall on top of an already snow laden landscape. Many communities along the Red River of the North were already sandbagging in the middle of a spring flood fight. The blizzard conditions brought heavy, wet snow, along with winds up to 65 mph, and dangerous windchill conditions. The snow melt flood that followed was the worst of the 20th Century for many points along the Red River watershed.


Mixed precipitation over the weekend, with chances for snow in the north and rain in the south. Temperatures will be near seasonal normals to cooler than normal. Generally a dry day on Sunday, then continued chances for precipitation on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week. Drier and cooler by Thursday.
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